Transforming the normalisation and intergenerational whānau (family) violence

Denise Wilson


Whānau (extended family networks) are the fabric of any indigenous community and society. For many whānau violence has become a normalised way of functioning, and persists as a way for its members interacting generation after generation. Māori (indigenous peoples of Aotearoa [New Zealand]), similar to other colonised indigenous peoples, are challenged by the widespread and corrosive nature of violence within their whānau and wider community. Mokopuna (indigenous children) growing up in homes with abuse and violence maintains the intergenerational transmission of violence as an acceptable way of functioning because they are often without opportunities to learn alternative non-violent modes of interacting. Living with violence heightens their risk of becoming victims, perpetrators or both (Burnette & Cannon, 2014; Smith, Ireland, Park, Elwyn, & Thornberry, 2011). Strengthening and restoring whānau cultural identities and traditional values is crucial to halting family violence normalisation and intergenerational transmission. In this paper, opportunities to disrupt violence will be discussed briefly drawing on lessons embedded in our cultural traditions, and insights and experiences of participating in the New Zealand Family Violence Death Review Committee and The People’s Report.


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