CLAS Final Report – NZs Hidden Child Abuse Inquiry Exposed

The following table acts as an integrity check for four historic child abuse inquiries being held in various Commonwealth Countries, where their legal (common law) and political (Westminster) systems are similar. Each criterion in the table is used to check the integrity of a child abuse inquiry in relation to independence, impartiality and transparency. You will note that the UK (England and Wales), Northern Ireland, and Australian inquiries pass all eight integrity checks while the New Zealand inquiry (the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service) fails all eight integrity checks. Therefore, the table demonstrates in a very clear and concise way that New Zealand victims of institutional child abuse have been denied an independent, impartial and transparent inquiry while survivors in three other Commonwealth jurisdictions have fared much better.

While findings and recommendations from the CLAS have been handed to select Government officials, these findings and recommendations were denied to the press under the Official Information Act. The obvious question here is why? What could be so condemning in these findings and recommendations that the Government has sought to bury them?

On the 25/8/15 the Dominion Post featured a story surrounding findings from the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service and the fact that the New Zealand Government is refusing to publicly apologise to the historic abuse claimants. The story headlined, “Generation of children brutalised in state care won’t get public apology” and went onto inform the public of among other things: The Government will not offer a formal public apology to all children who were in state care during a 50 year period of brutal abuse.”

Read Dominion Post story here

This story came off the back of Official Information Act (OIA) material surrounding New Zealand’s hidden child abuse inquiry, the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS), final report being accessed by Dominion Post journalist Stacey Kirk. The report detailed, among other things, systemic failings that led to abuse in NZ State Institutions with:

“The most shocking thing was that much of this was preventable. If people had been doing their jobs properly and if proper systems had been in place, much of this abuse could have been avoided with better oversight.”

“Even now New Zealand has no official “Duty of Care” towards children written into law.”… CLAS Final Report Excerpt

Of course, in the meantime, the New Zealand Government denies systemic failings/abuse which flies in the face of all known facts/findings that have come out of all other institutional child abuse inquiries from every other country around the world…but that is neither here nor there. Let’s face it, the John Key National Government lost any shred of credibility long ago with respects to institutional child abuse and child abuse in general. To date they deny many things, including denying the historic abuse claimants any form of meaningful justice. On the latter (denial of meaningful justice), the CLAS is indicative of this situation.

Dissecting the CLAS Final Report

The CLAS final report is extremely limited and in parts more than self-gratuitous. For example, the author compares the CLAS to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission with:


“(the CLAS) was set up as a kind of truth and reconciliation forum modeled along the lines of the post-apartheid hearings”.

(End Quote)

This misses the point completely that the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was independent, all-encompassing, held publically and information from the TRC was widely disseminated by the press and public alike.

As the then South African President Nelson Mandela put it when commenting on the TRC Report in 1998:

“And so as we observe this stage of the TRC process, we should pay tribute to the 20,000 men and women who re-lived their pain and loss in order to share it with us; the hundreds who dared to open the wounds of guilt so as to exorcise it from the nation’s body politic;  

…and that our media provided us with such extensive coverage and commentary which the public followed with interest, tells us that we were and are engaged in a truly national process.”

In contrast to this, the CLAS was held behind closed doors – a hidden inquiry/commission – and as it states in the CLAS final report the terms of reference were “very restricted”. Other than this, the CLAS was expressly forbidden from making public or ministerial comment. This acted to keep a history of brutality, committed by officials of the State against children, out of the public eye. As Judge Carolyn Henwood, the woman who headed the CLAS, put it in 2013. “No government has called for a public inquiry. One part of there not being an inquiry is that the public don’t know about any of this as findings are kept under the radar.” Other than this, while findings and recommendations from the CLAS have been handed to select Government officials, these findings and recommendations were denied to the press under the Official Information Act. The obvious question here is why? What could be so condemning in these findings and recommendations that the Government has sought to bury them?

Actually, let’s dissect the “a kind of truth and reconciliation forum modeled along the lines of the post-apartheid hearings” claim further. This one kind of floored me.

Defining a Truth and Reconciliation Commission

A truth and reconciliation commission is a commission/inquiry tasked with discovering and revealing past wrongdoing by a government (or, depending on the circumstances, non-state actors also), in the hope of resolving conflict left over from the past.

