Joe’s Story – Epuni Boys Home and Beyond

My full name is (edit), I was born in Marton the 19 day of April 1969. I grew up in the town of Marton and was raised by my Grand-parents (edit) and (edit) until the age of 13 when I was put into Welfare care. I had a humble but loving child hood being raised by my Grand-Parents and spent most of my child hood tending to my sick Grand-Father until the age of eighty six when he passed away. I was only 8-9 years old when this happened. I spent the next 3 years back and forth between my fathers house and my Grandmothers house. I spent most of my time living with my Grandmother and she was a big part of my life. I remember living with them since the age of 5 years old when my parents started having trouble with their marriage. My parents separated when I was about 6-7 years old. It was a very traumatic time for me.

At the age of about 11 I started staying away from home and roaming the streets. I got into trouble at about the age of 13 years old when I burgled the local intermediate school in Marton. I was sent to a family home in Totara Street Whanganui. I was then placed in the care of the State. I did not like the family home and run away back to Marton. I found the people taking care of me to be very dirty people and always had animals running through the house. I also became very home-sick and missed my Grandmother.  I spent time moving around to different family homes but could never settle in.

I was then sent to Epuni Boys Home in Wellington. My whole time there was spent in fear of certain staff members. The place was nothing but a breeding ground for young offenders who would probably spend the rest of their lives in and out of institutions like myself. It ran on fear and intimidation, not only by staff but also boys. I had been told that if you did not stick up for yourself in there you would be bullied. I was intimidated on many occasions while in these institution and I believe they were nothing but youth prisons as it was no different to adult prison for myself. King-Pins and wannabe Prospect Gang Members were the ones to watch out for and you would need to show some respect in this area or you would eventually end up on the receiving end of a beating. There were also many stand-over tactics used in these places by boys for cigarettes or tobacco. Everyday there would be disagreements in the home and fights would break out over control or even just un-liking someone was cause for trouble. The nature of the place was nothing but “dog eat dog”.

Staff were no better and ruled with threats of Solitary Confinement or a good beating away from the other boys. I had been sticking up for myself one day when two guys (edit) and (edit) and myself had an argument. Myself and (edit) ended up in a wrestling match in the yard. The next thing I remembered was seeing white and felt a sharp pain in my forehead. When I woke up I was being dragged along the ground by my shirt collar. I tried standing up but could not find my balance. When I looked in the mirror my forehead had swollen out and I didn’t recognise myself.  I was seen by the whole boys home with my injury and also staff.  A group of boys had been present as the fight had attracted some attention. The person dragging me was Mr Moorecloud.

I was told later by a group of boys that Mr Moorecloud had back-handed me because I was fighting with (edit) and was told to stop but I did not hear him because my back was turned. I was told to wash my face because it would stop the swelling. I went to the Matron and when asked what had happened to my forehead I told her what I knew. I was told to listen when staff would tell me what to do.

I also wrote to my Grandmother and received no response back. I was questioned by Mr Cambell who I think was Deputy Principle and Mr Moorecloud after I sent my letter and told not to write about things that were happening in the boys home and if I continued I would be sent to solitary confinement.

Mr Moorecloud had also picked me up in a wrestling hold and dropped me on his knee connecting with my ribs on another occasion. I had never felt pain like that before and it took me a long time to recover from it. I was told by other boys that Mr Mooreloud was an ex-wrestler, when I asked if he was and could he teach us some wrestling moves he did as I described. The other guys just laughed as if to expect that. I would recognise this man anywhere.

Another staff member who constantly intimidated me was Mr Cambell. I confronted Mr Cambell in 1992-1993 outside Social Welfare with another man. I asked him if he was Mr Cambell from Epuni Boys Home and he just looked at me confused. I told him my name and he said he did not know me. I then told him he was nothing but a “kid-basher” and an “arse-hole”. He quickly walked off up the road shaking his head in denial.  I went looking for him about ten minutes later because I wanted to confront him again. I would recognise this man anywhere.

Myself and a group of boys had absconded from Epuni Boys Home. We had spent the night lost in some hills and when we made it to town spent the night sleeping in the Taita Railway Station. We were caught the next day and returned to the home. When we arrived back we were met by Mr Cambell who lined us up. We were then told we would be spending the next month in solitary confinement. We were then put into the secure unit and into single cells and told to stand in the corner facing the door by another staff member. I saw the outer door open and Mr Cambell walk in. He looked at me and said “I’m leaving you for last”. I could hear the other guys saying things like “I’m sorry Mr Cambell, I wont run away again”, “Please sir I’m sorry”. I was terrified at the time. When Mr Cambell got to my cell he gripped me by the hair and started swinging me around and slapping my face. He threw me on too the bed and told me I was very lucky, I just curled up into a ball and tried to shield my head from another attack.

