Visitors surprised by abuse, violence

JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 05:00 17/11/2012
tdn visitor stand
Visiting Social worker Sarah Desouza

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The amount of child abuse and domestic violence seen by Taranaki's health service workers came as a surprise to three visiting overseas social workers.

Maria Johannson and Lisa Sandstrom, from Sweden, and Virginia Pinto, from Argentina, were in Taranaki as part of the Council of International Fellowship Aotearoa New Zealand exchange programme.

Council programmes are an opportunity for social workers and related professionals to learn in a different country and share information with experts from around the world.

The three social workers specialise in domestic violence, judicial work, child protection, family counselling, and education.

They arrived on November 7 and leave today.

Ms Sandstrom said from her experience it appeared domestic violence and child abuse were more prevalent in Taranaki than in Sweden.

"It feels like it's more common here," Ms Sandstrom said.

The impacts of cost-cutting in social services was also evident, Ms Sandstrom said.

"One thing we've noticed in every place is the cutting down of money for social work."

Ms Pinto said while Argentina had made progress in social services, it was still years behind New Zealand.

Ms Johannson said she felt New Zealand's social services excelled in accommodating all cultures.

"The respect you have for other cultures is a very good thing that you take into your professional work," she said.

It was the first international fellowship experience for Ms Pinto and Ms Johannson, while Ms Sandstrom participated back in 1985.

The experience gave them a new perspective on their own country's practices, she said.

"You go home with new ideas," Ms Johannson said.

The three were staying with host families while in Taranaki.

Ms Pinto said she was surprised at how friendly New Zealanders were. "I thought New Zealand people were cold but when I came here it was the complete opposite," she said.

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