The point of a TRC, in theory, is to expose the truth through providing victims with a public voice and, in turn, through public exposure (e.g. media), these voices inform the public. The aim of a TRC is to resolve conflict and to learn from the past in order to guide future policy and law etc.

So, for example…

The aim of South African TRC was to investigate gross human rights violations that were perpetrated during the period of the Apartheid regime from 1960 to 1994, including abductions, killings, and torture.

The TRC mandate covered violation by both the State and the liberation movements and allowed the commission to hold special hearings focused on specific sectors, institutions, and individuals.

The TRC was widely broadcast on the national television with coverage of events and live hearings.

The TRC’s report covered the structural and historical background of the violence, individual cases, regional trends, and the broader institutional and social environment of the apartheid system.

The final TRC report named both institutional and individual perpetrators of abuse, murder and torture.

The TRC made detailed recommendations for a reparations program including financial, symbolic and community reparations. The commission proposed that each victim or family should receive approximately $3,500 USD each year for six years.

The commission further recommended that South Africa’s society and political system should be reformed to include faith communities, businesses, the judiciary, prisons, the armed forces, health sector, media and educational institutions in a reconciliation process. Therefore, the recommendations handed down by the TRC for policy and law changes were extremely far reaching.

Prosecutions of perpetrators resulted from the TRC and President Mandela apologized to all victims on behalf of the State.

Comparatively, the CLAS did none of this. No transparency through media , no credible investigation of Government or representatives thereof, no direct working with police to ensure prosecutions (in fact, the CLAS panel was specifically instructed “not to reach a conclusion of what might or might not have happened, including recommending a particular course of action to address issues raised” and not to “acknowledge liability or make an apology for past actions by any official”),  no report on the structural and historical background of the violence, individual cases, and the broader institutional and social environment of violence perpetrated by the State against children, no acknowledgement nor apology by the head of State, no recommendations for far reaching policy and law reform and no recommendations for compensation to victims or family.

How then can the CLAS be compared to the South African TRC? Who really knows, but this claim, arguably, much like the CLAS itself lacks integrity when put to the test.

Note: the official party-political line on the CLAS is that it was not an inquiry but rather a listening forum modeled on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (SA TRC). The SA TRC, however, was an inquiry/commission so the official party-political line re the CLAS is somewhat confusing; i.e. on the one hand, the official party-political line is the CLAS was modeled on the TRC which was an inquiry while, on the other hand, the CLAS was not “officially” an inquiry. .Hmmm?

Compound this with the fact that by definition this must mean the CLAS panel weren’t asking for information, nor could they have been holding an official investigation (which begs the questions of why then a final “official” report, where did the information in the report come from and why were there findings and recommendations handed to Government officials, albeit withheld from the public?) and what we are ultimately left with is a party-political line that is “officially” little more than bureaucratic dribble… i.e. the definition of “inquiry” is:

Noun: an act of asking for information.

synonyms: question, query – “an inquiry about our location”
• an official investigation.
synonyms: investigation, probe, examination, review, analysis, exploration;

Having clarified that…. or perhaps not…. . hmmm? Let’s move on…

Claims of Independence

“I was deeply shocked by their stories and the overall level of violence that New Zealanders were willing to inflict on children.”  – CLAS Final Report Excerpt

Cooper Legal, the law firm that represents many of the historic abuse claimants, note in their UN (13/14 UPR) Report (2014):

“The Confidential Listening and Assistance Service, (is) a semi-independent body…”

However, the CLAS report claims the service is an “independent” body with:

“(The) Confidential Listening and Assistance Service… was established in 2008 as an independent agency to provide assistance to people who had suffered abuse and neglect in State care before 1992.”

Other than this, the report makes this rather bizarre claim.

“Many participants came to the Service because they wanted their story heard and to be taken seriously. It was particularly important for them to speak to an official body, chaired by a judge, independently appointed and supported by a “neutral” Government Department.”

Interesting stuff! How “neutral” (in quotation “” no less) of government is government? This one sort of floored me as well! The “neutral” government body referred to being the Ministry of Internal Affairs which is headed by one Honorable Peter Dunne.

Peter Dunne was forced to resign as a Minister for the John Key National Government in June of  2013 after Dunne refused to hand over 86 emails between himself and Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance relating to an official corruption inquiry into the leaking of Rebecca Kitteridge’s GCSB report following the illegal spying on Mega Upload founder Kim Dotcom. However, by January 2014 PM John Key, the very same man who had asked for Dunne’s resignation, had appointed Dunne to the position of the Minister for Internal Affairs after he was cleared of corruption in December 2013 by Parliament’s powerful Privileges Committee on a technicality. The question of why wouldn’t an accused provide evidence that would clear his name in an investigation was seemingly irrelevant (obviously nothing to hide…no problem there, albeit most New Zealanders believe Dunne leaked the report). Let’s also not dwell on the fact that in a country of just over 4-million people, political cronyism, nepotism and favours for the boys are not too uncommon. Thus, is Internal Affairs a government body neutral of government? Well, this one really comes down to the questions of; 1) Does Peter Dunne and Internal Affairs look after the interests of John Key and the National Government? (Yes!) 2) Does that government look after the interests of Peter Dunne and Internal Affairs? (Yes!) And 3) Can Peter Dunne be politically influenced by John Key and/or any other member of his government? (Yes!) Of course, given Dunne’s track record in acting as the bag man in a political scandal, questions must also be raised as to the political integrity of Peter Dunne. Indeed, given Dunne was cleared of the charges without proof of innocence (i.e. supplying the emails in question) one also needs to question the integrity of New Zealand’s checks and measures for official corruption (i.e. question the integrity of government accountability and, indeed, NZ governance standards).

Let’s not also dwell on the fact that recently the NZ Government was thoroughly busted when media exposed through Official Information Act material the government had identified the potential for a public inquiry into institutional child abuse as a risk with the possibility for them to lose control of a process they had worked hard to “tightly contain“.

Among the risks specified were: “loss of confidence and trust in the process of resolving claims of abuse; the potential of a renewed call for a public inquiry into historic claims; claimants looking to the courts for resolution… or an alternative process being called for either by the courts or through public opinion and pressure”. This shows a concerted effort on the part of the Government to bury the facts of child abuse that has been allowed to occur both historically and currently in State run institutions. It is, therefore, highly unlikely that a Government body – the Ministry of Internal Affairs – wasn’t part of this cover up.

And if this isn’t enough to dispel myths of government neutrality, let’s also not consider that the UK “Independent”  inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) paradoxically appointed a New Zealander, Justice Lowell Goddard, to head their inquiry to ensure that no links between the inquiry and establishment existed.The irony of the Brits appointing the chair of the IICSA to a judge from New Zealand  -the only Commonwealth jurisdiction that hasn’t held an independent inquiry into child abuse -  didn’t go unnoticed. For example, a onetime Kiwi, now UK based barrister, Sam Benton, had this to say:

“Having practised as one of the only specialist child abuse lawyers in New Zealand for over eight years, primarily dealing with abuse in State run institutions, I have to ask – what of Justice Goddard’s independence from New Zealand’s baggage?… In its “exhaustive” worldwide search for an Inquiry Chair, the Foreign Office cannot have overlooked the fact that New Zealand holds the dubious distinction of lagging behind most countries in the Commonwealth (and indeed in the Western World) in its approach to child abuse.  Successive Governments, to date, have resisted all calls for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into child abuse in its own country.” (Read original article)

While the no punches pulled political blogger Lauda Finem went even further with:

“New Zealand’s handling of every single case of organized or institutional child abuse is frankly abhorrent, albeit expected from a country with a low-life political elite, an executive and judiciary that continues to harbor and protect the perverts in their own ranks…

Successive New Zealand Governments, of all political persuasion’s, have always bent over backwards to conceal the level of child abuse in the country, historic or not, in particular any institutionalized child abuse that the Government itself may have moral responsibility for, and perhaps more tellingly, through the governments obvious negligence, an extensive legal culpability for…

In the opinion of Lauda Finem New Zealand Justice Lowell Goddard must immediately vacate the chair of the United Kingdom’s Inquiry into institutional child sexual abuse, Goddard is, by her own past inaction, seriously compromised. In fact, again in our opinion, to a far greater extent than the United Kingdom’s Baroness Butler–Slot ever was.” (read here)