We were also interrogated by a police officer days after we had absconded. I was put into a room with a plain clothed officer who asked me who had done the burglary of the local school. When I told him I did not know what he was talking about he grabbed me by the hair and began to bash my head against the table and would not stop. When he eventually did I was told if I did not sign a statement saying who did it, I would get the same again. I just said I would sign whatever he wrote, even though I knew it not to be true. I cant remember what this man looked like, as I kept my eyes to the ground because I was crying at the time.

We spent 2-3 weeks in solitary confinement and made to do physical training everyday. We were also beaten with cricket wickets from the sports shed if we did not perform the exercises properly. Certain staff would make us run around the gymnasium for an hour, then make us hang from the wall and hold our legs out straight. If your legs would drop below your waist they would strike you across the feet or legs until you would raise them. I saw one boy get beaten because he could not continue on any longer.  I can’t remember his name. The only people I saw treat boys like this were Mr Moorecloud, Mr Cambell, Mr Garridy.

I also believe I was molested or touched in an inappropriate way by a staff member Mr Chambers. I had just come out of one of the toilets that was connected to an outside foyer to one of the unit wings. Mr Chambers had been standing in the hallway and told me to “come here” to which I complied. He then told me to stand against the wall facing it so I did. I asked what was going on and he asked me if I had been smoking in the toilets and I replied no. He then reached around and began to touch me in my genital area, I tried to pull away but he held me by the arm tightly. He then put his hands between my buttocks and kept his hand there. I also felt him pressing himself against me because my face was hard against the wall. I kept struggling and heard the toilet door swing open Mr Chambers quickly let me go and said “don’t let me catch you smoking again. I ran down the hallway through another door outside to where a group of boys were playing on the field. I was to embarrassed to talk about things like that and I thought people like that were gay and I didn’t want anyone thinking I was, especially in the boys home. I did not see anyone when I came out of that room and believe I was saved from a worse fate. I took every chance not to be around Mr Chambers and like other staff members I hated it when he was on duty. He would also watch boys showering, I felt very un-comfortable around him and so did other boys.

Another staff member who would do this was Miss Wardell. I remember when I had my first induction into Epuni Boys Home we would have to take a shower and wash down with a white powder substance  on our genital area.  She told me to turn around and show me if I had put it on properly.  I felt embarrassed as I was 13 years old and going through puberty stages at the time. One other boy complained to her and said she should wasnt supposed to give us showers and she replied they were short of staff that day.

My stay at Hokio Boys Home was not as bad as Epuni Boys Home but it was not without its dark secrets of violence and abuse. I was first assaulted by a staff member Mr Mc Donald while I was standing on morning muster. Mr Mc Donald walked up to me and clapped my head between his hands over my ears causing me to lose my balance and almost fall over. I started to cry and was told not to be a sook. I then spat on the ground in a defiant nature. I was told to clean it up and I refused. Another staff member Mr Winiata heard what was going on and came over. He told me to clean it up and I refused again. I was dragged pushed and hit about the head until I got a mop and cleaned up the mess. I was then put into solitary confinement. I did not want to come forward with this story (edit)

I was also assaulted again by Mr Cambell in Hokio Boys Home when Epuni Boys were shown around Hokio as part of their induction for the following year. I had been sitting watching T.V. with two other boys when I was approached by Mr Cambell from behind. He got me in a head-lock and started slapping me around the head. He kept saying like “so you think your a big boy now” and “see, nothing but shit for the system”. He would always call me “nigger” or “black cunt” even when I was in Epuni Boys Home.

I also witnessed other boys in Hokio being mistreated by staff. On one occasion I saw one boy (edit) get punched in the face by the school principle. It shocked the whole home and many couldn’t believe it had happened. It was truly scary to witness at the time and I often wonder how (edit) is doing, even though I did not like him at the time. He was a King Pin and I eventually over through his reign of terror in the boys home in front of everyone, staff allowed it to continue.

I believe that these institutions played a big part in the way I have lived my life. I have had a violent life while under the Governments care and they have neglected any responsibility for it. I believe that I had become institutionalised at a very early age. When I was released from Hokio Boys Home I had no one who would take responsibility for me and was moved pillar to post  until I finally committed another burglary because I was homeless. I had gone back to Marton before my 16th Birthday . I stayed with my Godparents and asked them if I could stay with them.

I set out the day of my Birthday and got very heavily intoxicated at the local pub and fell asleep in the bar. I woke up and tried to walk back to my Godfathers house. On the way home I decided to do a burglary and get some money so I could find somewhere to stay as I had told my Godparents I would only stay until after my Birthday. I was caught doing a burglary after I entered a house and did not see the person sleeping in the bed. I startled them and only then was I aware of their presence in the room. I ran out of the house and hid down the road under some bushes. I was arrested for burglary and sent to Kaitoki Mens Prison and held in the remand centre. I felt bad about what I had done and because I knew the family made it worse. I never meant to hurt anyone and I told this to police.

