Tāmaki Innovation Campus

Cristy Trewartha

Cristy Trewartha
PhD candidate Cristy Trewartha has been working in family violence prevention for the past 12 years.

PhD candidate Cristy Trewartha has been working in family violence prevention for the past 12 years, and suggests that involvement of everyday community members is a really important piece of the puzzle to make change on this issue.

Now in her fourth year on the topic, her PhD builds on her Master of Public Health degree, gained after a BA (Psych), BCom (Management and Employment Relations), Post Grad Dip Arts (Psych); all at the University of Auckland.

Using a measurement tool she developed, Cristy uses case study methodology to compare community mobilisation on the issue of family violence prevention, looking at Glen Innes and Ranui.  Both are communities with a similar demographic profile, but unlike Glen Innes, Ranui has no specific family violence prevention initiative underway. 

“I’m really enjoying finally bringing all my work together and writing it up. I have some more analysis to do, but so far my findings are teaching me so much about the multi-faceted nature of community change,” she says.

Cristy’s interest was sparked after working with children and young people with really tough life stories.  “I started thinking about what could help to prevent things getting so bad, so early in life. Looking at the contributing factors, family violence was a big one, and something that was all around, but not spoken about. It was clear to me that we needed to work to prevent this problem, not only address it after violence had happened, so I started working on family violence from a public health and community development perspective.”

Her 12 year focus on family violence started out in health promotion, and deepened with work on the “It's not OK” Campaign into community action. Working on the campaign, she supported local community groups around the country, and learnt about what is possible when community members decide to get active on an issue.

“From there my interest in community mobilisation developed. Work in Uganda by NGO Raising Voices was the most promising community mobilisation work when I did my Master of Public Health. This really helped to inform the work I became involved with in Glen Innes, and is the focus of my PhD too. 

“The Glen Innes community had identified family violence as a problem that needed to be addressed. I started working for local organisation Te Waipuna Puawai and helped to develop a long-term family violence prevention initiative called the HEART Movement. It is a 20 year initiative working to change social norms around family violence and to promote healthy relationships, by developing local change agents as leaders and mobilisers. HEART  is also working with over 20 organisations to build capacity and collaboration.”

Cristy worked on HEART for three years, before handing over to focus on finishing her PhD. She says HEART has been running for 5 years now, and believes it takes that time to get a community mobilisation initiative well underway, because it is about community members, not organisations  leading. It is, she says,  long-term and challenging work.  

Looking at her career to date, she has worked in a range of organisations, national, regional and local. Her post-PhD goals are  to work on long-term place based initiatives that have a multi-issue focus, as issues like violence are closely linked to other issues like addictions and mental health issues.  Her preferred approach is to work on these issues with a wellbeing-focus that goes beyond reducing negative indicators. “People get a positive holistic approach and want to be a part of it”.

She has practiced yoga for 20 years and says this is an important part of learning to be in balance. “Like anything worthwhile, change takes time, but it is so worth it.” She also loves to spend time doing creative and joyful things like being in nature, especially beaches, music and dancing, cooking and hanging out with the people she loves.

This article was first published in the July 2017 Tāmaki Update