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The Christchurch Aunties March On

Tucked away in their warehouse the Christchurch Aunties are hard at work – providing practical support to women and children who’ve experienced domestic violence and vulnerability.

The Christchurch Aunties community now numbers well over 4,200 with its members donating cash, goods, and time.

Chief Auntie Heather Milne says that the aunties provide practical support and donations for agencies and organisations in Canterbury who advocate for vulnerable women and children.

Their core work is sourcing donated items for women and children on behalf of social agencies and organisations like Battered Women’s Trust, Ngā Maata Waka, He Waka Tapu, AVIVA and West Christchurch Women’s Refuge.

Heather says the agencies and organisations they work with tell us what they need and then we fill those needs by mobilising our huge and generous Christchurch Aunties community.

This year the Christchurch Aunties collaborated with 18 organisations in Christchurch to support more than 5,000 women and children and mobilise the community to donate over 2000 items, an increase of 55% from 2019.  

“The magic wouldn’t happen without our volunteers – this year we had over 100 people give up their time to help us,” she says.

 “A big part of what we do is to gently educate the public on how to give, and how to donate, and how to be involved in their community,” she says.

The main items requested for donation are bedding, toiletries, furniture, and clothing.  The giving is coordinated via social media.  Having a digital platform to communicate and organise donation collections, meant that during COVID they were able to continue their support in the community as an essential service provider.

“In the lead-up to Christmas, we've noticed a sharp increase in the need for security equipment such as mobile phones and Safelets. Families are under more pressure, and while increased violence at this time of year is anticipated, it doesn't make it any easier,” says Heather. 

The Christchurch Aunties continue to march on in their work, recently employing a Manager to coordinate and manage both the donations and the volunteers.    Rātā Foundation granted $10,000 towards the role under its Support focus area.

Heather says Rātā support is like a springboard for the Christchurch Aunties – we’re able to push upwards and create a better workflow for what we’re doing.

Rātā Chief Executive Leighton Evans is impressed with the tireless Christchurch Aunties and the immediate impact their work has on the vulnerable women and children they support.

“By providing support to the organisations they work with, the Christchurch Aunties are making a significant contribution to the security and wellbeing of vulnerable women and their families.  It helps reduce the stress load so they can focus on their recovery, personal growth, and fuller participation in their communities.”

Heather says that Canterbury has an abundance of kind, open-minded, and giving people and the Christchurch Aunties simply provides a platform for those people to make a difference.

For more information on the Christchurch Aunties visit

This story is part of Rātā Foundation’s Faces of Funding video series. Visit the Community Stories page for more: