Immigrant women from Asia and the Pacific are now more likely to be killed by their partners than any other group in the country.
A study by the Ministry of Social Development, Learning from Tragedy, has found that about a third of both killers and victims of couple-related homicides between 2002-2006 were born overseas.
There was an average of just over one partner killed every year for every 100,000 people born in Asia or the Pacific Islands – almost three times the national average of 0.39 partner killings for every 100,000 people, and more than six times the average among New Zealand-born people of the same Asian and Pacific ethnicities.
The vast majority of all partner victims – 61 out of 77 during the five years – were women, and most male victims were the women’s new partners. Seventy of the 79 killers were men.
The report confirms the oft-repeated statement by domestic violence agencies that violence occurs across all social classes. But women, and a few men, were 13 times more likely to be killed by their partners if they lived in the poorest fifth of the country than if they lived in the richest fifth.
Migrant and refugee support agencies said the link with poverty was clearly a factor in the high death rate for migrant women, combined with adjusting to a new culture.
“I suspect there is probably more of it because of the price of being in a new society – unemployment, the loss of status, particularly for the [male] breadwinner who may not be earning,” said Auckland Regional Migrant Services Trust director Mary Dawson.
“It has certainly come to my attention that the figures amongst domestic violence organisations in terms of immigrants are going up.”
She said separation was the biggest legal issue immigrants asked about after immigration itself.
“The family networks are not here, the knowledge of the society and how it works and the ability to have outlets in various ways are all missing,” she said.
Anne Uma of the Auckland Refugee Community Coalition said many refugees were also struggling with the trauma of fleeing from their countries, often spending years in refugee camps and still being separated from family members.
They were adjusting to a new society where both women and children had more freedom than in their home countries.
She said refugees and other migrants needed more adult education in life skills and “the New Zealand system”, but adult education had been cut.
Auckland University of Technology’s Centre for Refugee Education ran one-day-a week, six-month “resettlement” courses for refugees at its main Auckland campus and in three community venues last year, but the funding from the Tertiary Education Commission’s foundation learning pool has been switched to literacy this year.
Centre manager Maria Hayward said the courses covered issues such as childrearing, budgeting, alcohol and family breakdown, and were still needed.
“We spent a lot of time looking at gender roles and there were really lovely changes that occurred within the group,” she said.
“The women at the end of one group actually said, ‘Our men have become more gentle during the process of attending this course, and we love them more because of the way they are now’. The men said really enjoyed the course.”
*Who’s at risk?
Victims of couple-related homicide per 100,000 people per year, 2002-2006
Asian-Pacific born overseas 1.08
Asian-Pacific born in NZ 0.17
Poorest fifth of areas 0.67
Second-poorest fifth 0.51
Middle fifth 0.49
Second-richest fifth 0.20
Richest fifth 0.05
Total NZ 0.39
Source: Ministry of Social Development.