What Lauda Finem missed  was that Justice Lowell Goddard was scored at the very bottom of a 2014 New Zealand judges integrity survey. The survey asked questions of lawyers and court observers and covered four perceived criteria on a scale of 1 to 10, with the score being an equal weighted average (Intelligence. fairness. legal knowledge and personal character). It is noted in this survey re Goddard:


“Low marks across the board. Much criticism of Goddard’s obsession with self-image, which the judge understands can only be maintained by kowtowing to powerful special interests. Said to be committed to law as she is to marriage (several times), Goddard J is regarded by some as a human rights hypocrite, her judgments disconnected with her diligent efforts to be portrayed as a human rights advocate. “puppet” came up more than once to describe this judge who is as white as any Irishman yet routinely presents herself as a disadvantaged Maori.”    (Download Survey: Local Server)

(End Quote)

Anyway, I digress. The point really being that regardless of the suitability of Lowell Goddard to head the IICSA,  the UK Home Office approached an individual from a country further away than any other country on the planet to head their inquiry, to ensure distance between the inquiry and the establishment. Comparatively, the John Key National Government went to one of their own (popped to the office next door) – albeit they would have us believe that one of their own is “neutral”. Jesus!

I mean, but of course. If we don’t consider any of this we may actually be stupid enough to buy the politically depraved hog wash the John Key National Government is spinning about government being neutral of government.

Anyway, questions of “neutral” aside, let’s look at the definition of independent to put the claim of an independent inquiry/listening service to the acid test.



  1. free from outside control; not depending on another’s authority. “the study is totally independent of central government”

In the CLAS terms of reference, under the heading of “The Service Must Not” it states:

  • judge participants or anyone mentioned by a participant, or to reach a conclusion what might or might not have happened, including recommending a particular course of action to address issues raised;
  • acknowledge liability or make an apology for past actions by any official;
  • report to ministers, or share or make public any information relating to specific participant stories it hears or make any public comment about those stories presented to it; or
  • allow participants to have legal representation at meetings

Essentially, these 4 points/instructions act as containment clauses for the government. I.e. Containment – the act of containing; keeping something from spreading; “the containment of the rebellion”; “containment of information”

This, of course, really means that the government is controlling things (i.e. containing the situation), making the CLAS distinctly non-independent of government, regardless of the more than obvious links between government and government . Confused yet? Yeah, so are we!

Comparison of the CLAS to Independent Inquiries 

One tends to question the validity of a final report into institutional child abuse that doesn’t outline what institutions the abuse occurred in, what years the abuse took place, the type of abuse (physical, sexual or both) and the names of the alleged perpetrators.Other than this, findings and recommendations are made in the report, albeit these recommendations have been denied to the public; in essence, official information that was denied through the Official Information Act.

One also tends to question the integrity of an inquiry into State institutional child abuse overseen and controlled (contained) by the State responsible for the abuse in the first instance.  For example, when comparing the CLAS to the Australian Royal Commission we can see very different approaches taken by NZ and Australia, most notably, as outlined in the Terms of Reference of the Australian RC, the word “institution” refers to both public and private bodies that have allowed for adults to come in contact with children. Should it emerge through the commission’s investigations that abuse in public, or state-run, institutions was prevalent, distance between the government and the commission will be crucial to ensure its legitimacy. Notably, on the latter point re “distance between the government and the commission will be crucial to ensure its legitimacy” the CLAS is profoundly lacking. So what we can deduce from this is that the Australians would consider that the CLAS lacks legitimacy while the New Zealand Government would attempt to claim otherwise. Let’s then look at a few “independent” child abuse inquiries for comparison.

The Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (NI HIA or HIA)

“As the numbers grew and more voices were heard, a picture was painted for us of a careless, neglectful system which allowed cruelty, sexual abuse, bullying and violence to start and continue.” – CLAS Final Report Excerpt

The 2014-2015 Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry is the largest inquiry into historical institutional sexual and physical abuse of children in UK legal history. Its remit covers institutions in Northern Ireland that were in charge of children from 1922 to 1995. The Inquiry was set up in response to the Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse Act (Northern Ireland) 2013, and must conclude its investigation within two years and six months of the commencement of the Act, and then report within a further six months. Preliminary estimate of the cost was about £15m, with 37 people working on the enquiry according to its Frequently Asked Questions in October 2014. There are provisions for witness support. The Inquiry has statutory powers to compel witnesses living in Northern Ireland to appear before it and evidence held in Northern Ireland to be given to it; to take evidence under oath; and to be held in public except where necessary to protect individuals’ privacy.

