Telling the stories of our researcher whānau: Cristy Trewartha

7 December 2021

Cristy Trewartha has recently joined Community Research’s Researcher Database Whānau. She kindly shared her journey as a researcher with us.

Cristy Trewartha is a researcher and change strategist who has spent most of her career in family violence prevention mahi. Her mission is to empower communities with quality research to see themselves more clearly, to establish strengths and to assess what resources are needed to more effectively tackle change making from the grassroots and up.

With whakapapa on both her maternal and paternal sides from Scotland and the Cornish coast of England, Cristy firmly knows who she is and understands the importance of whakapapa and identity in her work and for those communities she seeks to support.

She grew in Long Bay and Waiake on the North Shore. After university she worked with young people in a range of settings and quickly observed just how much rangatahi in Aotearoa cope with day to day. With a desire to “get in front of the issues”, Cristy moved into public health and began to specialise in family violence prevention and influencing societal change.

In 2010, her Master’s dissertation “It is OK to help: effective community mobilisation to prevent family violence” was instrumental in establishing a kaupapa around Healthy Relationships in Tāmaki (HEART), a community-led movement in Glen Innes and Point England.

“My research was around how we as a society need to resource communities to make transformative change.

“After university, I noticed everything seemed to be geared towards addressing a problem after it happened. I also noticed most models in the mainstream used individualised approaches, because a lot of our services come from Western perspectives. Most of the problems I was looking at were societal problems so the individual approach just doesn’t make sense.

Cristy believes the best approach for any research project is for it to be community-led – “supporting a community to learn about themselves” and focus their efforts.

“A community needs to be ready for a piece of research to happen, rather than it be forced on them. Research also needs to be connected to action. I don’t have a lot of time for research for the sake of research – it needs to be practical and useful.”

In her PhD “Measuring Community Mobilisation”, Cristy developed a tool to measure community mobilisation (for further details read her article in Psychology Aotearoa and an E Tū Whānau article about her mahi). She used this to assess community mobilisation to address family violence and promote healthy relationships in the Tāmaki and Rānui communities, along with the Community Readiness Model. These tools assess where a community is at and can be used to assess change over time. Key focuses of assessment are leadership, resourcing, social cohesion, critical consciousness and participation.

As with most fields, COVID19 is impacting the ability to conduct research kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) and although Zoom works for some streams of Cristy’s work, others have had to slow down.

“Some pieces of work, like the measurement tool I’m developing with E Tū Whānau need to be kanohi ki te kanohi, whakawhanaungatanga is the foundation for the mahi. We are just staying flexible and working with alerts levels to get to communities when we can.”

Cristy is the director of her own company, Change Strategy and Research and is based out of Whangārei. Her current work is across Aotearoa and includes a piece of research in her home community with the North Shore Family Violence Prevention network funded by Ministry of Social Development. She has a commitment to grounding her research in approaches that equally value tangata whenua and tangata tiriti world views.

Community Research welcomes Dr Cristy to our network of changemakers and looks forward to a future for Aotearoa informed by this kind of empowering research. Ka hāpai tātou!

Community Research


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