Child Abuse in New Zealand Today

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat It.” – George Santayana

New Zealand, which has a population a 4.47 million, has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the developed world. It also has one of the worst rates of child death by maltreatment within the family.

NZ Police respond to one ‘family violence’ call every seven minutes. Police say that in 60% of domestic violence cases children are also being abused and indications are that in a similar percentage of child abuse cases there is also domestic violence occurring.

An international survey found that one in four New Zealand girls is sexually abused before the age of 15, the highest rate of any country examined

In 2012 Child, Youth and Family received over 125,000 reports from people concerned enough about a child’s safety to notify authorities. In over 21,000 of these cases, child abuse or neglect was confirmed. Around one-fifth of them (4000) were taken from their families and put into Child, Youth and Family care homes. But it was in these supposedly ‘safe homes’ that at least 23 vulnerable children were further abused.

In 2013-14 there were 117 children in the custody of Child, Youth and Family (CYF) reported to be abused; 88 were in the care of a CYF caregiver, 25 were formally placed with their parents but still officially in CYF custody, and five were abused while living with an unapproved caregiver or in an unapproved placement. A 2015 report by the Children’s Commissioner slammed the government’s handling of children in State care. Principal Judge Andrew Becroft said the report was a vital piece of work. He said the Youth Court dealt with the most damaged, dysfunctional and disordered young people in New Zealand, and the overwhelming majority of them had a care and protection background. Judge Becroft said it sounded simplistic, but what the report highlighted was the need to do the care and protection work better. “So that we’re not left, for instance, with, as I understand it, 83 percent of prison inmates under 20 have a care and protection record with Child, Youth and Family.”

New Zealand was called to task by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in June, 2015 for failing to adequately protect children.The UN report heavily criticised aspects of law and government programs which failed to address high child mortality rates, unequal access to services for Maori children and a lack of data around child abuse.

Child Poverty in New Zealand

New Zealand has the dubious distinction of having the fastest growing rate of social inequality of all OECD countries.

It is estimated that in New Zealand today 270,000 children are living below the poverty line, about 47% of who are of Māori or Pacific Island descent. Comparatively, the majority of New Zealand’s population is of European descent (69 percent) with the indigenous Māori being the largest minority (14.6 percent) and non-Māori Pacific Islanders (6.9 percent). Between the years of 2007 – 2010 data showed that 1 in 6 Pakeha (white European) children, 1 in 4 Pacific Island children and 1-3 Māori children were living in poverty (Perry 2011 – HES data on household income). These figures show, as with other Anglo colonised countries (Canada, U.S. and Australia), that the Indigenous people of New Zealand are disproportionally over represented in poverty statistics. Similar trends can be seen in child abuse where the rate of hospitalisation increased with increasing socioeconomic deprivation, with rates of hospitalisation for Māori children (39.1 per 100,000) and Pacific children (24.4 per 100,000) being significantly higher than for NZ European children (11.8 per 100,000). Seven times more young Māori women and four times more Māori children are hospitalised from an assault compared to Pakeha women and children. About 10 children are killed every year by family members. Half of all children killed by caregivers are Māori. Again, this number (50%) is disproportionately high when considering Maori people make up only 14.6% of the New Zealand population.

Child Sexual Abuse in New Zealand

An international survey found that one in four New Zealand girls is sexually abused before the age of 15, the highest rate of any country examined. Nearly 3000 women were questioned about unwanted sexual contact before they were 15. The results show that Maori girls suffer roughly twice as much sexual abuse as European girls – 30.5 per cent of Maori compared with 17 per cent of Europeans in Auckland, and 35.1 per cent of Maori compared with 20.7 per cent of Europeans in the northern Waikato. For 83 per cent of women, there was only one perpetrator. For 14 per cent there were two, and for 3 per cent more than two.

A national campaigner on male sexual abuse, Ken Clearwater of MSSAT, believes as many as one in three men have been sexually abused in childhood. Statistics in New Zealand showed one in eight boys had been abused in childhood, but he believed abuse was seriously under-reported. Findings from New Zealand’s Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS) seem to support this claim, where in the Final Report of the CLAS it is stated: “As many boys as girls were sexually abused. About 57% of the men we saw had been sexually abused and 57% of the women.”

Research shows that up to 70 per cent of men in prison for non-sexual offences had experienced sexual abuse in childhood. Judge Carolyn Henwood who heads the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service, which listens to ex State wards stories of historic abuse, said she was “shocked, stunned and staggered” by the high level of sexual abuse – particularly against boys. She says, “she’s listened to the stories of 600 New Zealanders who were in state care before 1992 and says it’s clear that poor care leads to crime and prison.”1Of the 399 people who raised serious concerns about being sexually abused in care – 100 told the panel they had disclosed the abuse at the time – and had not been listened to. It was estimated between 20 and 40 per cent of prisoners grew up in state care.