Victims and survivors are represented by the Inquiry’s legal team at hearings; other witnesses may have their own legal representatives. Only the Inquiry legal team questions witnesses, and victims and survivors will not normally be cross examined by anyone else except in extremely unusual cases. The Inquiry will publish its own report; government ministers will see it in advance, but have no powers to change it.

The NI HIA largely resulted from an earlier Republic of Ireland Commission (Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse or CICA) which ran for nine years (2000 – 2009). Findings were published in the Ryan Report in May of 2009 and among other things the report stated that the abuse was “systemic, pervasive, chronic, excessive, arbitrary and endemic”. The leader of Ireland’s four million Catholics, Cardinal Sean Brady, said he was ‘sorry and deeply ashamed’ a day after the report was published. The public learned about all of this through widespread media coverage. Media coverage that was only possible because of the transparency associated with the inquiry.

In totality, in the case of Ireland, the Catholic Church in 2011 was reeling from four reports into clerical child abuse between 2005 – 2011— the Dublin Archdiocese and the Ryan inquiry into industrial schools and homes in 2009, the Ferns Diocese in 2005 and Cloyne in 2011, which related to abuse complaints and investigations as recent as 2008. Further, as a result, the Irish Government in 2011 committed to tough new child protection laws in the wake of the Cloyne, including making it an offence to withhold information about crimes against children and introduce new vetting to allow “soft information” transfers.

Notably the NI HIA is transparent and information from it is made public via press. This enables the voices of the inquiry – the lived pain and loss in order – to be heard by the body politic.   As the senior counsel to the NI HIA inquiry, Christine Smith put it, “many victims of abuse have waited years for this day to come”. “This inquiry, both through the work of the acknowledgement forum and these public hearings, is giving a voice to those who feel the system let them down.”

To date, two religious orders of the Catholic Church have publicly apologised for the abuse suffered by children in their residential homes and the Health and Social Care Board also said that if the State had failed in any way it was sorry.

In contrast to this situation,  re the CLAS,  specific institutions are not investigated and.participants stories are heard only by the panel who are specifically ordered never to relay these stories to the public via press. Literally, the voices of historic brutality are contained from ever seeing the light of day. What does society learn from this? Nothing, but that is really the point isn’t it? The point of containment is to contain!

Some examples of media surrounding the NI HIA

England and Wales – The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA)

“Boys were abused as much as girls. Boys’ homes allowed violence to be institutionalised.” – CLAS Final Report Excerpt

The IICSA was set up after investigations in 2012 and 2013 into the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal revealed widespread abuse, including claims of abuse stretching back over decades by prominent media and political figures, and inadequate safeguarding by institutions and organisations responsible for child welfare. Originally the inquiry was intended to be a Panel Inquiry supported by experts. However, after strenuous objections related to the panel’s scope and its independence from those being investigated, and the resignation of its first two intended chairs, the inquiry was reconstituted in February 2015 as a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, giving it greatly increased powers to compel sworn testimony and to examine classified information.

The first two chairs appointed to the original panel inquiry were Baroness Butler-Sloss (appointed 8 July 2014, stepped down 14 July 2014) and Fiona Woolf (appointed 5 September 2014, stepped down 31 October 2014).The reasons for their withdrawal in both cases were objections related to their perceived closeness to individuals and establishments which would be investigated.

Quite ironically, the IICSA then appointed New Zealand High Court Judge Justice Lowell Goddard to head the inquiry to ensure no ties between the inquiry head and those being investigated.

Crucially, the new inquiry has the Home Secretary’s insistence that the Official Secrets Act cannot be used to hide the truth coming out. Just as crucially, the inquiry is transparent and information and findings from that inquiry are made public through the press.

Justice Lowell Goddard, the New Zealand judge who will head the inquiry, said: “This inquiry provides a unique opportunity to expose past failures of institutions to protect children, to confront those responsible, to uncover systemic failures, to provide support to victims and survivors, in sharing their experiences, and to make recommendations that will help prevent the sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the future.”

