Personalising family violence in Upper Hutt - 16 July 2014

The average person in Upper Hutt has family violence on their radar, thanks to the It's not OK Campaign and White Ribbon Day, says Upper Hutt City Council Director of Community Services Andrea Curtis.

But people don't necessarily recognise what is happening in their homes as family violence.

Carolyn Downer's message for Upper Hutt City Council
"Children learn from your behaviour. Do you need to ask for help?"
"Don't be afraid to ask your loved ones 'Are you ok?'"
"This is a cool community, look after each other
"You don't have to be a hard man to be a good man. Reach out and ask for help."

That might be because about 40 per cent of Police call outs are for elder abuse, problems with mental health or parents struggling with teenagers.

And these problems don't fit the stereotype of dad hitting mum in front of the kids.

To bring awareness of family violence closer to home, the council chose five Upper Hutt people to be the faces of their It's not OK billboards and adjusted its messages to emphasise parenting and role modelling.

"Having local faces was the most critical thing for us," says Andrea.

"In Upper Hutt, everyone does know the Mayor, Wayne Guppy. He actually is a local celebrity for us. Everyone knows Cory Jane, Frankie Stevens and Issy Thorpe."

Each of them also appeals to different parts of the community.

For example, Issy Thorpe, who came fourth in New Zealand's Next Top Model, was chosen as a young, Pasifika woman.

"Having Issy on the TV was a massive thing for us," says Andrea.

"Every time she came on the telly she was really positive about Upper Hutt. She wasn't the mean contestant on the show.

"She was just out there, energetic and happy, and that's the kind of energy we wanted to have representing our city."

Another billboard features Carolyn Downer, the Strengthening Families Coordinator for Upper Hutt. The council wanted to introduce Carolyn as someone who works alongside families to strengthen them.

The aim was to build on the New Zealand-wide It's not OK Campaign and make it relevant in Upper Hutt.

"The big thing about the Campaign was its nationwide presence and funding, but it could be localised. That's the strength of the Campaign. So people can't say, ‘It doesn't affect me. It doesn't affect my community'.

"Without the nationwide Campaign I think people wouldn't see the bigger picture.

"With the funding we were able to create posters with the quality and style of the nationwide Campaign but with local faces on them."

The council turned the billboards into laminated A4 posters to use with chemists that already had a positive relationship with the council over a mental health project.

Then schools asked for posters of local heroine Issy Thorpe.

And the council realised there was more demand for them.

Other activities include:

• Neighbours Nights in the city's two most diverse communities to promote safety and healthy neighbourhoods
• partnering with New Zealand Defence Forces, based at Trentham Camp in Upper Hutt, on a local It's not OK Campaign
• a dedicated It's not OK page on the Council website http://www.upperhuttcity.com/Its-not-ok
• promoting It's not OK at a young driving offenders programme
• raising awareness of elder abuse through the council's Older Adults initiatives
• distributing family violence information at a Teddy Bears' Picnic
• delivering workshops on being an ethical bystander to bar staff.

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