Youth Suicide

Being a teenager in New Zealand is more dangerous than in most other developed countries.

In 2012 The Lancet published a four part series on adolescent health which ranked New Zealand very poorly in comparison to other developed countries. In terms of adolescents (defined as 10-24 years by the Lancet) dying from any cause, New Zealand ranked 2nd highest out of 27 developed countries, after the US. New Zealand also ranked 3rd highest in terms of females suicide rates and was ranked highest out of all 27 countries for male suicides.

A NZ Health Ministry report for 2009 showed New Zealand’s male youth suicide rate to be the highest in the OECD.

That is despite falling from a high of 44.1 per 100,000 in 1995 to 29 per 100,000 in 2009. In total, 506 people died by suicide in New Zealand in 2009 – or 11.2 people per 100,000, down from 11.8 the year before.

Māori men and youth in particular were greatly over-represented. The total Māori suicide rate was 13.1 per 100,000 population in 2009, 23.6 per cent higher than the non-Māori rate of 10.6.

The Māori youth suicide rate of 28.7 per 100,000 population was 83.9 per cent higher than the equivalent rate for non-Māori.


22 comments on “Child Abuse in New Zealand Today

  1. A.T. Kane on said:

    New Zealand has a compolsory education in violent Cultural and Religeous practices
    which is the worst form of child abuse,even World leaders visiting New Zealand are expected to tolerate a violent display as a welcone to this country. Stoping that would be a great place to start. New Zealand should not be tolerating the indoctrination of children into violent Cultural and Religeous practices but they should be free to develop their own way with a good basic education.

    • admin_grant on said:

      Mate I don’t like to censor posts so I’m going to post this but from what I can gather you are talking about Maori culture and the pōwhiri yes? Personally, as a Maori, I find that somewhat offensive – the pōwhiri is a welcoming and I think that New Zealand’s problems go well beyond where you level it at. So for instance, you’ll note the Australian Aboriginal who traditionally were peaceful hunter and gatherers and who much like the Maori have had their culture raped and violated by their colonizers who much like the Maori were and arguably still are treated as third rate citizens in their own country. What we are left with is poverty, dispossession and social disenfranchisement and as a result social problems (e.g. alcohol abuse and other self destructive behaviour) which present due to the underlying social issues which are yet to be corrected and reconciled with. Please correct me if I’ve read what you’re saying incorrectly but basically it comes across as racist tripe that fails to address much broader issues/social problems (e.g. NZ has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the OECD and it has the fastest growing rate of social inequality of all OECD countries etc). Let’s also face it, if you really want to talk about violence you’d then have to disband the All Blacks and ban rugby – which let’s face it isn’t going happen because NZ gives more time and energy and media coverage to a bloody game than it does to the welfare of its children. On the point of race and cultural messages all the bad things that happened to me in NZ were at the hands of the colonizer – but then it would be pretty damn stupid of me to say white/western culture sends a violent message. Unfortunately there is good and bad in the world and it is the job of adults to ensure defenseless children are protected. The NZ government has systemically and endemically failed to do this for generations and continues to shirk its responsibilities to the UNCROC.

      • Both comments are valid and yes the haka is a challenge i disagree with it in a lot of ways as with a lot of war dances it invokes violence and intimidation. Other side shouldnt have to feel intimidated. We are all human with heaps of failings sad to say . The whole child abuse problem is out of control needs to be looked at o schools and addressed early.

        • admin_grant on said:

          Yeah having someone screaming at you and using body language that is aggressive is intimidating for sure. What this though has to do with the endemic child abuse rates in NZ I’m a little confused about. As I said a nation that cares more about a violent sport (rugby) then it does its children is probably more of issue. Having incompetent callous politicians is probably of far more issue. But i think in New Zealand’s case it is the inability to be honest and open about its failings. That means looking at the past and present and having honest and open and public dialogue about it. Basically, it does seem to be a cultural problem but certainly not related to the Maori – notably they don’t lead the country politically. Notably not to many journalists are Maori etc. To say it is related to the haka misses the point completely and is the sort of statement I would expect from a Pakeha who would like to shift blame from the dominant cultural discourse of NZ. Notably that isn’t the Maori discourse.

          • There is little doubt that Maori have an extraordinary high rate of violence and that’s why so many -both men and women are in jail.The reasons are very well known -but basically they think they can break the law with impunity”Once were warriors” and” Boy” are real reflections of modern day Maori. It is up to Maori MPs to lead the way with education and break down old cultural practices that are out of sync with the modern world.Old tribal practices must be banished to the dark ages where they belong.