Hmmmm…. Indeed!

Some examples of media surrounding the IICSA

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

“I have been told that 40% of the prison population has a background in State care as a child or young person.” – CLAS Final Report Excerpt

The Australian RC, in line with the UK (Ireland, England and Wales) inquiries, is everything the CLAS is not. That is, independent and transparent, based on international best practice, with the intent of making public knowledge RC inquiries and findings. As with the UK inquiries, it seeks to give those affected by child abuse a public voice and to “shine the light” on those responsible for the abuse.

The Australian Government spent a million dollars a week after announcing the Australian Royal Commission into Institutionalised Child Abuse, and announced in April of 2013 that it would provide 44 million AUD over four years for counseling of those who are testifying at the Commission and, as such, have to relive traumatic childhood experiences. Further, they are providing free legal help to all of those testifying at the Commission. This brought the known cost to $66 million before the Royal Commission had taken any formal evidence. Comparatively, based on what figures are available, the CLAS cost the New Zealand Government approximately 8-10 million dollars.

As a result of the Australian RC, similar to the Irish inquiries, among other things, to date, the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and Salvation Army have been compelled to publicly acknowledge the facts and have tendered public apologies to those abused while in their care. Additionally, systemic abuse, systemic failings and official cover-ups have been exposed.

The Commission takes submissions form organizations and survivors of CSA (child sexual abuse) to help guide it (i.e. it is inclusive) and these submissions are made public.

To date the Commission has released several reports that aim to guide future child protection policy.

Media arising from the Commission is too vast to list but almost daily the Australian public is inundated with press surrounding the horrors that have been unleashed by institutions against Australian children.

Among various outcomes the Commission has:

  • Guided future child protection policy within the institutional context
  • Played a significant role in some Australian States looking at revoking statute of limitations (time bar defenses) in historic abuse cases
  • Exposed systemic and endemic child abuse within the institutional context
  • Informed the public of systemic and endemic child abuse within the institutional context
  • Exposed pedophiles resulting in several arrests
  • Exposed institutional cover ups of CSA
  • Begun discussion of potential criminal prosecution against institutions
  • Investigated redress for victims and lobbied the Federal Government for a Fed/Commonwealth managed redress scheme

The Exclusion of Voices – the CLAS defunded as more victims step forward   

In a story covered by Ben Heather of the Dominion Post on 6/4/14, titled “Abuse victims ‘silenced’ by service cuts”, it states:

 “The Confidential Listening and Assistance Service stopped accepting applications in October (2014) from people claiming to have been victims, as it runs out of funding and prepares to close next year.

In a report, released under the Official Information Act, the service warned the October cut-off meant many victims could remain unheard.

“Over 50 people registered with the service in October . . . which would support the contention that there is still a demand,” the report says.

There was also a “substantial risk” that victims would be left with no support as they battled the ministry for compensation long after the service had been wound up.

Labour children’s spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said the sheer mass of people had exceeded expectations and the service should stay open.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the service had already been extended once to meet demand and there were “no plans” to extend it again.”

More than a year on, the CLAS final report outlines:

“When the service was first established, it was expected to have a lifespan of five years. In April 2012 the cabinet approved an extension until June 2015. We now come to a close of the Service, yet concerns still remain and other people may still be in need of our help.” 

“A total of 156 prisoners registered with the Service but many prisoners left prison before we were able to meet with them and we lost contact… Many inmates who remain in prison have not had the opportunity of meeting the Service… word of our existence has only just begun to spread amongst prisoners despite extensive engagement with prison staff over the years.”

“It is clear that unfinished business remains. Since we had to close off registrations in 2013, we have had more than 150 people contact us and we have referred them onto the relevant Government Departments. It is disappointing that some people will be left “up in the air” following the closure of our Service. To get to the end with no resolution in sight for some is not satisfactory.”

Other than this, stories of abuse post 1992 may have been excluded from being heard by the CLAS., i.e. according to the Government after 1992 things were changed re child protection in care – so officially no problems there…all fixed! However, what is apparent is that many cases of child abuse in State care have occurred since 1992. For example, claims by nearly 40 residents of Whakapakari Youth Trust alleging horrific mistreatment between 1988 and 2004 at the Child, Youth and Family-contracted facility are currently going through the New Zealand courts.

