We know your voice matters so we ensure it is heard
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The Backbone Collective is the only entity in New Zealand and possibly world, that gives women who have experienced any type of violence or abuse, a voice.  We want to hear from as many women as possible to make sure we continue building something that makes a real difference to women's and children's lives.


THE Backbone Team

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We can change the system if we join our voices together to make one very loud chorus. By working together, we can turn things around for our daughters and granddaughters.

I strongly believe in the power and importance of lived experience – it is critical that those in government listen to the voices of those affected in order to continually improve service responses.

 In the 1980s, after escaping a violent relationship, my baby daughter died of Cot Death/Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. I was living in hiding from my abuser, so I took an assumed name – Lorraine Webb – and ran a national Cot Death campaign including one of New Zealand’s largest petitions ever submitted to Parliament (165,000 signatures). The campaign was long and arduous but it eventually led to changes in government policy. I also wrote a book on the subject, Cot Death in New Zealand (1986).

 This experience was hugely formative. I learned much about achieving social change and it fired a passion in me to lead a life devoted to achieving progressive social outcomes for women.

 Fifteen years ago, after undertaking several high-profile and challenging roles in the health sector, I decided to focus on achieving change in the field of domestic and sexual violence.

 Since then, I’ve given numerous presentations and media interviews and researched and written extensively about this issue. I’ve had a wide range of formal roles that enabled me to work with service users, service providers, academics and professionals and actively bring together diverse viewpoints.  These included the Family Violence Director at the Ministry of Social Development, the Executive Director of the Glenn Inquiry, and a panel member on the independent Ministerial Review into ACC Sensitive Claims. I also completed a Master’s in Public Policy and was awarded the Victoria University Holmes Prize in Public Policy in 2008 for my evaluation of New Zealand’s family violence strategies.

 In 2013 I established The Impact Collective (TIC), a specialist consultancy committed to making effective and sustainable change in family violence. My first major task was to write an independent report (co-authored with Deborah Mackenzie) entitled ‘The Way Forward’ proposing the establishment of an integrated system to better address intimate partner violence and child abuse and neglect in New Zealand. This is Backbone’s founding document. (downloadable from http://theimpactcollective.co.nz/thewayforward_210714.pdf).

Now, I am even more passionate, committed and determined to ensure that the voices of women who have experienced violence and abuse are heard.

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We need a response to violence and abuse that is joined up, is continuously reviewed and has safety as its focus. Survivors know how to make that happen. Our voices should be at the centre of the design and development of any system.
— Deborah Mackenzie

I am passionate about social justice, and especially about improving the experience of women and children who are survivors of violence in Aotearoa/New Zealand. I’ve devoted my career to working with survivors and lobbying at local and national levels for legislative and procedural changes that benefit women and children to be safer.

My special interest in the justice sector’s response to women survivors started nearly twenty years ago during my work as a Court Clerk for Auckland Family Court and then as a Victim Adviser for Auckland District Court. After working in the court setting and in an NGO with women survivors, I became committed to getting changes to the system response because I saw that so many parts of the system did not help women and children be safe and often made things even worse for them. Escaping their abuser was only one of many hurdles they were forced to climb.

 For the last 12 years, I've done policy development work for NGO agencies, for Government and as an independent contractor- always trying to improve responses to violence and abuse survivors. I was a Project Manager at the Ministry of Justice, Family Violence Unit, and an interagency network coordinator for Auckland Central. I have worked in social services both as an advocate, policy analyst and a manager which has given me a good understanding of the difficulties frontline agencies face.

 My varied roles have enabled me to hear from people from a multitude of backgrounds and professions. It has brought me into close contact with women survivors, people from the justice services, the police, community agencies and outreach services, and has helped me understand issues for survivors in a wide range of areas.  The insights I have gathered have informed my work as a trainer, presenter and media commentator. I have a Masters in Arts in Education.

 I’ve helped women get their voices heard by the system for a long time, and in 2014 I co-wrote The Way Forward with Ruth Herbert, where we propose a new model for an integrated response system to violence and abuse in New Zealand. The Backbone Collective is the next logical and practical step. And I’m bringing my, compassion for survivors, understanding of domestic violence and the system response to it, research, project management, advocacy, coordination and training skills to the project. I'm so excited to be part of creating a new way for our voices to be heard.