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Gandhi Nivas celebrates Police-Community partnership

Police Minister Judith Collins has described a home for male offenders involved in family violence as a ‘perfect example of Police-Community Partnership’ and a model worthy of emulation.

Speaking at the first anniversary of ‘Gandhi Nivas’ located at 40 Station Road in Otahuhu, Auckland on April 1, 2016, she said that the facility has proved to be an important development in addressing family violence as a social issue and providing a great opportunity for offenders to change for the better.

Gandhi Nivas celebrates-Gandhi Nivas Logo Web“The success of ‘Gandhi Nivas’ in Counties Manukau Police District has been inspiring and I understand that a number of other Police Districts are keen to establish a similar home in their area as an effective solution to the problem of family violence. This should be encouraged and I will be happy to see safer homes for everyone in our communities,” she said.

Right approach

Ms Collins, who is also Minister of Corrections, said that the number of offenders going through the courts and prisons can be reduced with timely intervention, counselling and guidance.

“Gandhi Nivas has adopted the right approach to tackle the problem,” she said.

Gandhi Nivas celebrates- Tims presenting Challenge Coin to Ranjna WebSuperintendent John Tims, District Commander, Counties Manukau Police, expressed his appreciation of the efforts of the South Asian Advisory Board in general and that of Ranjna Patel (Director, Nirvana Health Group), leader of the Project and Trustee of the Gandhi Nivas Governance Group.

Gandhi Nivas celebrates-Ranjna Patel Web“Ranjna has been the driving force behind this important facility. Gandhi Nivas has now become a great symbol of police and community cooperation,” he said and presented a ‘Challenge Coin’ on behalf of the Police.

Mr Tims said that the ‘Challenge Coin’ reflects Counties Manukau Police and the community working together to keep the community safe.

“It also communicates our history and the values that we demonstrate daily within our interaction. These coins are given to those who have contributed and added value to policing and the community,” he said.

The Dignitaries

Among the other speakers at the event were Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy and National Member of Parliament Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi.

Gandhi Nivas celebrates- The Challenge Coin WebAmong the other dignitaries were Nirvana Health Group Chairman and Director, respectively Dr Kantilal Patel and Rakesh Patel, Members of Parliament Melissa Lee, Dr Parmjeet Parmar (National), Mahesh Bindra (New Zealand First), Counties Manukau District Health Board Chari Lee Mathias, Judge Grant Fraser, Manukau Crown Solicitor Natalie Walker, Police Inspector Rakesh Naidoo, Police Commissioner’s Ethnic Focus Forum Members Abbess Manshin, this reporter (and Ranjna Patel), Counties Manukau District Police South Asian Advisory Board Members Ibrar Sheikh, Manjula Walgampola (Ranjna Patel, this reporter), Gandhi Nivas Governance Board Members Dr David Codyre, Mark Vella (Ranjna Patel, this reporter), Bank of Baroda Director Wenceslaus Anthony, officials of the Accident Compensation Corporation and Social Development ministry.

Earlier, Ms Patel gave an account of the circumstances that led to the establishment of Gandhi Nivas and the attendant challenges, problems and financial constraints. Following is a highly edited version of her speech at the anniversary.

When you sit at (South Asian) Advisory Board meetings (of Counties Manukau Police) at which family violence is discussed, you feel that the situation does not seem to change, and then you feel a little helpless.

Statistics are painful: every four deaths out of 14 are Indian women, every six minutes the Police attend to an incident related to family violence and 95% of victims are women. One in three women face family violence in one form or the other.

Advisors challenged

About two years ago, Superintendent John Tims, District Commander of the Counties Manukau Police challenged the members of the South Asian Advisory Board to “do something good and make a difference.”

We took up the challenge and considered the family violence issue from a different light. Gandhi Nivas was established in Otahuhu (40 Station Road), Auckland as a home for men affected by law enforcement authorities in respect of family violence.

Among those whose services have been critical are Sucharita Verma and Zoya Karim Kara; they have been the backbone of this home, devoted many hours to get it ready and get staff to work. I cannot describe the effort this team has put into this Project.

Karthik, our first Social Worker in the home, was an excellent choice, as all the men could relate to his counselling, to such an extent that they take him out for coffee and dinners, or just drop in to say ‘hello.’

Effecting changes

We have made changes along the way as needed. We opened the home to all ethnicities six months into the Project, as there is no other similar facility in Auckland. Today we have the Police from Wellington and Hamilton, to see how they can do something in their area.

It is so simple and yet so hard. Do not wait for handouts, just get community support and make it work. Long term sustainability is another issue. We have decided in Counties Manukau to make it work.

Encouraging results

Results to date are encouraging.

From December 2014 to December 2015, we had 103 men and families through the home. We have had another 65 in the past three months, and so we envisage that we will have 300 families using this facility in the next 12 months.

About 90% of the men had intervention services within 24 hours; 93% of our clients have not been involved in another family violence incident, even though 32% had family violence incidents before or at the time of the intake. Seven men have referred themselves back to Gandhi Nivas, when they recognised their triggers. To me, that is a challenging behaviour.

We know from health officials that when someone has a heart attack, it is the best time to discuss the need to stop smoking! Realising consequences at the time of an event is imperative in order to make changes.

If the establishment of Gandhi Nivas has made it possible for them to remove themselves from the situation, then the Project is a success.

Photo Caption:

  1. Judith Collins with (from left) Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, John Tims, Ranjna Patel, Lee Mathias and Melissa Lee
  2. Superintendent John Tims presenting ‘Coin Challenge’ to Ranjna Patel
  3. The Coin that Challenged South Asian Advisory Board of Counties Manukau Police

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