Project wins human rights award

Leitner Center in Whangarei Leader, May 19, 2009

Media Source

An iwi-led initiative to prevent violence in Northland families has won an international human rights award.

The Amokura Family Violence Prevention project has been awarded the alumni human rights prize from New York’s Fordham Law School’s Leitner Center for International Law and Justice.

Amokura works in primary prevention and early intervention of family violence in Northland, says executive director Di Grennell.

Its work includes advocacy and policy work, research, provider development and training, education and promotion.

Amokura is governed by the chief executives of seven iwi authorities, and, in its present form, has been hosted by Ngati Whatua Runanga since 2004.

Ms Grennell says Amokura has made a difference in Northland in five years – raising people’s awareness and encouraging them to think about safety to prevent violence happening.

Amokura received the human rights prize after it helped the Leitner Centre research New Zealand’s efforts to eliminate violence against women.

Each year the centre goes on a fact finding mission looking at a particular human rights issue as part of the Crowley Program, says Ms Grennell.

While New Zealand has a good human rights record at face value, the centre was interested in looking below the surface, she says.

Amokura was able to provide the human face to go with the academic analysis, she says.

The centre’s report found while New Zealand had made steps to eliminate domestic violence, violence against women – particularly Maori women – is an "acute" social problem and more needs to be done.

In receiving the award, Ms Grennell and Amokura advocacy and legal analyst Ani Pitman were flown to New York for an award dinner.

They also addressed Fordham Law School’s domestic violence conference and a United Nations development programme.

Ms Grennell hopes the award will raise awareness about the work being done in Northland, not just by Amokura but by all iwi providers.

Last week Ngati Hine Health Trust held a special ceremony to congratulate Amokura and recognise Ms Grennell and Ms Pitman.

Ms Grennell says Amokura is unique because iwi are working together.

"This issue of what happens in our families is too important for there to be division," she says.