Otago Daily Times

Work­ing to give women safety

Af­ter some in­ter­nal con­flict, Te Whare Pounamu Dunedin Women’s Refuge has emerged with pos­i­tiv­ity, and ac­count­abil­ity, in spades. Daisy Hud­son talks to the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s new manager about tak­ing on the chal­leng­ing job.

- Daisy.hud­son@odt.co.nz

IF Si­mone War­ing had her way, she would be out of a job. In the mean­time, though, she is com­mit­ted to do­ing the mahi and sup­port­ing Dunedin whanau to es­cape the cy­cle of fam­ily vi­o­lence.

Mrs War­ing is 15 weeks into her role as manager of Te Whare Pounamu Dunedin Women’s Refuge.

It was a chal­leng­ing job, and one that she wished did not ex­ist.

‘‘We don’t want to be here do­ing this, but we are, and there is a mas­sive need here,’’ she said.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion worked with women of dif­fer­ent ages, back­grounds, and so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus — but they all had a sim­i­lar story.

‘‘That story is that they are un­safe.’’

The spec­trum of the work was huge, from work­ing with fam­i­lies on par­ent­ing skills to get­ting peo­ple out of dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions.

‘‘There are def­i­nitely those calls at 2am from po­lice be­cause they’ve got some­one we need to bring into the safe house. Or they’re phon­ing to say they’ve got some­body they’ve just taken to hos­pi­tal, they’ve got a bro­ken jaw.’’

Dur­ing one re­cent week, one staff mem­ber had 47 fol­low­up calls to make. Be­fore that, she had 35.

‘‘There’s a def­i­nite in­crease in women want­ing our support.’’

It was not the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s role to tell women what to do or where to go, she said.

Rather, it was to work along­side them and ad­vo­cate for them.

As well as the chal­lenge of the role it­self, she had taken it on fol­low­ing a pe­riod of or­gan­i­sa­tional tur­moil.

Last year, claims by for­mer staff of bul­ly­ing, un­safe work prac­tices and theft of do­nated items prompted in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

A Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment re­port found the claims ‘‘ap­pear to have been sub­stan­ti­ated to a de­gree that is con­cern­ing’’.

The Dunedin manager re­signed, and the na­tional of­fice stepped in while a new manager was found.

Since tak­ing on that role, Mrs War­ing had been en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to pop in for a cuppa and chat about the is­sues and what she was do­ing to move things for­ward.

She un­der­stood why peo­ple had questions, par­tic­u­larly when con­sid­er­ing whether to do­nate to the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

How­ever, she was con­fi­dent the changes made would restore con­fi­dence.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion had a brand new board with seven new mem­bers.

She had also im­ple­mented new meth­ods of ac­count­abil­ity, in­clud­ing writ­ten records of do­na­tions coming in and out.

‘‘What­ever comes through this door is writ­ten down. Any au­dit can come through, it’s like ‘here have a look’ and we can ac­count for ev­ery­thing.’’

She said she was gen­uinely amazed by the gen­eros­ity of the com­mu­nity.

An ex­am­ple of that sits on a ta­ble in her of­fice — sev­eral hand­crafted wooden toys, ready to give to ta­mariki.

‘‘I’m just so thank­ful. I’ve been over­whelmed.’’

Her pas­sion for the role fol­lows a life­time of work­ing with vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple.

She moved to New Zealand from her na­tive Ire­land at the age of 13, and by age 19 was vol­un­teer­ing as a carer for youth of­fend­ers, in­clud­ing gang prospects and street kids.

‘‘That’s re­ally where my pas­sion came from.’’

She moved to the United King­dom and worked with teenagers who had been per­ma­nently ex­pelled from schools, be­fore coming back to New Zealand and do­ing her master’s in art psy­chother­apy.

‘‘All through my ca­reer, I’ve al­ways worked with in­di­vid­u­als’ in­nate sense of cre­ativ­ity. If you’re sit­ting with trauma, some­times that lan­guage doesn’t ex­ist.’’

Since then, she had worked with men in the prison sys­tem, with Oranga Ta­mariki, and in her own pri­vate prac­tice in Dunedin.

With Te Whare Pounamu, she ini­tially saw the role ad­ver­tised but thought it was not the right time.

Then it came up again and she de­cided to put her hand up. ‘‘Long story short, here I am.’’ Af­ter nearly four months in the job, she said she now knew the meaning of hitting the ground run­ning.

She had al­ready hired two new staff, and was ex­pect­ing to ex­pand fur­ther next year. There were also new pro­grammes ready to start in the new year, which she was ex­cited about.

‘‘We’ve got kaimahi who are re­ally in­ter­ested in do­ing more, and sup­port­ing more, and it’s like ‘Oh my God, let’s talk’.

‘‘There’s a need there, let’s get it sorted.’’

 ??  ?? Safe space . . . Te Whare Pounamu Dunedin Women’s Refuge staff work along­side women to help them de­velop skills and leave un­safe sit­u­a­tions.
Safe space . . . Te Whare Pounamu Dunedin Women’s Refuge staff work along­side women to help them de­velop skills and leave un­safe sit­u­a­tions.
 ?? PHO­TOS: GRE­GOR RICHARD­SON ?? Lead­er­ship. . . New Te Whare Pounamu Dunedin Women’s Refuge manager Si­mone War­ing is ex­pect­ing big things for the or­gan­i­sa­tion in 2021.
PHO­TOS: GRE­GOR RICHARD­SON Lead­er­ship. . . New Te Whare Pounamu Dunedin Women’s Refuge manager Si­mone War­ing is ex­pect­ing big things for the or­gan­i­sa­tion in 2021.
 ??  ?? Com­mu­nity gen­eros­ity . . . Hand­made wooden toys are just some of the items do­nated to Te Whare Pounamu.
Com­mu­nity gen­eros­ity . . . Hand­made wooden toys are just some of the items do­nated to Te Whare Pounamu.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand