A step toward safety

The figures are stark and alarming.

One in three women in New Zealand will experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. The country has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world.

It is a complex issue with many contributing factors.

Advocacy and aid agency Women’s Refuge says financial abuse and control is a major factor. It is a major challenge for many women who want to leave an abusive relationship.

" One in three women will experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime."

Abusive partners often control the household money. They hold the credit cards and the debit cards. In some cases they even run up debts in their partner’s name.

Making it easier

Indeed, financial abuse can be crippling for some women. According to Women’s Refuge New Zealand chief executive Dr Ang Jury, often women who flee their homes with no possibility of returning cannot open a bank account because they leave without the necessary identification.

“You can’t get into a house without having a bank account,” she explained. “You can’t get onto a benefit without having a bank account. No one hands over cash anymore.”

This issue has prompted a partnership between Women’s Refuge and ANZ. The goal was to find a way to make it easier for women to open a bank account, even if they did not have the right ID.

ANZ Managing Director Retail and Business Banking Antonia Watson says she completely understands how the idea of not being financially independent is horrifically scary.

“Anything we can do to help someone who is in a dangerous relationship feel more comfortable about that independence and how they might move forward is really important,” she says.


Women who are referred by Women’s Refuge can now set up an ANZ account, even if they have no ID or do not have a permanent address.

It is a New Zealand first.

“We need this documentation by law but by being more flexible about when we require the documents, we’re helping women set themselves up faster and keep them safe,” she said.

The new approach was successfully trialled with ANZ staff in Wellington and has now been rolled out across all branches in New Zealand.

 “Anything we can do to help someone in a dangerous relationship push towards independence and feel confident about how they’ll move forward is important,” Watson says.

Dr Jury says ANZ’s policy change will make a difference – describing it as “a step towards keeping women safe when escaping violent relationships”.

Tony Field is a bluenotes contributor

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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