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Abuse Against Children With Disabilities & Vulnerable Youth In Catholic Church Care Subject Of Royal Commission Hearing

Abuse against children with disabilities and vulnerable young people in Catholic Church care subject of Royal Commission hearing

Survivors of abuse in the care of the Catholic Church at Christchurch’s Marylands School, and two related facilities, will give evidence at an Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry public hearing in February next year.

The six-day hearing is a case study as part of the Royal Commission’s wider investigation into abuse in the care of the Catholic Church.

It will be held in Auckland from Wednesday 9 February 2022, subject to COVID-19 restrictions.

This is the first comprehensive, independent investigation into abuse that took place under the care of the Catholic Church and the Hospitaller Order of St John of God in Aotearoa.

The wider Catholic investigation will provide a local context on abuse in the care of the Catholic Church, following multiple international inquiries over the past 20 years raising global concerns.

Catholic Church investigation case study

Marylands School, St Joseph’s Orphanage and Hebron Trust were Christchurch-based Catholic institutions. The institutions were open at different times however, much of this investigation focuses on events from the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s.

Marylands School was established primarily for boys with learning disabilities, and it was run by the St John of God brothers. Hundreds of boys were in placed at Marylands School; a quarter of whom were State wards. The Royal Commission is working to get a better understanding of how many Māori children attended.

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St Joseph’s Orphanage was run by the Sisters of Nazareth and was located next door to Marylands. There was movement of children, staff and St John of God brothers between the orphanage and Marylands.

Hebron Trust was a residential facility for troubled youth run by one of the St John of God brothers.

It is already known publicly, through criminal prosecutions in New Zealand, that two St John of God Brothers abused boys at Marylands School. One of those men also offended against residents at Hebron Trust.

While the criminal cases focused on individual criminal wrongdoing and prosecution, there is a lot more that is unknown. This includes the nature and extent of allegations of abuse and the roles and possible failures of the Catholic Church, the State and its agencies.

The Royal Commission is examining the scale and extent of the abuse and whether there were any systemic, structural or other types of factors which contributed to the abuse occurring and whether the response by the Catholic Church was adequate.

As part of the hearing, the Royal Commission will investigate the role of the State, including the Ministry of Education, Police and the then Department of Social Welfare, which placed State wards at Marylands School.

At the hearing the Royal Commission will hear from survivors, survivors’ family members and survivor advocates.

The Royal Commission will also hear from representatives of the State and the Catholic Church.

A schedule of hearing witnesses and location details will be published before the hearing.

We continue to encourage survivors of abuse in care come forward to the Royal Commission of Inquiry. Our contact centre can be reached on 0800 222 727 or contact@abuseincare.org.nz. More information can be found at www.abuseincare.org.nz.

About the Inquiry
The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry is investigating the abuse of children, young people and vulnerable adults within State and faith-based institutions in Aotearoa New Zealand between 1950-1999. We can also learn from the experiences of survivors who have been in care after 1999, to make recommendations to help stop abuse happening in the future.

The Royal Commission is due to deliver its final report in June 2023.

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