Part 2: The complex task of eliminating family violence and sexual violence

Meeting the needs of people affected by family violence and sexual violence.

In this Part, we discuss:

Family violence and sexual violence are complex problems

Te Aorerekura defines family violence as a pattern of behaviour where a person coerces, controls, or harms another person they are in a close personal relationship with. It includes intimate partner violence, elder abuse, child abuse, dating violence, stalking, and violence towards another family or whānau member. It can manifest as physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, and/or spiritual abuse, and it can involve economic abuse or exploitation.

Te Aorerekura defines sexual violence as any sexual behaviour towards another person without that person's freely given consent. It includes sexual violation, incest, rape, assault, exploitation, trafficking, grooming, sexual harassment, and unwanted kissing or touching. Sexual violence also includes digital or online sexual harm.

Women, children and young people, tangata whenua, Pacific peoples, disabled people, older people, LGBTQIA+ communities, ethnic communities, and people experiencing compounding forms of disadvantage and discrimination are at a higher risk of experiencing these forms of violence.

People can belong to one or more marginalised groups (which is known as intersectionality). Intersectionality shapes the diversity of people's experiences and the harmful effects that violence has.

The consequences of violence are wide-ranging and often intergenerational. This means that responses often need to be tailored to a person's specific circumstances. It is likely that multiple responses will be needed and that multiple agencies will need to be involved.

The level of each agency's involvement in addressing family violence and sexual violence also varies. Each agency will also have a different focus, including preventing family violence and sexual violence, responding to the immediate needs of those affected by that violence, and supporting their long-term recovery.

As Cabinet was advised, collaborative and sustainable responses are needed to eliminate family violence and sexual violence. Agencies also need to have clear roles and responsibilities that cover multiple levels and areas of expertise.

Te Puna Aonui and its role

Te Puna Aonui is an interdepartmental executive board created under section 26 of the Public Service Act 2020. An interdepartmental executive board is a formal collaborative arrangement that involves two or more government departments. It allows those agencies to align and co-ordinate their strategic policy, planning, and budgeting activities. Te Puna Aonui involves 10 government agencies (see paragraph 1.6).

Interdepartmental executive boards are used to support priority work that spans multiple agencies' responsibilities. For Te Puna Aonui, the priority area is implementing Te Aorerekura – the national strategy for eliminating family violence and sexual violence. Te Puna Aonui replaced the Joint Venture for Family Violence and Sexual Violence in this role.

A Board comprising the chief executives of the 10 Te Puna Aonui agencies governs Te Puna Aonui. The Public Service Commissioner is the independent chairperson of the Board. Te Puna Aonui has its own chief executive and a dedicated business unit that supports the Board to deliver on its functions.

Therefore, Te Puna Aonui describes the 10 agencies as a collective, the chief executives of those agencies, and the chief executive and business unit of Te Puna Aonui.

Te Puna Aonui uses the same accountability mechanisms that exist between a departmental chief executive and a Minister, and the members of the Board are jointly responsible for the operations of Te Puna Aonui.

The Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence is the responsible Minister for Te Puna Aonui. The Board reports and is accountable to this Minister.

Te Puna Aonui emphasised that introducing this formal collective accountability was a significant change to how Te Puna Aonui agencies operate. The Board must consider new ideas and problems collectively and at multiple levels between their agencies to find collective solutions.

The role of Te Puna Aonui includes:

  • providing whole-of-government strategy, policy, and budgeting advice to Ministers on eliminating family violence and sexual violence;
  • providing analysis and evidence to support Ministers to make decisions about specific interventions;
  • providing Ministers with oversight of interventions and outcomes throughout the whole family violence and sexual violence response system to identify any links, gaps, or opportunities;
  • monitoring, supporting, and co-ordinating the implementation of Te Aorerekura and other priority and cross-agency initiatives; and
  • managing relationships between government agencies and organisations that work to address family violence and sexual violence.

Te Puna Aonui is also developing an outcomes framework and a learning and monitoring system to support these functions and to report on progress and performance against the action plan for Te Aorerekura.

Te Puna Aonui does not replicate or replace its agencies' functions and responsibilities. Te Puna Aonui agencies hold the policy, strategy, and funding levers to support the elimination of violence. They also remain responsible to their own Ministers for delivering other services and implementing Cabinet decisions – including progressing actions in relation to Te Aorerekura.

Te Pūkotahitanga, the Tangata Whenua Ministerial Advisory Group, was appointed in June 2022 to provide independent advice on implementing Te Aorerekura. Setting up Te Pūkotahitanga is action 8 in the Te Aorerekura action plan. It is an integral part of creating a community-led system for responding to family violence and sexual violence.

