“Women's and babies’ lives are at risk and we want action,” says Penny Mudford, Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) national chair.
“Sharing and disclosing information between government sectors, such as health and education, may place the privacy of family violence victims at risk," says RWNZ national president, Fiona Gower.
“Although RWNZ supports the Government’s efforts to create an effective preventative response to family violence through information sharing, we do not support a system that puts people at risk and leaves victims feeling vulnerable and unable to seek help because they are afraid of confidentiality breaches,’ she says.
“However, for many rural families, there are no “on the ground agencies” to provide services desperately needed and this remains our fundamental concern.”
“Rural victims of family violence often cannot leave their situations easily and this isolation and lack of support is significant as 39% of rural women will experience violence, compared to 33% of urban women, as cited in our submission on the Family Violence Legislation Bill in July 2017,” says Gower.
The Ministry of Justice recently released a summary of feedback on draft guidance for information sharing under new family violence legislation.
The Family Violence Act 2018 outlines how and when family violence agencies and social services practitioners can share information about victims or perpetrators of family violence.
“The purpose of the new law is to encourage agencies to work together to identify, stop, prevent and otherwise respond to family violence,” says Jan Logie, Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues).
“We’ve consulted closely with the family violence sector to ensure our guidelines and processes are clear, and victim safety is at the centre of our decision-making.”
The Ministry of Justice will now update the guidance, taking into account the comments and suggestions made. The updated guidance will focus on enabling safe, appropriate and consistent practice across the sector. It will be released when the Family Violence Act comes into effect on 1 July 2019.