Daughter's death won't be in vain

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 15:52 13/06/2014
david white
KELLY HODEL/FAIRFAX NZ
Domestic violence advocate David White, of Matamata, tries out a DRIVING CAUSE: Harley-Davidson trike for size at Road and Sport Harley-Davidson, Hamilton, this week. White will ride the bike in this November’s White Ribbon ride around the North Island.

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The fight against domestic violence is an uphill battle, but memories of his late daughter motivate David White to turn the tables on the "appalling" crime.

White's daughter, Helen Meads, died at the hands of Helen's husband, Greg Meads, five years ago. He is serving a minimum non-parole period of 11 years for murder.

White said it was difficult talking about the loss of his daughter but he wasn't giving up on his campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence.

"I just think that it would be a complete waste of Helen's life if I didn't go out and do something about it.

"I'm sure she would kick me up the arse if I let it rest. She wouldn't want me to sit around and mope and do nothing about it. She had far more spark in her than that."

White said his daughter was "full of life" and she would not want him to say "it's all over".

"We've got a hell of an uphill battle to bring it [domestic violence] down to a reasonable level. The level of domestic violence in New Zealand is double that of other countries in the OECD, and that's an appalling situation.

"It would be bad enough if we got it down to the level of other OECD countries, and that would be a huge achievement, but twice the level is a hell of an indictment on this country."

In 2012, White released the book HELEN - The Helen Meads Tragedy, which details the days leading up to, and after, her murder, and Greg Meads' trial.

White also reveals angst over his failure to get Helen away from her abusive husband.

He remains entrenched in the women's refuge and domestic violence scene, continuing his work as an ambassador for the White Ribbon Trust, an international movement aiming to end men's violence towards women.

Publicity from his book has prompted people to write letters - some simply addressed to David White, Matamata - or even knocks on his front door from women asking for help.

"It's still being referred to and, to be honest, I'm not sure if it's in print or not, but I'm still getting people coming to me because of it, and that in itself is pretty remarkable . . . the book has really helped."

It was a flattering response, but he's not surprised, given the grim state of domestic violence.

"Sadly they have to get to the point where they understand that they need to get out. But sometimes they think their only option is to put up with what they've got."

When asked if he thought people were better at talking about the subject, he replied "no".

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"That's our biggest problem . . . we don't and we need to. The awareness and the will to do something is far greater . . . people want to do something, they just need the courage to do it. People know what's going on, and nobody says a thing, and that's what we've got to stop."

However, since the book, and more public appearances in schools, universities, television and domestic-violence campaigns, White feels that the message is slowly being received.

"I think, particularly over the last few months, the reception of what I keep saying and doing out there is becoming accepted, and realising they need to ask if everything is all right at home. That message is starting to turn the tide; I hope I'm not just wishful thinking."

He's under no illusions that his campaign has a lifespan.

"I think there will be a point where my name will be worn out and so will Helen's; it won't have the same impact.

"You just get weary of hearing that [same] person all the time . . . [but] while I'm of use, I will. I'm surprised I still do it and people haven't got sick of it."

Closer to home, though, there had been some positive news.

Helen's daughter, Kimberley, 22, last month graduated with a Bachelor of Primary Teaching and a Diploma in Education Studies from Massey University.

It was a moment White says he, wife Pam and Kimberley's sister, Sam, wouldn't miss.

"What surprised us all was when [Kimberley] stepped out onto the stage and the emotion of her stepping out and being capped, I don't think any of us were prepared for that, [so] tearful. I take my hat off to her because we took her down to Palmy about 12 to 14 weeks after she lost her mother. She went down there, and she stuck to it.

"She said it was for her mother, but it was herself too."

Kimberley had also secured herself a job at Lichfield Primary School, White said.

"She's done admirably well." 

- Waikato

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