Te Aorerekura – the national strategy to eliminate family violence and sexual violence

Te Aorerekura was launched on 7 December 2021. The foreword to Te Aorerekura explains its ambition:

Te Aorerekura sets a collective ambition to create peaceful homes where children, families and whānau thrive; to enable safe communities where all people are respected; and to support the wellbeing of our nation. It represents an evolution in our journey to address violence in our homes and communities.3

To support this ambition, Te Aorerekura adopts the Tokotoru prevention and well-being model. Tokotoru (which means the unbreakable three) highlights the following three interconnected dimensions:

  • strengthening (factors that protect against family violence and sexual violence);
  • responding (holistic early intervention, crisis responses, and long-term support); and
  • healing (spaces and support that enable healing, recovery, and restoration).

All three of these dimensions are needed to eliminate violence.4 Te Aorerekura states that eliminating violence requires rebalancing efforts towards prevention and support for longer-term healing and recovery.

The ability and willingness of Te Puna Aonui agencies to work together and differently are central to eliminating family violence and sexual violence. However, that is not enough.

Under Te Aorerekura, government agencies need to work with tangata whenua, specialists in family violence and sexual violence, and communities to respond to family violence and sexual violence in ways that meet the needs of diverse communities.5

Te Aorerekura outlines six interconnected "shifts" that government agencies, tangata whenua, specialist sectors, and communities need to make to eliminate family violence and sexual violence. These shifts are:

  • Shift 1: Towards strength-based well-being – Adopt a strength-based well-being approach that integrates prevention, responses, and healing by adopting the Tokotoru model, with a focus on changing the social conditions, structures, and norms that perpetuate harm;
  • Shift 2: Towards mobilising communities – Mobilise communities through sustainable trust-based relationships and commissioning decisions that are grounded in Te Tiriti and by sharing evidence about what works;
  • Shift 3: Towards skilled, culturally competent, and sustainable workforces – Resourcing and equipping the specialist, general, and informal workforces to safely respond, heal, prevent harm, and enable well-being;
  • Shift 4: Towards investment in primary prevention – Invest in a Te Tiriti-based primary prevention model that strengthens the protective factors so that family violence and sexual violence do not occur;
  • Shift 5: Towards safe, accessible, and integrated responses – Ensure that accessible, safe, and integrated responses meet specific needs, do not perpetuate trauma, and achieve safety and accountability; and
  • Shift 6: Towards increased capacity for healing – Increase capacity for healing to acknowledge and address trauma for people and whānau.

Te Aorerekura has an action plan that sets out 40 initial government actions for December 2021 to December 2023.6 It is intended that the action plan will be reviewed and refreshed annually after an annual Te Aorerekura hui.

Te Puna Aonui agencies' operating environment is complex and always changing

Te Puna Aonui agencies must implement Te Aorerekura alongside other priorities

Te Puna Aonui agencies are tasked with supporting the implementation of Te Aorerekura. They must do this while also managing and implementing other government- and agency-specific strategies, priorities, and operating models.

For example, the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy is an overarching framework that aims to align the work of government agencies and other organisations to make New Zealand the best place in the world for children and young people. Eliminating family violence and sexual violence is central to achieving that strategy's outcomes.

Examples of agency-specific strategies include:

  • Hōkai Rangi, which is Ara Poutama Aotearoa Department of Corrections' strategy to address the over-representation of Māori in the corrections system and deliver better outcomes for Māori; and
  • Te Ao Mārama, which is a judicially led initiative, supported by the Ministry of Justice, that aims to significantly change the way district courts operate.

Te Puna Aonui agencies must co-ordinate the delivery of the six shifts in Te Aorerekura with their own and cross-agency strategies while accommodating significant structural changes that are likely to affect how they provide responses to meet the needs of people affected by family violence and sexual violence.

These structural changes include the health system reforms, which created two new entities – Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand and Te Aka Whai Ora Māori Health Authority. These entities each have a role in ensuring that the health system can meet the needs of people affected by family violence and sexual violence.

Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People was set up in July 2022. Whaikaha intends to improve the partnership between the government and the disabled community, and to transform the disability support system. Te Aorerekura states that government agencies need to better understand the experiences of disabled people affected by violence. Whaikaha's work will be important in achieving that.

Te Puna Aonui agencies need to understand, collectively and individually, how these strategies and structural changes support their work to implement Te Aorerekura and its action plan. They also need to communicate this understanding to their staff, tangata whenua, and community partners.

