Nigel Latta: We can 'fix' family violence

Last updated 09:30 20/08/2014
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NIGEL LATTA: Focusing on issues affecting New Zealand.

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Nigel Latta returned to our screens last night with the fourth episode of his series. The topic this week was family violence, with the episode titled 'Killing Our Kids.'

Latta's approach to this episode was fascinating, and cleverly devised. Though he presented a number of sobering statistics, Latta was careful to avoid getting bogged down in amongst them, which would have directed attention away from the tangible solutions to the problem he witnessed first-hand.

The first 20 minutes of the hour were directed towards the numbers. Latta presented statistics from Child, Youth and Family (CYF), Children's Commissioner and paediatrician Dr Russell Wills, and Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Bush, which, in Latta's words, were appalling.

Latta stated that New Zealand has the second highest child homicide rate in the world. Our child homicide rate is double that of Australia, three times greater than the UK, and six times greater than Italy.

Mike Bush stated that police attend 90,000 family violence related callouts per year, which breaks down to one every six minutes, and that studies have shown that just 20 per cent of cases are reported, meaning the annual number of cases could stretch to 450,000 annually.

Latta pointed out that it is child homicides which garner by far the most attention, but in reality they are the tip of the iceberg.

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Latta dedicated the bulk of the hour to interviews with those who were part of the problem and part of the solution. These included several heartfelt moments with Vic Tamati, who fronts the It's Not OK family violence campaign, and time spent with couple James and Desiree, who are parents to two young children and who have a record of family violence, but are taking steps to rectify the problem.

Latta emphasised the role the community plays in breaking the cycle of family violence, which tends to pass down through generations. He spent time with Henare Ngaera O'Keefe, the brainchild of programmes for children, a community vegetable garden, and a roving barbecue, which share a common goal of bringing people together.

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Latta tagged along with Linda Salmon and Briar Deed, two social workers from family violence organisation Te Whanau Tahi, as they made a couple of house visits to some sketchy neighbourhoods. The point of difference in their approach when compared to other government organisations is their insistence on visiting homes and meeting people face to face.

The government wasn't let off the hook despite CYF heralding some sympathy earlier in the hour. After answers as to why politicians have a poor track record of long term policies, Latta sat down with former Social Welfare and Finance Minister Sir Michael Cullen. Cullen cited election cycles, self-interests and egos as possible culprits, with Latta pointing out that governments were not taking advice from those working in the field in question.

Of importance to Latta in this episode was the positives of the situation. He concluded that solving other social problems to do with alcohol and poverty would contribute significantly to the country's record of family violence. He also noted society's simplistic view of both victims and perpetrators throughout the episode.

Latta believes there is lots we can do, and some people already are. But his priority is for our politicians, who he wants to remain focused on long term solutions that actually work. "We can fix this problem" were Latta's closing words.

As usual, I've been careful to avoid sharing my opinion on Latta's conclusions as it is my belief that the viewer should come to their own conclusions and do their own additional research If they deem it necessary.

Latta's approach to the subject was unlike any other I've seen in the past. His relaxed, relatable approach shone through, with colloquialisms aplenty despite the subject being what he is probably the most familiar with so far in the series. 

See Jimmy Ryan's previous episode reviews on poverty, education and alcohol.

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