I spent about 2-3 weeks in there and although it was a hard place to be it was the only place I had to stay. I was threatened by staff that if I played up or didnt listen I would be put into mainstream jail and they would let the big boys sort me out as they would say. I felt very afraid at the time, after that and I tried not to upset any of the staff. I became more fear full when I saw my neighbour who was (edit), one of the guys that saw me get knocked out by Mr Moorecloud in Epuni. He was probably 1-2 years older than me and we did not get on. I remained in my cell after that and refused to come out. I would also get threats from prisoners going past my cell saying things like “wait until they put you on our side” or “We’re gonna rape you when you get over here” I felt very intimidated at the time by them but their was nothing I could do.

I have spent 27 years of my life with these memories of what has happened to me. I have been unable to talk about these things because I have always believed no one has cared and that no one would believe me against employees of the Government. I have spent my whole life living pillar to post and never being able to hold down a full time job. I have failed at everything I have tried to do. I never knew all this time the things causing me the most grief were that of my past. I had been watching T.V.3 and John Cambell Live on a segment about abused children in welfare care. When I heard how things had been for other abused ex-pupils and how it was for them in their lives I broke down in tears because I finally saw people I could relate to in life.

I have since quit the habit of drinking to suppress the hurt, anger, frustration, hate that I have had since being put into their care.  I choose now to take these problems head on and confront these people and your investigation has given me this opportunity.  I hope this will help with some resolve in my life and I can move forward. I have no problems now talking about what has happened to me. Just accepting and telling other people about what has happened to me has given me strength to face the Government. I am doing this for recognition of what happened and I am not going to let anyone intimidate me to do otherwise again.

9 comments on “Joe’s Story – Epuni Boys Home and Beyond

  1. Bill Earnshaw on said:

    Joe, I was born in 1953, and remember dome of the Staff members you mentioned when I was in Epuni aged only 10 in 1963. I was in Hokio and Kohitere 1965/67. I was a constant runaway, running from constant abuse, only to be bought back when caught, and abused and tortured even more. Put on punishment detail for upwards of 6 weeks or more at a time. Cold showers, pushed in at 6 am by the handle of a broom penetrating my anus. Constant PE, filling and running with full wheelbarrows of sand from dunes and filling in swamp at Hokio, digging new Chanel for creek bed, placed in laundry bag, kicked by all the boys while staff looked on laughing. Made to stand whilst eating half rations in dining room, made to run on spot immediately after until others finished, got cramps, kicked until made to get up and carry
    Running on spot. Scrubbing court yards with toothbrush, until knees bled on concrete and still made to keep going. Raped by the older boy supposedly ensuring and watching over my punishment time. Smashed about like a punching bag by staff and the kingpins and friends. Most of my beatings and forced sexual perversions forced on me by older bigger Maori Boys!
    In Kohitere, forced time and again to suck off boys. Once, got so angry at what happened put my fist through window, narrowly avoiding having my right thumb ligament severed.
    My life as been one long road of anger, pain, not knowing how to live. Turned down for many jobs because of “criminal record”. Spending 3 years or so in Borstal, Invercargill and Waikeria, prison in Mt. Crawford, Eden, camps, Paparoa, even stints in Long Bay Sydney, camp at Tumbarumba, and Golburn Super Max prisons in NSW, Australia. Last stint in 1980/81. Last in trouble 1994.
    I have made several half hearted suicide attempts, but on 31 July, made very serious overdose attempt. Was unconscious, barely alive for 4 days in flat on my own before being found by Police after call to them by ex wife and daughter who hadn’t heard from me!
    I still suffer with PTSD, bi polar disorder, constant depression, up n downs, and suicidal thoughts. I am fucking tired….very very tired. I was given a shitty 40 k on fast track. I accepted, although felt pressured to do so really. Lost most of the money by eldest son who ripped me off for his gambling addiction, and also by a very bad deal he made on my behalf with buying a camper bus for $18500….. That was a rust heap covered up, and fell apart on me. A mate swapped it with me for an old boat, that I can’t sell, or be lucky to get 3/4 thousand for it if I’m lucky!
    Never got a letter of apology. They didn’t admit that all this happened to me!
    They didn’t take into consideration, that at 15 Sent to borstal amongst young men aged up to 20. I was still a child in 1968! Chucked into a halfway house, as by then institutionalised, in Wellington. I wandered off. Caught, sent back to Invercargill, whereupon placed into a cell in the pound for a whole month, on number 1 diet, bread lard water for 3 days, normal diet One day, then another three days on lard diet. No one allowed to talk to me, not to speak to anyone, one old blanket, no mattress or pillow at night, pis spot, water jug….that’s it for a whole month! Ended up banging my head against freezing cold concrete walls!
    I was on no state of mind to manage my money. And, not really much for a new start at my age was it! I am now alone in a small flat in Palmerston North to be close to my seven year old Granddaughter, who is all I have left in my life. I live a lonely existence, still wanting to just die and end all this bloody pain!

