Mt Wellington Residential School was opened in 1960 as a school for children who had become so emotionally disturbed that they were unable to benefit from attending mainstream schooling.
In 1979, Mt Wellington Residential School was relocated to Bucklands Beach. It was briefly called Bucklands Beach Residential School for maladjusted pupils, but was renamed ‘Waimokoia’ – meaning “troubled waters” in Maori – in June of 1980.
Education Minister Anne Tolley shut the school down at the end of 2009, “in the interests of the students”. At that time she made no mention of abuse allegations and the fact that police had laid criminal charges against several former staff. The physical and sexual abuse cases dated back to the 1980s. It wouldn’t be until August 2010 after the lifting of a media gag order, as a result of the conviction of Graeme McCardle, a onetime social worker at Waimokoia, on 15 of 24 counts, including indecent assault and sexual violation, that the Minister would make a public statement to the effect, she “was aware of multiple police investigations into staff at the school and did not believe staff had maintained their duty of care to students.” The charges on which McCardle was convicted included forcing a 12-year-old girl to perform sex acts on him in the school lounge while he watched pornographic movies, and indecently assaulting a nine-year-old boy in the school’s concrete “timeout” room (a windowless bunker where children/students were placed in solitary confinement).
Preceding this, four cases in total had been through the courts prior to, or in 2009; however, the Ministry of Education had maintained a veil of secrecy around the cases through applying to the court for its identity to be kept secret at trials. As a result the names of the accused were also suppressed. This resulted in a media black out – government orchestrated censorship – and, arguably, a perversion of justice. I.e. More onetime students who had been sexually and/or physically abused by the accused may have come forward with further allegations, lending weight to cases, had the accused and the school’s names been made public in press. Additionally, had the school been named in press, this may have led to further allegations from onetime Waimokoia students against other former staff. NZ police sources later confiding, “that they believe there are many more victims out there, and probably several more offenders who may never come to justice.” (Source: Clio Francis, Sunday Star Times http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/features/3999448/Waimokoias-abuse)
This said, media surrounding the McCardle case opened a can of worms, among other things noting…
“Until now the public has had little idea of the goings-on at the school, because it applied to the court for its identity to be kept secret at the previous trials. At the start of McCardle’s trial, suppression was lifted.”
Since last year there have been three high court trials and two district court trials, involving 20 different complainants and three accused former staff. The alleged abuse occurred as recently as 2007 and dated back to the 1980s.
The first accused, a former staff member, went to trial at the High Court at Auckland in February 2009. His health deteriorated and after nearly two weeks of evidence, the trial was aborted. He suffered a heart attack in August last year and died before a retrial could be heard.
Last year a third former staff member went to trial in the Manukau District Court on charges including assault on a child and threatening to cause grievous bodily harm involving 10 complainants. Again a jury could not agree on a verdict and a retrial was ordered. In June this year the man was acquitted on the 11 charges he faced.
Yet another teacher who taught at the school in the late 1980s has since been struck off the New Zealand teachers register. He was sentenced to two years’ jail at Auckland District Court in 1998 on multiple indecent assault charges.
“WAIMOKOIA RESIDENTIAL School’s “time-out” room was an innocuous cinder block building near the tennis courts which, to the uninitiated, looked like a harmless storage shed. But to some of the troubled students who attended the school near Howick, in South Auckland, the mere sight of the bland building was enough to instill terror. To them, it was variously known as the pound, the cell, the bunker and, perhaps most appropriately of all, the dungeon – for the abuse which former students claim happened inside its windowless walls amounted to torture”
“The room became the graphic focus of the high court trial of Graeme McCardle, 58, which ended in Auckland this past week. During four weeks of often harrowing testimony, the lid was lifted on a sadistic culture of abuse at a school that was supposed to be helping troubled kids, but instead damaged them to such an extent that many turned to lives of crime.”
A Crown witness in the most recent trial, a former assistant social worker at the school, told the court how McCardle appeared in the children’s bathroom and asked her to lift her skirt while he masturbated. Another time he asked her to perform oral sex on him in the time-out room.
(Source: Clio Francis, Sunday Star Times http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/features/3999448/Waimokoias-abuse)
During the court cases, jurors heard of bizarre practices at Waimokoia. In the 1980s, one principal would hypnotise students in his office in the belief it would curb their behavioural problems. Other students described how they were forced to eat an apple pie crust filled with dishwashing liquid and watched as a girl was made to suck a lollipop covered in ants and dirt. The court heard that in the 1980s, the school employed people with little or no formal training. Many were hired from word of mouth or had inter-family connections to other staff. Sources said that some staff had free rein to indulge their sexual proclivities.
