Monday, 25 February 2019 - 12:29pm

On the road to Harm’s End

4 min read

News article photos (1 items)

David White

David White has a message for New Zealand and he’s delivering it in person.

Starting today (Monday 25 February) in Kaikoura, he is visiting every parliamentary constituency - 71 communities in 71 days – and giving 120 presentations to groups or public audiences, challenging communities to take ownership of family harm.

He also has a message for Police staff – stand with and guide your communities until they have the competence and confidence to find their own way.

Helen Meads

Helen Meads.

David is not your average 74-year-old grandfather. His daughter Helen Meads was murdered by her husband in 2009, and he and his wife Pam had their lives turned upside down, not least in becoming de facto parents to their granddaughters.

David has become an inspirational campaigner in the field of family harm, is a White Ribbon Ambassador and has written two books. He speaks frankly about some extremely difficult issues, including his feelings of guilt at not having been able to save Helen, and his feelings toward her killer.

He says he came up with the idea of the tour – named Harm Ends Futures Begin – as a way of embedding the principle of prevention in communities.

“I heard a great quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu: ‘At some point we’ve got to stop pulling people out of the river, go upstream and stop them falling in’,” he says.

“It’s about people in communities taking control of what’s going on around them.

“I played around with a few ideas and threw 95 percent of them out of the window, as you do. I started again and ended up with this.”

David is inspired by the Ruapehu Whanau Transformation programme, which set about creating safer communities by asking people what they needed. Based on the response, they created a programme of work under the headings Employment, Housing, health, Education and Social. 

“They did everything right for the community to take care of its own interests and wellbeing.

“They sat down and worked out a five-year plan of what they wanted to achieve to make a difference in people’s lives and they achieved all 30-odd points.

“It was the community stepping up and doing it. Initially they involved Police, for their contacts and local knowledge, and the local MP, to get community leaders standing up. Soon they got to the point that the MP and Police could step back.”

He would love to see similar models in every community – “but what works in Ohakune won’t necessarily work in Kaikohe: it needs to come from within the communities themselves”.

David chose to base his tour on parliamentary constituencies to encourage MPs to take a leading role.

And he chose to start in Kaikoura because of the risk of long-term trauma arising from the 2014 earthquake.

“There’s a community that had the guts knocked out of it - the earthquake affected families in a manner they couldn’t have expected.

“I’m not saying it’s all about family violence in Kaikoura but that sort of trauma creates an atmosphere which means families can struggle.”

In December David presented on Harm Ends Futures Begin to a specialist family harm course at the Royal New Zealand Police College and was encouraged by the response.

“I said to them: ‘You are either born leaders or trained leaders, at a senior level in Police – can you see what I see?

“That’s police taking the initial stand with an MP to draw attention to it, to get the right people to stand up in the community and give them encouragement, then step back and guide them.

“Because of that session I’ve had a huge number of police people saying ‘count me in, I’ll be there’.”

David is on the road, driving himself in his van, until late May – “but I’ve got weekends off”. He has been invited to speak at schools, prisons and to a variety of groups. In some towns he will be hosted by his allies Women’s Refuge, and will help them raise funds.

white van

The 'Harm Ends' van.

“You name them, I’ll be talking to them,” he says. “But whoever I’m talking to, the message is basically the same: you’ve got to do something to stop the harm going on in your community.”

Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement says he wants to see Police staff supporting David at every engagement on the tour.

“I am full of admiration for David, along with his wife Pam,” he says. “They have turned the incredible pain they experienced into a force for change.  

“David is absolutely right when he talks about community by community standing up, that’s why I want to see Police staff supporting David at every engagement on the tour.”


Coming your way – the Harm Ends Futures Begin itinerary



Te Tai Tonga

25 February Kaikoura

26 February Christchurch East

27 February Christchurch Central

28 February Ilam

1 March Wigram

4 March Port Hills

5 March Waimakariri

6 March Selwyn

7 March Rangitata

8 March Waitaki

11 March Dunedin North

12 March Dunedin South

13 March Invercargill

14 March Clutha-Southland

15 March West Coast-Tasman

18 March Nelson

Te Tai Hauauru

20 March Rongatai

21 March Wellington Central

22 March Ohariu

25 March Hutt South

26 March Rimutuka

27 March Mana

28 March Otaki

29 March Wairarapa

1 April Palmerston North

2 April Rangitikei

3 April Whanganui

4 April New Plymouth

5 April Taranaki–King Country


8 April Taupo

9 April Tukituki

10 April Napier

11 April East Coast


12 April Rotorua

15 April Bay of Plenty

16 April Tauranga


17 April Waikato

18 April Hamilton West and East

23 April Coromandel

24 April Hunua

Tamaki Makaurau

25 April Papakura

26 April Manurewa

29 April Mangere

30 April Manukau East

1 May Botany

2 May Pakuranga

3 May Tamaki

6 May Maungakiekie

7 May Mount Roskill

8 May Epsom

9 May Auckland Central

10 May Mount Albert

13 May New Lynn

14 May Kelston

15 May Te Atatu

16 May Upper Harbour

17 May Northcote

20 May North Shore

21 May East Coast Bays

22 May Helensville

23 May Rodney

Te Tai Tokerau

27 May Whangarei

28 May Northland

29 May Spirits Bay. Farewell.