Complainants in these cases were made to dig what they were told would be their own graves and concerned staff blowing the whistle were ignored, according to a recent media investigation.

Residents of the camp were allegedly subjected to a culture described as akin to Lord of the Flies that resulted in one boy circumcising himself with a blunt knife in order to leave the camp.

While the CLAS report makes no mention of post 1992 cases (other than its remit being to investigate claims of abuse prior to 1992) recently the Government established the ‘Contemporary Claims’ process which runs parallel to the historic claims. This process covers claims of abuse that occurred in State institutions between 1993-2007. Although, as one “Contemporary’ claimant put it to me, they haven’t advised anyone of this process through the MSD website (or through any other media avenues). This is perhaps yet another example of the containment policy the government has used to mitigate damages. The emphasis being on if we keep things under the radar perhaps they’ll never know that recourse/redress is available. To demonstrate just how under the radar the Contemporary Claims are, a Google using the search string “ministry of social development contemporary claims” yields zero results. Yip… nought… zilch…. not a thing!

What is far clearer though is that high levels of abuse are still occurring in NZ State institutions. For example, looking at the most recent statistics 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.”

Additionally, there’s likely many more cases of child abuse in State care that are currently going unreported due to children who are sexually abused often not reporting the abuse until years after the fact. For example, studies surrounding CSA that examine latency to disclosure report a mean delay from 3–18 years. One recent collaborative study from the Université de Montréal, the Université du Québec à Montréal and the Université de Sherbrooke published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found that the number of victims who never reveal their abuse or who wait many years to do so is very high. Researchers concluded that almost 58% of victims delayed disclosing for five years or more, and 20% of their sample never disclosed to anyone.

Based on this information, what becomes apparent is that due to a lack of funding and too narrow terms of reference, re years of abuse, many State institutional abuse victims who are residing in New Zealand have probably been excluded from having their voices heard by the CLAS (albeit, these voices are then muted under a weight of bureaucracy).

However, what isn’t noted in the CLAS final report is that many more onetime New Zealanders who have immigrated to other countries were also silenced by the CLAS itself. For example, I  was denied access to having my voice heard at the CLAS. Thus my story of sexual and physical abuse, the subsequent gross dereliction of duty of of care, and a documented cover up (recorded in police records) by the State institution responsible was never heard. This was due to me living outside of New Zealand. I.e. when I contacted the CLAS in 2011 their response was: “ I note that you live in Singapore (actually this was wrong – I was in Indonesia at the time) and it would prove difficult for you to meet with our panel with out you returning to New Zealand.” (Email correspondence from Gordon McFadyen, CLAS, 22/12/2011)

What is noteworthy here is that New Zealand has a long history with mass migration with Australia as the preferred destination (e.g. In 2003, 43% of permanent and long-term departures were to Australia, 21% were to the United Kingdom, and 4% were to the United States). The number of New Zealanders living overseas is estimated to be in the range of 700,000 to 1 million. This migration has occurred over decades. For instance, between 1976 and 1982, 103,000 New Zealanders settled permanently in Australia.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2009, “The number of NZ-born people living in Australia increased by 89% over the preceding two decades, from 280,200 in 1989 to 529,200 in 2009.” According to Statistics New Zealand, NZ had a population of 4.32 million in June of 2009, so 529,200 New Zealanders living in Australia represented 12.5% of the total New Zealand population.

These numbers are far from insignificant given New Zealand only has a population today of 4.2 million with many of these (about 15% of the population) being Asian, as New Zealand imports citizens from other countries to top up its fleeing population.

The only developed nation that rivals New Zealand for the export of its citizens is Ireland, which has a similar population (4.5 million) and a rising annual outflow of people, now running at some 75,000 a year.

As such, perhaps not too surprisingly, approximately half of the Historic Abuse Claimants that I have been in contact with via this website (and other) live in Australia and elsewhere (e.g. two have contacted me from the UK, one from the U.S. and one from Japan). Of course, I myself fall into the category of an ex-New Zealander having permanently migrated to Australia in 1989 and replaced my Kiwi passport with an Australian one.

