With the welcome media focus of late being on the need for an indpendant inquiry into the herstorical abuse of children in state care, I thought I would add what I see is some missing kōrero to this.
Judge Carolyn Henwood, Sonya Cooper, Elizabeth Stanley, the Never Again stance from HRC Susan Devoy the Nga Morehu on the Hui have mainly focused on the state abuse of young people in New Zealand larger care institutions. With all of these good people “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 placed by the state into faith-based children’s homes.
I have been talking about this on various social platforms for months now and the response has been almost a deafening silence. It seems that whilst some experts (legal people, academics, key stakeholders) are very vocal about abuse in some of the bigger institutions…few seem to talk about the abuse that happened to children in faith-based children’s homes. Particularly to tamariki Māori who were disenfranchised from their cultural connections and this in itself caused trauma, from which many have never healed.
In this blog, my focus is on those tamariki (under 8 years) who were placed in faith-based care by the state. 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, 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 at the powerlessness we experienced as small beings in those places…of the hallways and endless rooms, leading onto more rooms, where there is no escape into the sunshine. Waking not being able to breathe.
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 others.
Sexual, physical, emotional and ae, 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 hands up to take underprivileged children? Some of those placements cared for the children and some took advanctage of their innocence and vulnerability.
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 off and serves those people that the National 9 year reignhave been trying to protect  . And, if you know anything about children and abuse disclosure you will know that Māori and women are less likely to speak out about their abuse because of the insidious nature (double whammy/intersectionality) of racism and sexism.
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, dumb and run, or that they will be shifted to worse placement…and let’s face it, this abuse is rarely recorded.
Have you ever asked state care 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 .
An Inquiry needs to include all institutions and children’s homes of any description (either run by churches 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 where many abuse survivors missed out on telling their story.
It is most important that the inquiry not become a legal exercise as that will keep the whole system in tact. It needs to ensure that there is a broad range of people speaking to the kaupapa and that the impact is not limited to a short term change in policy but reaches to include stronger Treaty relationships. All of our mahi shows it is whanau and hapu that know where our tamariki need to be if they are in an unsafe place so there needs to be strong advocacy in terms of tino rangatiratanga. Individuals need to be heard and compensated but it is tino rangatirtanga we need to end the abuse of our mokopuna in state care.
Finally, for those of you ‘good Christian’ folk who abused small children in your care, good luck explaining this to God when your time comes. And for everyone else, stand your sacred ground, honour the Treaty and be a spanner in the works for whānau, not a cog for the Crown!
Cotact Paora at: https://www.paoramoyle.com