Massey research shows community programme helping reduce family violence

Wednesday 1 July 2020

A community-based collaborative programme that provides rapid responses to men and their whānau after a Police Safety Order (PSO), has seen an almost 60 per cent reduction in family violence re-offending over nearly five years.

The Gandi Nivas research team
Last updated: Tuesday 29 November 2022

(from top left, clockwise) Dr Ann Rogerson; Dr Leigh Coombes; Associate Professor Sita Venkateswar; Tony Mattson (PhD candidate); Dr Geneva O’Connor; Dr Stephanie Denne; Elizabeth Jennens (Research Officer); Matthew Kean (PhD candidate); and (centre) Professor Mandy Morgan.

A community-based collaborative programme that provides rapid responses to men and their whānau after a Police Safety Order (PSO), has seen an almost 60 per cent reduction in family violence re-offending over nearly five years. 

Statistical evidence from a multi-study, long long-term research programme by Massey University social scientists has confirmed the substantial drop in re-offending after early intervention and ongoing whānau support by the Gandhi Nivas family harm intervention.

The statistical study was released at Parliament last night, with broad government interest in the collaborative intervention and research results, represented by a range of speakers including Jenny Salesa – Minister for Ethnic Communities; Andrew Coster, Police Commissioner; and Jan Logie, Under Secretary to the Minister of Justice for Domestic and Sexual Violence.  

The community-based collaboration in South Auckland – involving police, ACC, Gandhi Nivas and Sahaayta (the service providers to Gandhi Nivas) – has shown the value of working together to improve safety for women and children when men are issued Police Safety Orders.

When police remove men from the family home and bring them to Gandhi Nivas, the men can choose to stay in temporary housing, and 24/7 specialist counselling and social support is offered to them and to their whānāu. Immediate safety planning is a priority and men who stay at Gandhi Nivas are offered resources to help them be accountable to their whānāu for their safety.

Professor Mandy Morgan and Dr Leigh Coombes, from the School of Psychology, co-led the study with a team of seven researchers from Massey. The programme included ethnographic research with the homes and service providers as well as interview studies with offenders. Men who had stayed at the Ōtāhuhu home spoke with an interviewer about their experiences of engaging with intervention services. Partners, wives and mothers spoke about how they were supported to fulfil their hopes and aspirations.

“The statistical study provides insights and data on the success of the Gandhi Nivas collaboration, and the research programme overall offers hope that properly-resourced early intervention can contribute to improving safety, security and stability in our homes and communities,” Professor Morgan says.

Partially funded by ACC, the collaboration involves coordinating two interventions for family harm, says Dr Coombes. “The first is a police intervention where the attending officers decide that some whānāu need to be protected from harm.  The second is the men’s intake at Gandhi Nivas, where residence and services are offered to them, with whānau offered services within 24 hours.”

When police issue a PSO to a man, he must leave the family home for a set period of up to 10 days. The researchers say the partnership between police and Gandhi Nivas is an opportunity for rapid, early, coordinated interventions. Some men are taken by police to one of three Gandhi Nivas homes in Ōtāhuhu, Te Atatū and Papakura. This immediately decreases the likelihood of further family harm, increases safety for the family, and provides the man with support to begin the process of being accountable to his family for their safety.

Police Deputy Commissioner, Wallace Haumaha says; “This research demonstrates that by providing immediate support alongside early intervention for the perpetrator, victim and whānau, we can address the complexity of family harm,” he said.

Ranjna Patel, the founder of Gandhi Nivas, says the Massey report’s findings provide a compelling proof of concept for the interventionist model.

“If you want to see transformational change in this country you have to work with the men who are inflicting violent behaviour in the family home. It’s important to support the victims of domestic violence, but that won’t change a man’s behaviour,” she says. “To end violent behaviour, you’ve got to find and address its source.”

Key findings of the Massey report: ‘Gandhi Nivas 2014-2019: A Statistical description of client demographics and involvement in Police-recorded family violence occurrences’

Massey’s research team assessed the efficacy of the Gandhi Nivas programme for men who use violence and are referred to the service with a Police Safety Order (PSO). Researchers focused on the Ōtāhuhu home for almost five-years (December 2014 - June 2019).

A key finding was that 57.5 per cent of previous offenders did not reoffend after engaging with the Gandhi Nivas service.

Men aged in their twenties and thirties are the predominant age group in residence at Gandhi Nivas. Ages range from youthful to elderly – the oldest client is 84 years old and the youngest is 15. The majority of clients are between 20 and 40 (55.98 per cent), with almost 30 per cent in the 20-29 age group.

Employment stability is a significant issue facing Gandhi Nivas clients. In total, just under half of intake cases (49.72 per cent) show that the client was not employed at the time they resided at Gandhi Nivas, with 47.75 per cent specifically recorded as unemployed. Men who returned to Gandhi Nivas, after their first intake, showed patterns of employment and unemployment at different times. Financial insecurity is also a serious for issue for some whānau.

Relationships with intimate partners and family members accounted for 95 per cent of family harm incidents, while 32 per cent were the intimate partner of the victim, 30 per cent were the parent, 20 per cent were the child of the victim, and seven per cent were siblings. For those involved in intimate partner violence, 69 per cent were cohabiting.

Gandhi Nivas translates as “home of peace”, taking its name from the late Mahatma Gandhi – an Indian social activist, leader and man of peace, and ‘nivas’ meaning home.

For more information about the programme go to: