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Stand up and speak: Domestic violence no longer a taboo topic

Saturday 14 January 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Features, In Depth, Weekend

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Stand up and speak: Domestic violence no longer a taboo topic
Te Punanga Ora’anga Matutu’s (Te POM) coordinator Daryl Gregory. Picture:23011208 / LOSIRENE LACANIVALU

Domestic violence should no longer be a topic of taboo, but an ongoing discussion among church, community and political leaders.

People must be able to hear the message from the pulpit and village meetings and there needs to be a constant discussion, says the coordinator of the Cook Islands men’s counselling service.

This is the message Te Punanga Ora’anga Matutu’s (Te POM) coordinator Daryl Gregory is reiterating in an effort to tackle domestic violence in the Cook Islands.

Gregory came from New Zealand as a volunteer to assist Te POM, a men’s counselling service dedicated to supporting and solving domestic problems affecting men and their families.

He has had 30 years working with the Maori community in New Zealand, with prison gangs, related to domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Gregory is the founder and board chair of He Waka Tapu – focussing on the wellbeing of families – the anau/whanau.

He retired from the New Zealand Army in the 1980s, in Christchurch and worked for an organisation – Kia Pakari – a Māori men’s stopping violence programme.

He was later approached to take on a contract to work with Maori men focusing on issues surrounding domestic violence.

Having studied and obtained his degree in this field of work from the Canterbury University, Gregory came to understand and become familiar with the work needed for domestic violence and sexual abuse matters.

And years later, he became the founder of He Waka Tapu, working from the comfort of his car, visiting families and men who needed his services.

“I started working from my car, going around talking to people, and as that grew, we became more organised and got support. I wanted to really work with whanau, not just men.”

He is now in Rarotonga sending a message out to community leaders, church leaders, political leaders and families to speak out and create awareness around domestic violence.

It all started a few years ago during a health conference in Rarotonga. He Waka Tapu team attended that conference and were approached to set up a similar organisation here.

Gregory says his team engaged in discussions, worked through the process, but Covid-19 put brakes to their plans.

After Covid-19, they reignited the initiative, and had planned to be on the island in March, 2022.

Despite his team being affected by the pandemic, Gregory and his wife managed to visit Rarotonga.

Unfortunately, things did not turn out as expected.

But Gregory did not stop.

Together with his wife, they returned in September last year and have since been working around the clock on programmes and plans for the counselling centre.

They have been working closely with Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health, Punanga Tauturu (PTI) and those who had initially started Te POM a few years back but had no one to run the programmes.

Gregory has also started working with the Cook Islands Prison Service.

Now, he is looking for people who have the heart to do the job – to talk to men, to work with families and combat the impacts of domestic violence.

“You have to have good people. People that have a heart that believes that people can change and want to change.

“I think if you do not have that sort of passion or belief then you are probably in the wrong job because you are working with a very hard clientele. Giving people hope, helping them to plant the right seed that they can see a future for themselves is really what it’s about,” says Gregory.

He is also willing to speak to any group, village, and church to advise and train people how to deal with the issue and understand the Cook Islands culture more.

Gregory says all cultures have values that support women and children, and people must start looking at how to live these values within their homes/families, and understand how to value women and their children.

He says it is now important to recruit and train workers.

“I discovered that we lack skilled workers on the ground, we need to build a bit of workforce and career paths so the workers can do the work. We will train them.”

Gregory has challenged the government to establish an agency that can have skilled, qualified workers, who can work fulltime and think about how they can send the message out to the Pa Enua to enhance family wellbeing.

There is also a need for a tertiary education programme teaching courses like social work, psychology and sociology, he says.

He has also called for funding to help the centre roll with their work like awareness programmes.

Gregory has called on any Cook Islander who has the heart to join his team, and do the job – willing to talk to men who have been involved in domestic violence and their families.

“It is a fairly big task. We need a lot of work around the legal system, courts, correction, and the police to work together.

“If we are all going to get involved, we need to get leadership involved – community leaders, political leaders, church leaders, otherwise we may set up a programme but nothing will change.

“Domestic violence is something people really need to understand, to change that we have to change the community’s ideas and views.

Gregory says part of their work is to make people understand:

  • How do people make change?
  • How does a man give himself permission to beat up his partner, the woman he is living with, the mother of his children, and the woman he loves?

“Domestic violence is a complicated issue, affects everybody across the board. I think some believe that it is a private affair, domestic affair, people should not intervene …We have to have some people with skills to help address the issue.”

For more information visit their website at www.tepom.co.ck or phone 74811.