What have others done?
Counties Manukau Rugby League, Upper Hutt Rams Rugby Club, Josiah Natzke & The Ulalei Pacific Rugby Sevens
“One change I have noticed is a decrease of abuse directed towards referees. Referees are reporting that they are not getting the same level of abuse.”
“We needed to change the culture around the game. The violence, the stigma and the gang affiliations were painting us in a really poor light.”
Counties Manukau Rugby League
Counties Manukau Rugby League zone comprises 12 clubs stretching from Otahuhu in the north, to Tuakau in the south, with around 8000 members.
The zone’s partnership with It’s not OK began in 2010, prompted by growing acknowledgement among staff and members of the negative perception of Rugby League as a sport as well as problematic behaviours in the clubs including violence, alcohol use and sport-related intimidation.
These behaviours were a direct reflection of home environments. The zone believed that they could influence the behaviour of members through their involvement in Rugby League, leading to a positive change at home.
Players, supporters and their families had a strong sense of belonging to their local Rugby League club, which made the clubs a perfect platform to launch family violence prevention activities.
Knowing about family violence and the It’s not OK campaign
At first the zone worked to raise awareness about family violence and its impacts on families and communities. The It’s not OK logo appeared on t-shirts, billboards, banners and in newsletters.
Workshops were delivered to players, coaches and managers, messages were broadcast over the PA system. Fair play awards were introduced, rewarding respectful, non-violent behaviour. The zone’s theme song ‘Lean on Me’ was recorded and aired at community hui and on local radio.
The branding and awareness raising was seen as more than just words: “The banners are the first point of contact when people turn up on a Saturday. It’s so much more than a banner. It has been a powerful message in terms of behaviour.”
Code of conduct
The clubs’ codes of conduct were adapted to include violence-free policies. This included a policy making it clear that negative sideline behaviour would not be tolerated at any of the clubs in the Counties Manukau zone.
A sideline abuse strategy
Clubs gave bibs to the home and visiting teams every match day. The vests entrusted the wearer with the responsibility to monitor and police their own people to ensure appropriate sideline behaviour. These were often worn by injured players, team management or well-known people in the club.
“The bibs for both home and visiting spectators have created ambassadors. Supporters look after their own people. They know they are taking responsibility for their own behaviour. They tell parents to pull their heads in.”
Sharing stories of change
It’s not OK campaign champion Vic Tamati shared his story of becoming violence free at each of the 12 clubs. The presentations were transformational, with a number of players and members identifying with Vic and his story. The talks resulted in most of those attending taking a pledge to be family violence-free and/or seek help to change their behaviour.
Support is now provided by the zone for men to become violence-free through a free stopping violence programme one night a week at the clubrooms.
Early childhood playgroups
Pre and after school care clubs were established for club families in Papatoetoe, Mangere East and Otara, to encourage positive parenting and safe homes.
“Initially we saw there was a need for something because the carparks were full of parents waiting for their boys who were training. They [the parents] are living the way they were brought up. We discovered these mothers didn’t realise how they could be involved in the child’s learning. They didn’t have an understanding of behaviour management and how to keep their kids well…[They are] people who avoid social services because of a fear of people finding out how they live. Because of Rugby League, there is a sense of belonging when they are at the club…This is really important because we provide a non-threatening environment. They are happy to engage with us.”
Leaders and influencers within the clubs, plus the support of the national It’s not OK campaign, have been critical to the success of family violence prevention efforts along with a deep-seated desire to improve the image of Rugby League.
The manager of Counties Manukau Rugby League identified the need for culture change across the region. Club-level leaders, generally chairs of club committees, acknowledged the need and embraced the changes driven by the manager.
The It’s not OK campaign was described as providing a vital framework for staff and clubs to follow and use to build their efforts in improving the game’s image and culture, along with Vic Tamati’s ability to connect with men at each of the 12 clubs.
There has been an increase in the awareness of family violence and a positive shift in Rugby League culture across the zone.
“You hear “It’s not OK” on the field, on the sidelines and in day-to-day conversations.”