Te Puna Aonui agencies must support new ways of working at a local level

Te Puna Aonui agencies have an important role in supporting the development of local approaches to working between agencies and with tangata whenua and community partners.

Several local or regional initiatives support government agencies, tangata whenua, and community partners to work together to address family violence and sexual violence. For our audit, we looked at:

  • the South Auckland Social Wellbeing Board;
  • the Integrated Safety Response Canterbury;
  • Whāngaia Ngā Pā Harakeke Waitamatā; and
  • Te Kura (in Hawke's Bay).

These four initiatives have an important role in informing the development of the community-led responses that Te Aorerekura calls for.

The South Auckland Social Wellbeing Board is a place-based initiative that was set up in 2016. It brings together local decision-makers and practitioners from government agencies, tangata whenua, and community partners to work with people, families, and whānau to identify, test, and learn what works (and what doesn't) in its communities. Its work includes responses to family violence.

The Integrated Safety Response Canterbury, set up in 2016, focuses on responding to family violence. It works with tangata whenua and community partners to ensure the immediate safety of victims and their children. It also works with perpetrators to prevent further violence.

The Integrated Safety Response Canterbury's funding covers its dedicated staff, daily risk assessment and triage, family safety plans, an electronic case management system, and an intensive case-management approach to working collectively with high-risk families.

Under the Whāngaia Ngā Pā Harakeke Waitematā and Te Kura initiatives, government agencies, iwi, and community partners take a collaborative approach to reducing family harm and preventing re-victimisation.

Police fund some roles to enable this way of working, but the Whāngaia Ngā Pā Harakeke Waitematā and Te Kura initiatives do not receive the funding that the South Auckland Social Wellbeing Board and the Integrated Safety Response Canterbury do. Therefore, they must rely on agencies, tangata whenua, and community partners setting aside time from their other commitments to participate.

Important changes to how Te Puna Aonui agencies work with community partners

Changes that could support closer working relationships between government agencies and community partners are under way. The first involves changing how government agencies, including Te Puna Aonui agencies, commission social services.

In 2018, the Minister of Social Development asked the chief executives of social sector agencies (who work together as the Social Wellbeing Board) to find ways to improve the government's commissioning approach.7 The aim of this work was to support those organisations providing social sector services to be effective and responsive to need in their communities.

The Ministry of Social Development and Oranga Tamariki led work on social sector commissioning that was well advanced when we began our audit. The Social sector commissioning: 2022–2028 action plan was released in October 2022. A project board that included people from the non-government sector created this action plan.

This document describes a plan to implement a relational approach to commissioning services in the social sector. A relational approach emphasises the importance of trusted meaningful relationships at the centre of all activity. The action plan states that relationships:

… encourage new ways to fund and co-fund services, empowering individuals, families, whānau, and communities to self-determine how they wish to engage with services that support their aspirations.8

Because changes to social sector commissioning were likely, we did not look at approaches to commissioning as part of our audit. However, commissioning was of concern to many people we spoke to (see paragraphs 4.41 and 4.43).

Steps have also been taken to support a more connected public service at the regional level. The Public Service Act 2020 allows system leads – who are mandated to lead a particular area or function throughout the public service – to be appointed.

The Ministry of Social Development's chief executive has been appointed as a system lead with a focus on how the public service organises, aligns, and delivers services in the regions and how the regions stay connected to national priorities.

Regional Public Service Commissioners have also been appointed. They are intended to strengthen regional system leadership by co-ordinating and aligning central government decision-makers.

Regional Public Service Commissioners focus on planning and delivering well-being outcomes in their regions. They also focus on ensuring that there is regional alignment and national-level input, where needed, to achieve outcomes for communities.

Regional Public Service Commissioners support the system and system leaders to work with iwi, Māori organisations, community partners, and regional stakeholders.

3: New Zealand Government (2021), Te Aorerekura: The enduring spirit of affection – the National Strategy to Eliminate Family Violence and Sexual Violence, at

4: The Auckland Co-design Lab and the Southern Initiative developed the Tokotoru model. See for more information about Auckland Co-design Lab and for more information about the Southern Initiative.

5: Communities include people who live in the same places and people who share identities or interests (for example, disabled people, LGBTQIA+ people, and migrant communities).

6: New Zealand Government (2021), Te Aorerekura: The enduring spirit of affection – the National Strategy to Eliminate Family Violence and Sexual Violence, at

7: The chief executives that make up the Board of Te Puna Aonui are also part of the Social Wellbeing Board.

8: Ministry of Social Development (2022), Social sector commissioning: 2022–2028 action plan, at