With the welcome media focus of late being on the need for an Inquiry into the historical abuse of children in state care, I thought I would add some missing korero to this.
Judge Carolyn Henwood, Sonya Cooper, Elizabeth Stanley, the Never Again stance from HRC Susan Devoy the Nga Morehu on the Hui, have all focused on the state abuse of young people in New Zealand institutions. FaceBook posts have also been proactive in pushing for the Inquiry, with almost everyone I know being very vocal and supportive. However, with all of this “speaking out” on our behalf, I’ve wondered about the voices of those who are no longer with us, about the women’s stories and the very small children who were incarcerated into religious-based children’s homes.
I’ve been posting on my FaceBook page about this and having contact with those who have been most vocal, like HRC. The response has been almost a deafening SILENCE. It’s seems that whilst experts/advocates/panel members can be very vocal about state abuse in some of the bigger institutions…few seem to want to acknowledge that abuse happened to children in religious-based care.
In this piece, my focus is on those (under 8 years) who were placed in religious based children’s homes. My brothers Kanara and Tipene were still in nappies when we were taken from our parents to be put into one of these homes. Where in less than a week in state care, the abuse began. The house father (caregiver) a well respected church attending man, was super skilled at grooming small children. The narcissistic showering of fatherly attention making a vulnerable child feel special and wanted. Followed closely by the confusing withdrawal of that attention. So that a child craves for it back, not understanding that they have not done wrong; they were just being cruelly manipulated. The same person who used to turn my mother away when she came crying for her babies at the door of the facility. I still terror sleep of those places and the powerlessness we experienced as small beings.
These places where the vetting of caregivers was not a priority because the assumption was that, they were good Christian folk with children’s best interests at heart. The thing with religious based homes and non-vetting is that ‘caring’ folk from the community could access the “underprivileged” children on outings, camps, overnight stays, that led to weekends and school holiday stays. These good folk were Ministers, church elders and congregation made up of Doctors, Judges, Lawyers, Police, Freemasons and many others.
Sexual, physical, emotional, and cultural abuse occurred. In some places ritualistic abuse happened but that’s not being tabled as an abuse type. It’s in the ‘too hard to believe’ box and therefore not credible. Well I’m putting it on the table. What do you think happens when Ministers, church elders, congregation members put their hand up to take the underpriviliged children? Yes, some of those placements were fun for the children and some were not.
Mark Solomon was right when he said “when it comes to abuse of children, there are three groupings.” Those that stand with the victims, those that stand with the perpetrators and the worst roopu, those that deny and bury it. I’d like to add another, the ones that stand silent scanning for which roopu they’re going to shuffle towards.
As long as people believe that state abuse only happened in ‘some’ institutions by ‘some’ bad social workers, it takes the focus and then serves those people that I think our current government are trying to protect. And, if you know anything about children and abuse disclosure you will know that Māori and females are less likely to speak out about their abuse because of the insidious nature (double whammy/intersectionality) of racism and sexism. It takes courage to call out the whole of social work and the complicitness of those who know this abuse happened. Mostly, people DO NOT want to know that nice Christian folk abused children in their care.
The protecting of state abuse of children is at all levels and ongoing. The stats are being collected but state is no longer reporting on the abuse of children in care. Why because it’s prolific and that’s only the children who are actually disclosing their abuse. Many do not because they are afraid of very real concequences, threats to be silent or that they will be shifted to worse placement…and lets face it, this abuse is rarely recorded.
Have you ever asked survivors about accessing their records? Often when they go to find their records to give evidence to a possible claim, to find their whakapapa connections, official records are conveniently lost, destroyed, or blacked out. Whakapapa connections wiped for hundreds. Abuse records wiped. My DSW file was blacked out, and no record of my childhood injuries, or the complaints I made on behalf of my brothers and I, ever found.
The abuse of children in state care did not miraculously stop in 1992; it is ongoing. Different children, different social workers, different placements but the culture of abuse and covering it remains as active as it ever was. See, for example 
If you are vocal on this topic and then silent when it comes to calling out religious-based culpability then your hypocrisy is unhelpful. Like, on one hand you lift us up, speaking on our behalf, and with the other hand, punch us in the mouth! An Inquiry needs to include all orphanages, institutions and children’s homes of any description (either run by churches, charities or the State) – and either as a State ward, a home/welfare child or in foster care and all forms of abuse. Not just limited to sexual abuse like the Australian Inquiry.
Finally, as I always end…be a spanner in the works for whånau, not a cog for the Crown!