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The New Zealand Government : Launch a Royal Commission into Institutional historical child abuse

The New Zealand Government : Launch a Royal Commission into Institutional historical child abuse

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This petition has been created by Grant M. and may not represent the views of the Avaaz community.
Grant M.
started this petition to
The New Zealand Government
“It's only through revealing past abuses that as a society we understand what we need to do to protect children, now and in our future generations, and keep them safe.” Cathy Kezelman, President of Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA)

Help New Zealand’s historic institutional abuse survivors to seek truth and justice and to protect future generations of children who are entrusted to State care.

Between the years 1950 - 1990 approximately 200,000 (190,620) New Zealand children were in State care. This number is not insignificant when considering New Zealand’s population was just short of 2 million in 1950 and 3.3 million in 1990. Many of the 200,000 children in State care during these years were subjected to physical, psychological and/or sexual abuse. The legacy of this abuse has lasted throughout their lives.

Between April – May 2015 the New Zealand State will present for their 6th Periodic Review before the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT). Part of this review will surround the NZ State’s handling of over a thousand institutional historic abuse claims from people who were sexually and/or physically abused while in the care of the State.

The State's handling of these claims has involved widespread human rights violations, including: 1) failing to provide an independent and impartial investigation; 2) failing to publicly acknowledge the abuse; 3) failing to publicly apologize, without reservation, for the abuse; 4) failing to resolve claims of abuse within an adequate time frame; 5) in far too many cases, failing to provide legal aid or, retracting legal aid and; 6) failing to provide adequate redress.

Recent media about the New Zealand State’s handling of these claims can be found here (from Feb 2015) and here (from Feb 2015)

Additionally, part of the UNCAT review will cover the handling of another series of historic abuse cases; the Lake Alice claims which consisted of just under 200 children (now aging adults) who were historically abused and tortured while institutionalized in the NZ Government run psychiatric institution, Lake Alice. A report by retired High Court judge Sir Rodney Gallen said the Lake Alice claimants had been subjected to a behaviour modification program which he labeled a regime of “terror”. No arrests of the key perpetrators of the crimes against these onetime wards of the State have been made. Just one of these perpetrators, Dr Selwyn Leeks, whose whereabouts is well known to NZ police, has since been banned from practicing psychiatry in Australia for his role in using ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) on numerous children who were under his care at Lake Alice. Additionally, Leeks was found guilty in a civil trial of sexually abusing an Australian female patient. He was ordered to pay $55,000 in damages to the victim. This money was never paid after Leeks pleaded poverty. Read more about Lake Alice here

Successive NZ Governments (including one headed by the ex NZ PM Helen Clarke, who is now in the running for the top position at the United Nations – the UN Secretary General) have sought to hide the facts of what occurred in their institutions. Where official inquiries have been held, these inquiries have been limited and/or gagged by the government of the day with specific orders that no public or ministerial comment/s can be made. This has served to ensure that the NZ public (and others) remain largely unaware of what has been allowed to transpire in New Zealand State institutions.

Unlike other Commonwealth Territories such as Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Canada and Australia which have all held in depth, well-funded, open and accountable Royal Commissions (RCs), or commissions of inquiry, into institutionalized child abuse, successive NZ Governments have steadfastly refused to hold a Royal Commission into what went on in their institutions. Most recently, the Minister of Social Development, Paula Bennett, making the outlandish claim there is no need for a Royal Commission because enough is already being done. Let's, however, look past the political rhetoric and coverups and, instead, look at the facts.

Today, New Zealand has the fifth-highest rate of child abuse in the OECD. An international survey found that one in four New Zealand girls is sexually assaulted before the age of 15, the highest rate of any country examined. New Zealand’s suicide rate for 15-19 year olds is one of the highest in the OECD and almost double that of neighboring Australia. Rates of child abuse in New Zealand have risen by 32% in the last five years. Today, children in New Zealand State care are still being sexually and/or physically abused because consecutive New Zealand Governments have failed to face up to systemic failings and implement adequate measures through law and policies to protect New Zealand’s most vulnerable citizens – children who are placed in State care.

RCs in other Commonwealth Territories have, among other things, resulted in exposing horrendous levels of systemic abuse against children in institutional care, and resulted in bringing about positive change to policies and law that will protect, today and in the future, children of those countries.

This petition is to make a call upon the New Zealand Government to hold an independent, open and accountable inquiry (Royal Commission) into what went on in their institutions with regards to historic child abuse. This Commission, in a similar vein to the Australian Royal Commission, should investigate;

1) systemic failings that allowed abuse to occur
2) where these systemic failings (through policy and laws) can be prevented in future
3) what institutions the abuse occurred in
4) what years the abuse occurred
5) who were the perpetrators of the crimes
6) whether crimes committed against children were covered up or hidden by other State agencies and/or representatives
7) what constitutes adequate redress/compensation for survivors of institutionalized abuse

We recommend that this Royal Commission would be all-encompassing in that it would cover all people in New Zealand who were in institutional care or other forms of out-of-home residential care, as a state ward or as a child whose parents placed them into care, as a child or youth (or both). This would include all church homes; children’s homes; orphanages; group homes; detention centres; non-kinship or kinship foster care. We also recommend that it would cover all forms of abuse and neglect and unpaid labour.

My aim is to submit this petition to both the New Zealand Government and the UNCAT. At this point I have already lodged a 32 page submission to the UNCAT (found here which will be part of the New Zealand State’s 6th periodic review before the Committee in April – May of 2015.

We are hoping to also raise funding to send a delegation (2 institutional historic abuse survivors, including myself) to the UNCAT - our voices, our cases, our faces and our stories before the UN. If you can find it in your heart to make any donation to this fund please, any donation, no matter how small, will help in our quest for justice. Donations can be made through GoFundMe at this link

Please forward the link to this petition to anyone you may know that can support our cause. What we do today is critical to protecting children in the future.

For further information contact Grant at [email protected]