          • admin_grant on said:

            And Richard you don’t think perhaps that the reason there is so much internalised dysfunction in the Maori community isn’t also related to colonisation and being made third class members of a Anglo dominated society do you?? You don’t think perhaps that the Maori have internalised their anger within their own community just have all other invaded and illegally colonised people do you? You don’t think that 200 years of having a boot of the white man in the back of their necks may have made them angry do you? Just that I am Maori Richard and based on your name I am assuming you are a racist Paekeha who has stereotyped the problem to the Maori when in fact this is both a black and white issue. You see Richard, I was put in the Pakeha institutions and raped and beaten repeatedly by Pakeha… and fact is Richard that made me internalise the hatred and anger. My choice was to leave New Zealand and put all of it as far behind me as I could. My choice was to leave my land because the invader were vicious pedophiles. So you can perhaps see the problem here… Maori problem. Nope not really – this is a New Zealand problem period… The problem I see with New Zealand in general is they are too busy pointing the finger just as you have done here… I.e. this is about the other – not “us” (BS to that). Time you lot faced up to the fact that this is a New Zealand problem and that as New Zealanders you need to face up to things and correct the problems that cause child abuse. But nah mate its so much easier to blame others isn’t it?

    • Peter Turner on said:

      I noticed the writer never mentioned that violence is part of Maori culture.Anyone only has to look at their dances & displays of aggression.Maori just won’t believe their precious native culture may actually be breeding the child violence.Its much easier to blame “Pakeha” Which originally mean white pig.

      • admin_grant on said:

        Isn’t it funny how you English invaders who are illegally occupying stolen land after failing to respect the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi (breach of contract) try to offload the blame on the Maori. Firstly, do your homework around the word “Pakeha”

        This is just one example of the instituionalised racism in New Zealand where the thief has sort to demonise the victim of theft and attribute myths to them.

        Other than this, just quickly —- I am part Maori and certainly wouldn’t attribute the blame to the Maori. Yes as a Maori I was raped and beaten in institutional care, but in all instances this violence (sexual and physical) occurred at the hands of the Pakeha. In fact, Peter, I left New Zealand to get away from the Pakeha and not the Maori. What I will also add is that at no time during my childhood did I come to harm at the hands of the Maori. Try to get your facts straight and yes pal you are an utter racist disgrace. Please fuck off back to England pronto…

    • HA! You think the root of the problem here is Māori culture?

      Well let me tell you- late 1700′s saw the Europeans come to shore with guns, alcohol generals and convicts. The rape and violence on Māori began.

      Religious practices you say? – 1814 Missionaries came to spread the word. Māori didnt have religion before this, they simply acknowledged and thanked Mother Earth and deities that provided for humanity, and were completely aware of the spiritual realm.

      The settlers came… still the rape, violence, and wars continued…

      1867- Native schools act- Children were punished for speaking Te Reo, in other words abused. Total assimilation of Māori language and culture was the goal of the government.
      They wanted to phase out Māori culture altogether.
      (similar to what you are trying to suggest)

      I could go on and on about everything that Māori have had to endure, but believe me, Māori culture is not the cause of child abuse, DV, and suicide.

      The abused have become the abusers. Poverty is at an all time high, causing anger and depression, resulting in violence within the household.

      I am grateful and proud that Māori have been able to retain their culture.

      The Haka, Pōhiri and Wero by the way, are used to welcome a in party with HONOUR!

      You uneducated bigot

      • admin_grant on said:

        I certainly don’t think it is Maori culture mate. I am Maori and safe to say every fucker who bashed me and raped me was Pakeha, not Maori. I can safely say no Maori adult ever did anything horrible to me as a child. So safe to say if it is Maori culture that is the problem why was it predominantly Maori children who were raped and beaten by Pakeha adults in State care?

        Those white racists here who are pointing the finger need to look at the facts. You point out some good facts. Thx for your contribution.

        • Sorry admin_grant my comment was directed at A.T Kane
          I fully support your kōrero and I’m so sorry for what you had to go through.

        • Maori enslaved, raped, pillaged, ate, tormented each other. And can I say without conscience, one without conscience is dangerous. I have never heard of one Maori tribe apologizing to another for almost exterminating and raping, eating enslaving another Maori tribe. And as for Child Abuse and murder within Maori families extremely high stats. And I am not saying that the stats are too high for another nationalities, but when you see the stats about Maori in prison, Maori child homicide, sexual abuse, Yes they do hurt reach other in the most violent way possible.

