Mt Wellington Residential School/Waimokoia Residential School

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…

[Quote]

“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)

[End Quote]

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.”

(Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/features/3999448/Waimokoias-abuse)

Footnotes:

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.

Regards,

Colin”

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).

More soon….

54 comments on “Mt Wellington Residential School/Waimokoia Residential School

  1. Hope Taylor on said:

    I went to Mt. Wellington Residential School. Spent 3 years there, on the side of Mt Wellington. I used to cry on the weekends because I didn’t understand why I couldn’t go home for the weekends when my family only lived in Mt. Roskill. Bob Cunis (a cricketer who played for N.Z.) was a teacher there. There were only about 30 of us, mostly from all over N.Z. Miss Gracie was the matron and she wore a wig. They had staff meetings on a Wednesday and we were left to our own devices. We smeared white lilly on lightbulbs and plugged them back in and on! We weren’t bad, we were disturbed. I was disturbed because my mother did not want me (for physical reasons beyond my control) so I was starved of love. I fell in love with a boy there and we ran away…found in the bushes by Pakuranga Mall. They would take us in the mini bus down to do our shopping in Panmure on a Friday night. I remember some of the names, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to publish them here. What I will say is I suffered abuse there and was raped. It wasn’t a safe place, and nowhere in my life at that time was. The welfare made a lot of mistakes with me (as a State Ward) all I needed was to be placed with a family who would love me…a fundamental right of every little person. Eventually, after 3 long years I was released from Mt. Wellington and was told there was nothing more they could do for me. What a terrible thing to say to a child who didn’t know what was wrong with her in the first place! I would go on and be placed in some horrendous situations where the same ugly things happened which would destroy my chance of being a healthy human being.

    I am waiting to recieve my MSD settlement and when I get the money I will spend every cent on myself. (I had recieved one from being placed in Lake Alice – another Social Welfare dumping ground) where they managed to nearly kill me with serious psychotropic drugs. I have no known mental illness but was diagnosed as a Latent Scizophrenic (which I am not)…

    We deserve all we get in financial remuneration, but it will not give us our life, our childhoods back.

    • admin_grant on said:

      There’s the saying it’s far easier to raise healthy children than to fix damaged adults. This message just doesn’t seem to be getting through to policy makers. The sad reality is that I believe the Ministry of Education knew there were problems at Mt Wellington Residential School/Waimokoia (in my case they chose to bury the fact even when they were contacted by police) and chose to turn a blind eye. Fortunately, its at least now closed. As you say no amount of money restores a lost childhood and the damage that ensues from child abuse. Go well.

    • terrence wensor on said:

      hello i was in mount wellington i can remember some of the cool things that we all did i was one that went on a train trip to wellington in 1979. i can rememeber the hobby teacher who taught heaps . i also cannt remeber other stuff i think because of been medicated with ritalin i woundled how many of children were on medicated

  2. Sarah Bland on said:

    I worked as a teacher at Waimokoia in the last two years it was open (2008, 2009).

    While reading the above article I was shocked and enraged at the same time. Shocked because the type of culture that was depicted of Waimokoia school in it’s previous years is poles apart from what I experienced. Shocked because crimes like those recounted should never ever happen, especially to society’s most vulnerable. Shocked because some things now make sense to the reasons for the school being closed down – of which staff were not privy to during the ‘consultation’ process of closing the school down in 2009 (even when school staff begged Ministry of Education officials for explanations.)

    In absolutely no way do I condone any of the negative behaviour of any person (adult or child), at Waimokoia. At the same time, I entered that teaching position knowing that would be dealing with children who exhibited New Zealand’s most extreme behaviour. Each of the staff entered that campus every day with the realisation that they could go home with bruises, teeth knocked out, and after being the recipient of verbal abuse. By the time we went home we had been sworn at, punched, stabbed, spat on and had saved children from trying to commit suicide.

    I’m not sharing these daily realities for the purpose of gaining any glory, or any sympathy either. The reason is to highlight the severity of behaviour that the majority of children exhibited when they started their 40 weeks. In contrast to the alleged reactions of staff in earlier years, during the time I was at Waimokoia I saw consistently patient staff, acting with creative intelligence in order to aid children on their journey to understanding their own behaviour. Yes well-trained staff physically restrained children – in circumstances where physical safety was at risk, or to prevent a criminal act (like smashing windows for example). One restraint I recall involved a child stabbing the teacher with a pencil, and (as that teacher was the person the child was angry at), a teacher aide restrained the child and after the situation was de-escalated, a 30 minute discussion took place (following the Life Space Crisis Intervention Model) to allow the child to understand their feelings and subsequent behaviour. Incidents like this happened daily, as the children were dealing with enormous and complex issues. At no time was I witness to (or heard from children) that they were mistreated during the period that I worked at Waimokoia.

