Tag Archives: Children

Royal Commission as State Protection?

The Royal Commission into Historical Abuse was fully launched this week. With skilled Commissioners at the helm, there is much to like about this new body.

The headline news was that the Commission would expose the abuse in faith-based institutions alongside that in state care placements. The Bishops came out to demonstrate their support. Let us all hope that they will still be ‘standing up to be counted’ when the concerns of apologies, compensation and institutional changes are recommended over the next few years.

The Commission now has an extensive remit, and rightly so. The experiences of those abused in foster care, adoption placements, children’s homes, state residences, borstals, psychiatric hospitals, disability facilities, health camps, early childhood facilities, state schools, special residential schools, teen parent units, police cells, court cells and even places of transport between care settings will all be examined.

Alongside children and young people, ‘vulnerable adults’ (such as those who have mental health problems or disabilities) will have their abuse recognised.

The Commission will also be able to uncover the structural, systemic and practical factors that contributed to abuse, and tell us about the impacts on victims but also their families, whānau, hapū, iwi and communities, including how the trauma of abuse crosses over generations.

So much of this is commendable. It has the potential to change the way we think about many social problems – crime, mental health, family breakdowns, state interventions.

Yet, amid the fanfare, there is a creeping feeling of state self-protection. A few months ago, I had a conversation with a senior government worker on the draft Terms for this Commission. He happily remarked ‘We missed a bullet there!’  And, today, I am sure that many senior civil servants and politicians are feeling quietly comfortable at the confirmation that the Commission will not have any great impact on them or their institutional operations. Continue reading Royal Commission as State Protection?

Ignoring Evidence, Rights and Safety

Khylee Quince

What a short memory this government has. This week NZ Justice Minister Amy Adams has unveiled a “serious young offenders” policy that resorts to the age-old chestnuts of militarized boot camps, targeting of parents and negative labelling of children and young people. All of these strategies fit squarely within a “tough on crime” agenda of popular punitiveness – hardly surprising in an election year, but flying in the face of both international research about what works and international standards to which New Zealand is accountable.

The “new” policy is targeted at a purported group of around 150 “serious young offenders” and will allow judges to send up to 50 of them to a boot camp at Waiouru for up to a year. Sound familiar? The National government rolled out the same rhetoric and similar initiatives with its Fresh Start policy for serious young offenders in 2009, including the Military Activity Camps, Court-Supervised Camps and Community Youth Programmes. An evaluation of the Military Activity Camps in 2012 showed a 61% reoffending rate within six months of attending the camp, with 10 offenders committing 126 crimes between them within that six month period. Young people referred to rehabilitation programmes had a 72% six month reoffending rate. There is no local or international evidence that boot camp interventions work, and a lot of evidence that they do not. Continue reading Ignoring Evidence, Rights and Safety

E Kore Ano, Never Again!

The Open Letter to Prime Minister Bill English, calling for an independent inquiry to deal with abuse of children under state care, has been steadfastly downplayed by the government. ‘E Kore Ano, Never Again!’ is the rallying call from the Human Rights Commission and its supporters. ‘Nah’ came the reply. Elizabeth Stanley tackles the government’s reasons for refusal. Continue reading E Kore Ano, Never Again!

Nothing to See Here

1471916183886The refusal to mount an independent inquiry on behalf of those who suffered horrendous physical, sexual and psychological abuse in state care is staggering.

This morning the prime minister, John Key, has joined his social development minister, Anne Tolley, in defending the government’s approach to victims of horrendous physical, sexual and psychological abuse. They are sticking to the plan: victims of state-institutional abuse should confidentially engage with the Ministry of Social Development, waive their entitlement to legal rights, and gratefully receive an individual apology for the horrors against them. For those who might empathise with the ongoing public disclosures of historic and contemporary abuse emanating from institutions across the ditch, rest assured: there’s Nothing To See Here.

If only that were the case. In my book, The Road to Hell, 105 New Zealanders tell their stories of being placed under state care and held in welfare residences. Representing just a fraction of the experiences of more than 100,000 children who progressed through these institutions from the 1950s to the 1990s, their testimonies are chilling. Continue reading Nothing to See Here