          • admin_grant on said:

            I’d normally not post this type of racist hate speech but its important to a) respond and b) out cowards like you who open an email account and hide your true identity. To correct a very important thing you have said here is Maori actually traditionally revered children and didn’t even have corporal punishment – that’s an English thing that was brought to Aotearoa when the English invaded and murdered untold Maori in order to steal their land. Of course one could say oh but that isn’ my fault – that happened a couple of hundred years ago. Disagree you ugly racist bag of shit….. you’re still in Aotearoa sitting on stolen land, imposing your cultural beliefs and all that entails on the rightful owners of the land.

    • Your on the right track but you’d better add in all the other things that a macho brutish type kiwi mentality entails such as violence enducing sports, severe alcohol and other drug consumption, high animal consumption/animal abuse and lack of empathy for those less able, that includes the elderly, disabled and young children. Lack of respect for our environment by overconsumption of everything. The list goes on and on. As much as many want to see aotearoa as such a great place, which it can be to a degree, we have a great amount of engrained harmful behaviours going on.

  2. Tao Wells on said:

    A.T Kane and Ted, as a Pakeha, your comments are completely ignorant of a Maori perspective and context and I would strongly suggest that you immerse your self in te reo Maori and Tikanga before your feel so entitled to judge something that offends you.

  3. Diesel on said:

    admin_grant & Tao Wells I enjoyed very much your comments. I am a NZ European (I look like a Pakeha) but I have Maori blood (1/16th). These people that blame the Haka obviously have no interest in child abuse because if they did the research they would know that child sexual abuse & child trafficking is a major problem in the world today.The Catholic Church has a 2,000 year history of child sexual abuse.Today, sexual abuse allegations against priests are surging in a startling array of nations: the United States and Canada, New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium, Bolivia, Mexico, Brazil and Chile. New abuse scandals erupt daily.The sheer extent of homosexual pedophilic abuse within the Church is unbelievable.The pedophiles in this country are protected by the NZ justice system. Minister of State Organised Child Abuse – Anne Tolley – recently announced there will be no investigation into mass child abuse by the Crown. The Crown presumably has the God given right to abuse as many Kiwi children as it likes – and its none of tax payers business.The Government & media cover up the ‘elite’ child abuse rings that operate across the top levels of NZ society and communities. Haka my big toe !

  4. Johana on said:

    Wow admin_grant; I admire your intellect and mana!! I am proud of who you are being here and as an abused Maori I stand by everything you’ve said! Kia kaha, kia maia rawa.

  5. Nikki Breen on said:

    A.T Kane, Ted And Richard. I am European. I think you have no understanding of the true purpose of a powhiri (sorry no macrons) Also if you really understood anything about Maori Culture they’ve been caught up in respected Norm Ideology, but we can learn from their culture of collectivism and their Holistic models of health, where ours often fall short in comparison. , don’t be so blindsided.

  6. why is everyone blaming a certain culture?! its got nothing to do with that its to do with stupid stuck up selfish people that cant control their own emotions. people don’t understand how hard it is to read all of this stuff as a 14 year old girl that’s experienced sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional abuse and seeing that people have blamed it on one culture. im both maori and nz European and to see people fighting over this honestly makes me want to go on a fucking killing spree! i hope that you guys realize how stupid you sound im trying to do an essay on child abuse for school and seeing this just fucks me, off its hard enough doing my essay on this topic never mind seeing stupid comments about stupid shit.

    • admin_grant on said:

      To answer that – some clowns are just racist ignorant dickheads. Wouldn’t even let the racist pricks rattle you. If anything it should be good fodder for your essay.

  7. Hikiko on said:

    I’m not privy to all of the relevant statistics, but what I can say in my own experience as a Maori, is that my upbringing was extremely abusive – at the hands of Maori’s. It was the same for my friends; hitting children, boys especially, was just normal. Honestly I didn’t even see it as unusual until I was older. Physical abuse, as strange as it sounds, didn’t really bother me, but the emotional abuse did. I’m skinny, which in my family basically makes you sub-human – I also had another friend who had the same thing from his family.

    I’m aware that white people have done a number of terrible things to us over the years as a people, but we should not pretend that we’re without fault, nor should we blame white people for every problem we have. In my family, white people had absolutely nothing to do with it – I mean they could try to blame it on systemic issues, but at the end of the day we have a choice in how we treat people, and we have to take responsibility for the choices we make.

    Basically the only reason I’m posting is because while many issues can be traced back to white people, we should not ignore that we do abuse our own as well – and in my experience, it’s very, very common. What’s annoying is that nowadays I feel I can’t even bring up the negatives of my own upbringing simply because we’re a minority – I mean everybody knows that we’re a rough and tough kind of people, and often rather physical in our confrontations, I don’t even have a problem with that. The issue is that it’s often taken too far, and it isn’t politically correct to point it out.

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