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Those who refuse to look at the past are doomed to repeat it


Those who refuse to look at the past are doomed to repeat it

Comment by CLAN NZ (a branch of Care Leavers Australasia Network)

The New Zealand branch of Care Leavers Australasia Network (www.CLAN.org.au) fully endorses and supports the recent Human Rights Commission open letter sent to Prime Minister Bill English calling for a comprehensive, independent and public inquiry into historic abuse in State care from the 1950s to the 1990s.

CLAN NZ considers the Government needs to offer a full universal apology to those abused whilst in State care, as recommended in 2015 by the report of the listening service chaired by Judge Carolyn Henwood.

However, despite the multiparty support for an inquiry by Labour, Maori and the Green Party – Bill English still maintains that New Zealand alone does not need one, despite admitting to not even having read the open letter yet!

It seems that everyone but the Government realises that an inquiry and a formal apology are essential to helping the victims find some sense of closure, and to ensure that children in State care now, and in the future, are protected from abuse. Bill English is quoted as saying, “It would be a lessor priority to put all our energy into going over history again. The harm in my view is well understood."

What is beyond dispute now is that many innocent New Zealand children suffered serious sexual, physical and psychological abuse in a range of institutions and foster homes, from children’s homes to mental health institutions - serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect over many years.

CLAN NZ spokesperson Netta Christian, 79, a former foster child, says, “Some were there because of minor offences, such as stealing a pencil, playing truant or breaking a window. Other children ended up in homes after family problems such as unemployment, illness or a parent dying. Thousands of children were taken from their families simply for being Māori.”

Many were taken from homes that were actually more loving than the ones the State put them in – where they were abused physically, sexually and emotionally by their ‘carers’.

Netta explains, "The extent of this abuse is unknown. We believe that only an independent inquiry can reveal the full extent of this abuse. We can learn from places such as the Australian Royal Commission, now into its fourth and final year - the establishment of which followed damming revelations that child abusers had been moved from place to place, instead of their crimes being reported. There were also revelations that organisations, including the Police Force, failed to try to stop further acts of child abuse. Australia had bipartisan support for their Royal Commission, from both Labor and the Liberal Party. So without an inquiry in New Zealand, how does Bill English propose to investigate and uncover such things here?”

Netta suspects there could be anything up to 50,000 abuse cases in New Zealand, given the number of children who had been in care and given the systems and culture of abuse in the institutions involved. More than 100,000 children were placed in State care between the 1950s to the 1980s. In 1992 institutional care was largely abandoned.

The Confidential Listening and Assistance Service heard from more than 1,100 people abused in State care between the 1950s and 1980s. The CLAS ended in June 2016 and recommended that an independent inquiry be set up to discover the extent of abuse suffered, so that this would never happen again.

The Children’s Commissioner told us in 2015 that there was no evidence that children in State care now were any safer than they were in the families that they were removed from. Obviously nothing has changed.

New Zealand is disgracefully the only Commonwealth country to never have had an independent investigation into historical institutional child abuse. Consequently, most of the NZ public remains blissfully unaware of the extent of horrendous child abuse that has occurred since the 1950s.

Surely when the Chief Human Rights Commissioner, plus several previous commissioners and many other prominent New Zealanders, join together in a call for an independent inquiry into the abuse of children in State care - they deserve to be taken seriously by the Prime Minister. They are a force that cannot be ignored.

“It is essential that lessons are learned from what occurred in the past. Ignoring this issue is just protecting the abusers and continuing the harm. We urgently need an inquiry to first identify patterns of behaviour, in order to find solutions for today,“ said Ms Christian.

CLAN NZ is proud to support the “E KORE ANŌ - NEVER AGAIN!” campaign and is encouraging signatures and support for the "Never Again" petition http://www.neveragain.co.nz

Read the HRC open letter here https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3460432-10-02-17-3pm-FINAL-Never-Again-E-Kore-Ano-Open.html#document/p1

CLAN New Zealand works for justice and redress for all New Zealanders who grew up in orphanages, institutions or children’s homes, as a State ward, home child or in foster care. Email clan.nz@actrix.co.nz

ENDS


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