A former student, a mother now aged 36 who gave evidence at trial, told the Sunday Star-Times she believed the Ministry of Education knew the school was “rotten”. “Not until I was part of this case did I understand how badly had the ministry failed us, because not only did they take us out of abusive homes, they took us to somewhere when they knew there was abuse going on. They did nothing and they didn’t care, and then when it did come out… they still did nothing.
“They took the broken and broke them further. They took the broken and just decimated any hope we had of ever having any kind of life.”
The now infamous Waimokoia “time out” room had its origins at Mt Wellington Residential School, which in 1978, the year I attended the school, was a windowless plywood room/box built beneath the boys and girls common dorm. Ironically, it had been, prior to becoming the time out room, the photographic dark room where Gavin Mitchell processed pornographic images of the children he had molested – myself being just one of these children. Fortunately, for us, the time out room saw little use at Mt Wellington Residential School, and due to its flimsy ply structure was kicked apart by an enraged student who had been confined in the room. Clearly, its structure was improved at Waimokoia.
Graeme McCardle was sentenced to six years for his crimes. The sentencing judge, Justice Graham Lang stating at sentencing: “One of the mysteries of this case, Mr McCardle, is how a man who was otherwise well regarded by everybody around him, including many of those who worked at the school, could do the kinds of things that the complainants said that you did,”
“I consider that the only rational explanation for this is that at this particular period in your life were undergoing some form of crisis in relation to your sexual aims and ambitions,”
(Author’s note….Are you F@!!!!! kidding?)
Author’s note: I’m currently in the process of applying for OIA (Official Information Act) material pertaining to these cases. True to form I expect OIA to be denied by a government that has closed ranks on the historic abuse cases and where possible engaged in a clear cover up to hide facts and bury information. To date I have been unable to find the names of several of those who were tried in the Waimokoia cases (although I suspect I know the name of at least one of them – a former teacher by the name of Andrew Bryan or Bryant?? who taught at Mt Wellington Residential and went on to teach at Waimokoia). It seems to me that it is in the interests of justice to ensure these names are in the public forum so that others who were abused by onetime Waimokoia and Mt Wellington Residential staff are aware that others have made allegations that will support their cases. For the record, I see name suppression in historic abuse cases as little more than perverting the course of justice. As police note – “they believe there are many more victims out there, and probably several more offenders who may never come to justice”. All good – which begs the question as to why NZ police are involved in the cover up themselves? If anyone out there reading this can shed further light on these cases (names of the accused etc) I would appreciate hearing from them. Unlike the NZ media I will not respect name suppression of pedophiles and child abusers. Contact me at nzchildabuse[at]gmail.com or use the contact form on the site.
Update on OIA material surrounding Waimokoia Residential School:
My initial application, received by police on 01 January 2013, was rejected on the basis that I wasn’t a New Zealand Resident (I’m now proud to call myself an Australian having left NZ in 1989). The Official Information Act officer (Ashleigh Lowe) stated on the rejection correspondence that unless the material was relevant to myself, as a non New Zealand resident, I didn’t qualify within the OIA process. This is somewhat odd given the US State Department notes on their site:
“The law provides for public access to government information, including access for noncitizens and foreign media, to be provided within 20 working days of a request, and the government generally adhered to the law in practice. Information must be made available unless a good reason, such as concern for national security, exists for not doing so. “
This said, I responded that the material was very relevant to myself in that while I may not now be a NZ resident I was molested, raped and beaten by NZ residents/citizens while a NZ resident/citizen who was in NZ State care. I further explained that the material was relevant because it surrounded the institution I had been abused at, posing the question, “Do I now qualify?“…. No reply!!! No response at all!
I then had a NZ journalist, Rachel Tiffen from Channel 3 apply for the material. Police at this point acknowledged that it existed but added that the material was substantial and a fee of $3000 NZD would apply for collecting the OIA. At this point Ms Tiffen suggested I speak to the lead investigator (Det Sergeant Colin Higson) in the Waikomoia case and narrow my request down to specific names. I did this and received this email from Det Sergeant Colin Higson on 9th April 2013 :
“I have forwarded your request to our legal section for advice. I will let you know the decision once I have it.
Having sent two follow up emails to Det Sergeant Colin Higson to request further information as to what “legal” had said I have received no response. Total silence! It has now been 8 months since my initial OIA application was lodged and just under 5 months since the email from Detective Sergeant Colin Higson.
I am now in the process of drafting a letter/complaint to the Ombudsman to see where this goes (although I expect I will need a lawyer to finally access the material in question).