    The time out space, as mentioned in your article, was used as a last resort. In the two years I worked at the school, I remember it used only on two occasions. Perhaps stories of how the space was used may be helpful to understanding what went on. The first incident was for a 13 year old boy who had been expelled from a long list of schools, had been abused by males in his family, and had severe anger issues. He and another classmate had come back to Waimokoia after spending the weekend with their families. The boys were emotionally heightened after being in their family environments, and a fight broke out between them. At this point, it is worthy to note that the behaviour of the boys would be enough to land them in a jail cell for assault. The other boy calmed down as staff members separated the fighting duo, however the 13 year old was coming down from drug use (during his weekend at home). Staff were aware of this, as well as the turmoil going on in his life. Four specifically-trained grown men were unable to safely restrain the enraged boy, and after placing him in his room, he smashed his window. The time out space was the last resort, and the student was placed there until he was able to control himself again. Again the conversations that followed were intentionally designed to help the young man to understand his feelings and behaviour.

    The other time I recall the time out space used was for an 8 year old boy from my class. The student’s life (prior to arriving at Waimokoia) had been so harrowing that he could become violent at the smallest of reasons (a strange look, a bump during a game of soccer, his pencil tip breaking). I don’t recall what had set him off that particular day, however he ran away from the school and was in the field nearby. Staff monitored him (from a comfortable distance as to not escalate him further), but staff moved in closer as he tied his sweatshirt around his neck in order to commit suicide. He lashed out against staff members, smashed everything in his path as he was brought back into the school environment, yelling threatening words to staff and students. An adult exhibiting these same negative behaviours would be before the courts with a jail term likely as the outcome. The time out space was used for about 15 minutes, continually monitored via CCTV and staff were ready to intervene if needed. Again the Life Space Crisis Intervention conversation happened afterwards, to enable the boy to gain understanding of himself.

    From the examples above, it is evident that Waimokoia did not deal with your everyday kiwi kid. Therefore, even in retrospect, I cannot think of any other method of being able to safely enable these children to calm down (other than to be placed into a space where they were contained, and given time to self-regulate).

    On a completely different tact – the behaviour of Ministry of Education officials appears to be absolutely deplorable. That complete anonymity was requested meant that other students with grievances against former staff did not have the opportunity to come forward to participate in the court cases.

    In 2009, during the consultation process (basically consisting of the MOE telling a school they will be shut down, but following protocol of ‘consulting’ with the community), all staff were under strict instruction from MOE officials that there was to be no communication with media. Once again the MOE were trying to censor the ability of the public to have their say (for positive or negative impact). Staff were not given adequate reasons for the closure of the school, except that it was for the ‘best interests of the students.’ When asked to elaborate on what this meant, the Commissioner of the time did not or could not elaborate. To staff it appeared that the MOE was hell-bent on closing the school, even though the school at that time was hearing extremely positive feedback from parents and social workers, the school was in a really good space, had a huge waiting list, and had requests from international university students to come and have placements at the school. The one thing that had potentially gone haywire was the three pending court cases. The news of the closure was a huge surprise to staff.

    The staff were aware of the four cases that were before the courts at the time. The three people involved in cases of abuse allegations in 2007 were found to be not-guilty. The fourth case was McCardle, as mentioned in the article above, however his guilty verdict was given months after Waimokoia was closed. I have no further light to shed on that sad part of Waimokoia’s history except that there was not a possibility that behaviour like that could have happened in the years I worked there (due to the safety protocols that were adhered to, and the constant video surveillance that monitored the school). As mentioned above, the school was in a great space, and the closure process a shock. The treatment of staff during that process was disgraceful, but that is a story for another day. The teachers were so bitterly upset with treatment from MOE during the process of closing Waimokoia, that only 1 of the 8 highly skilled teaching staff continued teaching at another school the following year.

    All this sounds negative and horrible. The real message I want to share is that Waimokoia (at least in her last two years!) was a brilliant place that helped children get back on track. We authentically loved the kids we worked alongside. We took them to places they’d never experienced before. One South Auckland 10 year old had never been to the beach – when we took him for his first time he grinned all day! Some kids learnt to trust adults for the first time ever. Some kids got a year of respite from cyclical abuse that they were experiencing at home. Some kids got a warm bed and three meals a day for the first time in their young lives. Three years on, my students are still in contact with me! I love hearing how they are growing into great young people! We catch up now and again, and their parents look me in the eye and say “We’re so lucky that _____ was able to have a fresh start at Waimokoia. Thank you!”

