More Social Services Needed On Cook Islands Outer Islands

Domestic violence, other problems not being effectively addressed by occasional visits

By Losirene Lacanivalu 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, March 13, 2017) – Without a safe and supporting environment for those suffering the effects of domestic violence and other problems, the outer islands will be confronted by the emergence of serious social issues that have so far remained hidden, says Punanga Tauturu Inc (PTI) co-ordinator Rebeka Buchanan.

The issue of unreported cases of domestic violence in the Pa Enua is a major concern and one that Punanaga Tauturu staff intend to address when they visit some of the islands this year.

Te Kainga visited Atiu with other government agencies last year and Buchanan says on the next visit, which will take place subject to funding, she hopes to see some improvement in the treatment of domestic-violence victims.

She is appealing to island residents in leadership positions to offer assistance and says these people should be aware that they have the right to intervene in domestic-violence issues, and victims of domestic violence need help and support.

Buchanan says island leaders can help minimise domestic-violence issues and perhaps even operate a referral system for victims, using counselors to support family members.

“Some of these issues have been around a long time and people get too used to how it has always been. This adds to peoples’ reluctance to come forward to seek support and help.”

Buchanan said occasional visits to the Pa Enua from trained counsellors from Rarotonga are “great” but without regular follow-ups the whole service is rendered useless. Information becomes out of date and people move on or leave the islands altogether.

“In my view it is important to strengthen the social services by using people from the outer islands, and having a regular contact meeting, a budget in place and even Skype-type follow-ups to support the different groups.

“These are complaints from residents in the outer islands. They are not necessarily directed at us, but they too, are sick and tired of seeing all these enthusiastic people come over once, then fail to (supply) a follow-up programme.”

She said most support groups worked individually and in isolation from each other.

Some members had issues of commitment and workload and if community leaders were not aware of the groups’ work, it was unlikely to be endorsed and supported by the community.

“A well co-ordinated team can be flexible and work where most needed and intervene early on any family disputes. They can raise community awareness to educate people and minimise social risks and dangers.”

Buchanan said empowering people at an early stage to seek professional assistance provides a more solid foundation to create a stable environment to help domestic violence victims in the outer islands.

“We can use people on the outer islands to work closely together to raise awareness amongst themselves. Some of the ways they can do this is through capacity building, health awareness and promoting sustainability.”

Buchanan is eager to encourage the establishment of co-ordinated support groups in the outer islands to show they can be a very beneficial way of dealing with the lack of resources.

“What is lacking really is the willpower, know-how and understanding of the many benefits for the people.

The question is not “what’s in it for me? 

“It is, ‘what’s in it for my people’?”

Cook Islands News
Copyright © 2017 Cook Islands News. All Rights Reserved

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