  2. Sheva Burton on said:

    Bill & Joe and all others on the lonely road, surviving after child abuse, with little if any real support or understanding. I was abused by my father, so ended up living on the streets in London, at 16. At 58, i still have problems, though when younger, i was a high achiever, trying to create a perfect family and life, and looking quite good, at some points, tho within, were these feelings, that i didn’t understand, depressions, scary and dark times, until i met other survivors of CSA in a small group 20 odd years ago. Still now, it is difficult, to find help, the services here have no training, or even acknowledge that health problems, mental health issues, or financial, addiction etc, relationships, can all be from that source of such profound and deep injury, and our traumatic responses, Along the way, i have found some good healing techniques, and built up a toolbox, to cope differently, tho, have still been pushed to my edge, often by trying to gain help, and being re traumatised in the process, triggered, or mislabelled. For alongtime, i have hoped to be part of helping that to change. I care, you care, and so do so many others. Small baby steps, appreciating little things, learning to be good to you, creative, writing, poetry, art, sculpting, for me i had huge ammounts of rage to release, and that created massive health benefits for me. At the mo, i am waiting for dental treatment, my phobia finlally got the better of me, and they are dire………. take care.

    • admin_grant on said:

      Safe to say from all of us you take care too. I guess we are some form of family through something only survivors truly get. Kia Kaha

  3. Sheva Burton on said:

    And, just to add, the process of calling myself a survivor, and looking at why tho i had been a victim, and acknowledging, letting it sink in, and feel that pain, was immense, agonising, but worth it, and then to relate with others’, and then i realised the enormity of it all, tried to sue my father, failed, so i organised a massive march through london, all covered up now, 22yrs ago, that was, and now what ? i’m tired too, right now, some of us UK, have fought long and hard, to bring the inquiry into being, and the awareness, and it’s not all good, but it is only happening because we, thousands of us, have kept on, keeping on. More people are woken, to the scale of this, but floundering as to what to do, By us speaking out, sharing, i hope we can make sure survivors of abuse are better served. Money can help, my case wasn’t for the money but the recognition, i didn’t get an apology either, and became ostracised completely, which is a black mark, according to service providers.

  4. Pamela Samuel on said:

    Thank you all for being courageous to tell your story. I am overwhelmed with empathy for all have endured such cruelty and misunderstandings throughout your years. My brother is in a similar situation as yourselves. I and my younger brother are working alongside him to obtain healing and justice. This is a start for him, reading your stories…

    We thought our brother was just another nuisance of society, like everyone else….especially all the professionals….but No! nobody asked where it all stemmed from, they only see a snapshot of his world, not a holistic view of his history. Once again….thank you, carry on sharing the truth, because only that can set us all free.

  5. Fiona Jones on said:

    Last night I watched the repeat screening of “The Hui” having missed it the first time round. To the guys who told their stories and all those out there who haven’t – my heart cries for you all. Thank you for your courage and strength in coming forward and although it isn’t enough, nothing could ever be enough I also offer you my sincerest apologies and deepest regret. Why?

    My younger brother told me his story a couple of years ago and it was heart breaking to say the least. We are in our mid and late 50′s now, I love my brother with all my heart and I am proud that he (as an older man) confronted the demon who stole his innocence and future life that could have been, who committed unfathomable acts of sexual abuse, who to this day has no remorse, who still lives a very pleasant life and who is unfortunately, our own blood relative.
    I am thankful my brother never had to endure any time in the state governed institutions that so many children were forced into. I am so angry that not one person within our maternal extended family did anything to prevent this all those years ago.
    This beast went on to work at both Hokio and Kohitere ‘reform schools’. He was employed there for many years and was very happy – now I understand why. It is my belief that my brothers story was the beginning and most likely not the only one or the final one to tell.
    Keeping secrets protects the pedophile – well guess what the secret is out.
    Government needs to front up, whanau, hapu, iwi all need to front up. We as parents and grandparents have to front up. The child within the body of our men today deserve justice.

    • admin_grant on said:

      Thanks for this and yes too often CSA occurs in the family environment and is perpetrated by trusted family members. And yes successive NZ Governments have sort to contain what happened, but safe to say good people and survivors have now uncontained their containment. Like a cancer silence grows. We need to break this silence to protect others. Kia kaha

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