This said, the New Zealand State, unlike Northern Ireland’s Investigation into Historical Institutional Abuse (NI HIA), has never made concerted/real efforts to speak to ex-patriot New Zealanders about their experiences in State care. For instance, by comparison, the NI HIA widely advertised through media in Australia and sent a specialist team to Australia to interview ex-Northern Irish citizens after 61 alleged victims or witnesses living in Australia made contact. Alternatively, the New Zealand State advised Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN) of the existence of the CLAS, CLAN advised its members, and then the CLAS, for the most part, excluded those living in Australia from having their stories heard unless they were prepared to return to New Zealand and incur at least some costs as a result. These costs would likely prove prohibitive to many (I have been informed by the CLAS that ex-patriots were required to return to New Zealand for face-to-face interviews and “The Service has contributed to their travel expenses.” No clarification around the extent of the expenses covered was provided. Additionally, I had asked; Would it also be possible to ask how many people registered from Australia?” No answer was provided.)

What is now known through the release of the CLAS report is the panel went to Australia and interviewed four people (presumably CLAN members – an Australian organization whose existence the vast majority of ex-patriot New Zealand survivors are totally unaware of). Other than this, no mention of ex patriot interviews/numbers are recorded.

Comparatively of the approximately 430 people to come forward to NI HIA alleging abuse in institutions such as borstals and state or church-run children’s homes, 61were living in Australia – or approximately one in seven of the total number of those who will testify at the NI HIA, which began hearing testimony in January of 2014.

Okay, so let’s cut to the chase. What am I saying here? Well, based on the numbers of new victims coming forward and those who have immigrated, it is my belief that the 1103 people the CLAS did speak to are the tip of the iceberg and this number could easily/conservatively be doubled, more realistically tripled, had adequate funding and international advertising been put in place. This raises serious concerns as to the integrity of any statistics of the levels of abuse that has occurred in NZ State institutions that come out of the CLAS or any other Government related report/inquiry that uses the CLAS’ report to determine statistical data.

Conclusion and Closing Remarks – The CLAS and the elephant in the room

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

The comparison between the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (SA TRC) and the New Zealand CLAS is an insult to both the SA TRC and one of the greatest human rights ambassadors – Nelson Mandela – in history. In fact, it would be harder to find a more profound example of political self-flagellation than can be seen in this comparison when it is put to the test. However, this comparison speaks volumes about the contemptible way in which New Zealand officials have spun things with regards to resolving cases of NZ institutional State child abuse… where language/discourse supersedes actions and where victims and the public alike are treated as fools.

By comparing the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service to three other historic institutional child abuse inquiries held in other Commonwealth countries we can see that the CLAS is non-independent of the institution (the NZ Government) responsible for the abuse. Further, by dissecting the rhetoric the NZ Government has used surrounding “independent” and “neutral” it is clear to even a blind man that this discourse is political smoke and mirrors in its most debased form.   Additionally, claims that the CLAS was not an inquiry but a listening forum are laughable given that firstly a final report has been published and secondly that secret findings and recommendations have been handed to select Government officials. These findings and recommendations, of course, true to form, have been withheld from the public. Thus, inline to the bureaucratic dribble,  “inquiry” may be the wrong word to describe the CLAS with “cover up” – a hidden inquiry – being more appropriate terminology.

More soon….

2 comments on “CLAS Final Report – NZs Hidden Child Abuse Inquiry Exposed

  1. Sheva Burton on said:

    Thankyou so much for informing us about this. Here, UK some of us are watching, as the Royal Commision AUS, unfolds. Our Inquiry, has stalled, and barely begun, there is a breakaway, Peoples’ Tribunal too, which is independently forming, to feed information, to the inquiry, many people are disinfranchised from authorities, given the past, abuse and neglect within UK institutions. It seems that the Brits are responsible, for spreading much abuse, throughout the world, and i sincerely wish to see real redress, throughout the commonwealth, our ex empire, and everywhere, that children have been used, misused, abused, especially whilst in places, set up by either religious orders, or just on orders, because it suited power and land grabs. I know, the hard, long road it has been, for any of us, to begin to see the wall of silence breaking, and that is down to so many who have bravely done so, and those who have devoted time, effort, and everything sometimes, put on the line, to bring a case forward. We all keep going, and keep each other going, as we can. Best wishes, in taking this forward.

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