Vanuatu has a newly appointed New Zealand Police representative as mentor for the Pacific Prevention of Domestic Violence Programme (PPDVP).
The new mentor is Senior Sergeant Akerei (Rei) Maresala-Thomson, who takes over from Inspector Peter McKennie. Inspector McKennie and Senior Sergeant Maresala-Thomson were in Vanuatu for a handover visit during early July.
Inspector McKennie was the PPDVP mentor to Vanuatu Police for the past five years. He made many visits to Vanuatu during that time, working to improve the capacity and capability of Police, and communities themselves, to prevent domestic violence and to improve the effectiveness of response when domestic violence offences occur.
While recognising there is still a lot of work to do, Inspector McKennie reports that Vanuatu has a strong platform to build on compared to its Pacific neighbours. Vanuatu was the first Pacific Island nation to have specific domestic violence legislation, with the Family Protection Act, and it is the only Pacific Island nation to have Police Policy, SOPs and a Police training package aligned to the legislation.
Inspector McKennie advises that he enjoyed his time in Vanuatu and the hospitality and friendship of the Vanuatu people. He is sad to leave the role, but happy knowing things are better than when he arrived and that it will continue to improve in the very capable hands of Senior Sergeant Maresala-Thomson
Senior Sergeant Maresala-Thomson is a very experienced New Zealand Police officer who has worked in Vanuatu previously as part of the Pacific Policing Programme, and in Tuvalu for PPDVP. He looks forward to continuing the positive relationship between PPDVP and the people of Vanuatu and the opportunities to make further progress in the capacity and capability building.
He points out that domestic violence is a community problem, not just a Police problem.
It does not happen at Police Stations or in Court houses. It happens in homes and in communities; so preventing the harm caused by domestic violence requires communities to stand up against it, starting with the leaders of those communities.
Inspector McKennie also says that improvements are not possible without the cooperation and assistance of many in Vanuatu Police, wider Government, non-government agencies and communities. He sincerely thanks everyone for the support they gave him over the past five years and encourages them to continue to put that support behind the domestic violence prevention programme as it continues to deliver for safer families across Vanuatu.