Our denial at how rife abuse was in the state agencies of the past is a blind spot we seem incapable of seeing.
Like structural racism, alcoholism and domestic violence, the lengths New Zealanders will go to deny and ignore the level of state abuse seems odd and out of place.
The Human Rights Commission has launched a campaign demanding the Government do more to investigate state abuse…
The Prime Minister, Bill English, has virtually ruled out setting up an independent inquiry into claims of abuse of children in state care, despite the growing call for a comprehensive investigation.
He considers it more important to get on with the Government’s changes to child welfare services, which are in part aimed at preventing a repeat of the abuse inflicted in the past on as many as 3.5 per cent of children in care.
The Human Rights Commission is leading an open letter to the Government, published in the Herald today, calling for a comprehensive inquiry and public apology to those who were abused.
Twenty-nine prominent New Zealanders have signed the letter, which underpins the “Never Again” petition to the Government.
Labour’s justice spokeswoman, Jacinda Ardern, urged the Government to heed the “growing chorus of leading opinion” calling for an apology and an independent inquiry
“Labour has long committed to issuing a public apology when we are in government.
We must acknowledge publicly the mistreatment of so many young children in state care. There should be an independent inquiry; their voices need to be heard.
“National’s continuing failure to act on Judge [Carolyn] Henwood’s recommendations is a dark stain on its record in government.
“Bill English as a new prime minister has the opportunity to show that his Government does really care about the wellbeing of all those who have been abused and he should act now.”
The Green Party said it backs the call for an inquiry and formal apology.
“It seems 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,” said the party’s social development spokeswoman, Jan Logie.
“The Minister for Social Development [Anne Tolley] needs to issue a full universal apology to those abused while in state care, and immediately set up an independent body to resolve historic and current complaints of abuse and neglect.
“Bill English is happy for things to remain unknown and unexamined around the abuse of children in state care.”
…the impacts of state abuse are long lasting and life changing…
The Human Rights Commission has sent an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for an inquiry into abuse in state institutions.
Albie Epere spent time in Kohitere Boys’ Home in Levin when he was 13 and said the violence that was inflicted on him there by staff and other residents shaped the rest of his life.
“The amount of abuse that got perpetrated on us eh, that was dished out to us, it was horrendous actually.”
“Like, going through that time through the boys’ homes, I started learning that violence was okay.
“After I got out of those places, you know, you could sit there – watch somebody get a hiding – you would think nothing about it.”
Mr Epere said politicians were always criticising gang members but would not accept any responsibility for the suffering that happened in places like Kohitere Boys Home and Epuni Boys Home.
“I’d like to ask politicians to take responsibility. We’re a by-product of their system,” he said.
“That’s what they need to take responsibility for, their actions in the whole thing. We took responsibility for our actions – when we used to beat people up we went to jail for it.
“That’s what I’d like to say to them – where’s your responsibility in it? Or do you just sweep it under the carpet like everything else.”
…so why are we is so much denial as a country to respond?
In 2015 when damning report after damning report came out about CYFs, the main justification for the need of change came about from the astounding level of children being sexually abused and assaulted…
The report says there were 88 cases of substantiated abuse of children by CYF caregivers in 2013-14, plus 25 of children abused while with their parents but still formally in state care, and five abused in unapproved placements.
These figures are much higher than the 23 to 39 children a year abused by caregivers reported by the agency itself in the past four years.
…and what exactly was that suggestion by Anne Tolley? Why it was sterilisation of beneficiaries and privatisation of services.
Suggesting sterilisation as the solution to children being sexually abused and beaten while in state care is throwing the baby out with bathwater after drowning the baby first in the bathwater.
Not pleasant imagery, but almost as ugly as the Minister’s own answer to the question of why women who had children taken into state care were still having babies – which, according to the Minister, was because those women enjoyed having sex.
That’s the intellectual bankruptcy of what we are facing here.
We refuse to look at abuse in state care because our cultural need to blame the beneficiary for being in such personal circumstances that require state intervention is what most angers middle Nu Zilind , NOT that the state then goes onto abuse, assault and sexually molest the taken children.
We have the same headspace when prisoners are abused by prisons (they wouldn’t be in prison being abused if they didn’t deserve to be there in the first place).
We refuse to blame the system of poverty that sees tens of thousands of children go to school hungry each day and we blame the parents for the 220 000 kids who live in poverty.
30 years of neoliberalism has concreted in the belief that success and failure has nothing to do with the hegemonic structures within society, it’s all a personal dynamic.
You are rich because you are smart. You are poor because you are dumb. If you get caught up in the horrors of the neoliberal welfare state, well you deserve all you get.
We can not acknowledge the past abuse and we can not acknowledge the ongoing abuses that WINZ, Housing NZ, MSD, Corrections, CYFs and Probations provide.
We here at The Daily blog have launched an election platform for all beneficiaries who have been abused, belittled and emotionally damaged by their interaction with the neoliberal welfare state.
There are almost 300 000 beneficiaries in New Zealand, yet their voice and true political muscle are ignored and forgotten. The Daily Blog offers them a chance to take back some mana and have the empowerment of a platform that will amplify their truth anonymously so that the Government agency can’t punish them.
National have run down the revenue streams and borrowed billions for tax cuts, they have no choice but to cost cut using privatisation in social welfare and the neoliberal welfare state will continue to abuse and damage the most vulnerable needing their help.
I am convinced that the draconian policies of the neoliberal state are part of why our suicide rates are so horrifically high.
An incoming Government must look to radical reforms within the Welfare State that starts putting peoples actual welfare first rather than the idealogical cruelty so many within these agencies enjoy over their fellow citizens.