There has also been a shift in culture in the wider community. Schools and other community groups have reported positive effects from the local campaign. They have asked Counties Manukau Rugby League to play a bigger part in the prevention of family violence throughout the entire community.
“Now we have schools ringing us and asking us to come into schools. They asked me to MC at school galas because they want the whole school to have these messages” says General Manager Kasey King.
The Upper Hutt Rams Rugby Club
The Upper Hutt Rams Rugby Club, 30 minutes north of Wellington, has a membership of over 600 and a number of teams covering all grades.
The club once served half of the local rugby playing community with Rimutaka Rugby Club, but in 2014 the clubs merged. The community has a high incidence of family violence but also a City Council dedicated to reducing and preventing violence.
The Rams first teamed up with It’s not OK for the 2012 Rugby season.
Learning about family violence and the It’s not OK campaign
The club began by putting up posters in the clubrooms and sharing It’s not OK messages in after match speeches and on their website and Facebook page.
“Being involved with It’s not OK has made us realise that the club has a serious responsibility to look after our members particularly with the Netball Club using the clubrooms. To that effect we have hired security to ensure the environment is made as safe as possible on Saturday nights” says club Secretary, Wayne Radovic.
In 2014 the Club took their involvement a step further, having It’s not OK present to the Club’s Board and young players on how to help team-mates, friends and family that may be affected by family violence. A presentation on how family and friends can help, developed by Upper Hutt City Council, was used.
An It’s not OK award was introduced to acknowledge leadership and commitment to the Club’s values and It’s not OK champion Vic Tamati told his personal story of becoming violence free to the Club membership.
What has changed?
There has been an increase in after-match attendance at the clubrooms, now that they have been made more inviting to women and children.
The club accepts that it is their responsibility to ensure their club members and their families are safe at the clubrooms and at home – violence in particular is taken very seriously. “We have moved away from giving drinks as our Player of the Day award.”
Commitment to family violence prevention from the top level of the club administration has been critical to success. The project has been supported by the chairperson of the day – for example, all other clubs in Wellington received a letter from the chairperson of the Rams about appropriate sideline behaviour after an incident involving a spectator happened in Wellington.
The It’s not OK campaign has been an important part of the project.
“[their] support to us and assistance in delivering this project has been crucial to its success – and we believe it is successful as we look to infect our wider Upper Hutt community with the principles of the campaign”.
Josiah Natzke is the New Zealand 125cc open class National Motocross champion. At age 15 he committed to helping address family violence in New Zealand.
On a flight to Sydney in 2013, Josiah and his father Chris sat next to It’s not OK campaign champion Vic Tamati and recognised him from his TV ad.
“I sat next to Vic on a plane trip and got talking and he told me his story and I was interested, I knew there was a way I could reach some more people in my sport.”
Josiah started by learning about family violence, what it is and how it impacts on New Zealanders. He brainstormed with the It’s not OK team some ways he could spread the message that family violence is not OK but it is OK to ask for help.
Josiah wears It’s not OK on his helmet which has become a conversation starter. He often talks to people after races about the campaign and family violence.
The Ulalei Pacific Rugby Sevens
The Ulalei Pacific Rugby Sevens has embedded family violence prevention into their annual tournament in Wellington since 2011.
The message that family violence is not OK but it is OK to ask for help is broadcast throughout the tournament during the games commentary, along with statistics and basic information about different types of family violence.
Information is also broadcast on Wellington Samoan Radio alongside advertising for the Sevens.
It’s not OK resources are distributed to spectators and violence-free champions Vic Tamati and Lua Maynard mingle with the crowd.
Sixteen teams participate in the tournament over two days, the weekend before the national Sevens Tournament. It’s not OK cardboard fans keep spectators cool while providing the It’s not OK website and phone line details at the same time.
“This was a simple but effective way to get our message across,” Vic Tamati said.
A workshop for team managers on family violence was added to the programme in 2015, delivered by Vic and Lua.
Ulalei organizer Masunu Tuisia said “This is the perfect setting for raising awareness about family violence. Families from many different Pacific Islands attend the tournament, it’s a captive audience in a family setting – it’s a good way to get the message across.”
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