National | Documentary

New Waikato Māori Women's Refuge film premiere

A new documentary on domestic violence from Waikato Women's Refuge Te Whakaruruhau will premiere tonight.

220 Miles follows the group of local Māori women who formed the refuge that has helped over 100,000 women, children and families affected by domestic violence.

220 Miles is the length of the Waikato River and the distance the founders are willing to walk to save a life.

“Women wanted a place for themselves, for Māori women to go,” said co-founder Ruahine “Roni” Albert.

“[A place] that would be culturally appropriate, they could do their own thing in working through the issues that they needed to.”

As a child, co-founder Ariana Simpson's mother was a victim of domestic abuse.

“What's important around supporting people is the kōrero āwhi, the manaakitanga,” says Simpson.

“Because that's what got our mum through, that's what got us through.”

The two-hour film is a 10 month labour of love for the film's producer, Andrew James.

James met Te Whakaruruhau two years ago and wanted to make the $40,000 doco from his own pocket.

“I totally fell in love with what they do.  I've never seen an organisation with so much passion and so much love,” says James.

“And the way they operate...I just feel it's a story that needs to be told.”

Since Te Whakaruruhau was established in 1986, domestic violence has increased in the region.  Te Whakaruruhau helps up to ninety people per week.

“There's more people out there that are actually speaking out more about it,” says Albert.

“You've got neighbours, you've got people that are not holding back. They're making contact with support or the police to engage.”

The documentary will premiere in two packed theatres at Hamilton's Lido Cinema at 8pm.  James hopes the film will raise awareness and support for the lifesaving help offered by Te Whakaruruhau.

220 Miles film will screen at a theatre in Raglan on Sunday. The film is also expected to be made into a DVD series.