    I know not everyone had the same experience over the years, but please keep in mind that in the latter years, Waimokoia was a healthy place for kids going through the ‘white water’ years of their lives. Hope was what kept me going to work every day. Hope was what needed to come into the lives of the kids again.

    We often told the students –
    “Waimokoia means ‘white water’ … we’re here to help you get through these rapids, and one day you’ll be out the other side, and you’ll be all good!”

    May all those who have struggled find peace, and discover a life-line of hope.

    • admin_grant on said:

      Thanks for the message Sarah. I feel for those good staff who had the childrens interests at heart. One thing that must be stressed on my part is that for all the staff that passed through Mt Wellington and Waimokoia Residential School only a very small percentage were bad apples. However, that is all that it takes. One abuser can irreparably change the lives of many. I think something else must also be said in that I have read many reviews of the school by students and many of them enjoyed their time at the school and had only good things to say (often defending the school and its staff). However, some ex students alleged assaults, sexual abuse etc. I think that its fair to say that Mt Wellington Residential/Waimokoia had both good times and bad.

      A couple of things I would say is that all this information first went public in 2010 via this story http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/features/3999448/Waimokoias-abuse – That is, this article doesn’t raise any new information.

      Secondly, you make it sound a bit as if adults were typically the victims of children (abused by children) and not vice versa with this: ” Each of the staff entered that campus every day with the realisation that they could go home with bruises, teeth knocked out, and after being the recipient of verbal abuse. By the time we went home we had been sworn at, punched, stabbed, spat on and had saved children from trying to commit suicide.”

      I find this somewhat exaggerated based on my time at Mt Wellington Residential School. I would say in the 8 or so months I spent at the school, there was only one violent outburst where a teacher may have been hurt (albeit, other than ending up in tears with a largely bruised ego she escaped serious physical harm). This was when one of the older male students lashed out and hit a female teacher. He was quickly overpowered and restrained. In fact, it was several other students (myself included) who initially overpowered him until a male teacher arrived to help. That’s not to say the potential for teachers to be hurt didn’t exist but certainly my own experiences were that violent outbursts by students against teachers were extremely rare. Other than this, there were three to four other outbursts I can remember – these being after school hours when teachers had gone home. On all occasions the students were restrained and on two occasions the students were more than restrained (one being viciously assaulted by a house master who continued to allow the child to attack him – on each occasion kicking him or slapping/punching him down and then allowing him to get up and attack him again so that this fully grown adult could knock the child down again. It’s important to note, however, that this type of behaviour on the part of staff was rare. This particular house master was a sadistic bastard and was smiling at the time and rather than restrain the child he chose to further incite him and inflict serious physical harm). That’s not to totally deny a threat to adult workers, albeit one must also realise that even the most psychologically damaged child should pose limited threat to fully grown adults if the right procedures are in place to protect staff. There were no attempted suicides while I attended the school, no attempted stabbings, and the occasional bit of verbal abuse – albeit that this too was uncommon. Perhaps things radically changed in terms of those admitted to the school. I believe in my day extremely violent children were either sent to mental health wards or juvenile detention. Additionally, I do remember that at Mt Wellington Residential school it was a case of one or two strike/s and you’re out. That is if you ran away you would possibly end up in juvenile and if you committed a criminal act such as assault you may be sent to juvenile.

      Re criminal charges and convictions of Waimokoia staff. Typically convictions in historic abuse cases are extremely hard to score due to, among other things, time passed since the crime and witness credibility where the prosecution can create benefit of doubt in the minds of the jury based on various factors – just a couple of these being motive for accusing the charged and credibility on the basis that often the accusers in historic abuse cases have gone on to become criminals themselves (you will note this is raised in the media surrounding those who testified at the cases – gang member, convicted burglar, Johnny the pyromaniac etc – the reality is that child abuse often leads to criminal offending for adult survivors of abuse). The sum totality though was there were two convictions – one in 1998 on multiple indecent assault charges, and McCardle on multiple charges in 2009. In addition to this, two former staff were found not guilty – both at retrial after juries couldn’t reach a verdict (hung juries) at their first trials while another staff member died before facing justice. Besides this the MOE sort name suppression of the accused and the school. My belief is that had they not done this more victims would have come forward lending weight to cases and perhaps resulting in further convictions . It seems, as you point out, the MOE was doing everything in its power to gag anyone they could. This extends to the media. The obvious question being why? Just what, as an argued to be open and accountable Government body, were they trying to hide?

      Either way, for me, the question of what did the Ministry know must be raised and did they implement adequate policies and procedures to protect children from physical and sexual abuse early enough? To that, the answer needs to be a categorical no. I think it is fair to say that the MOEs behavior was “deplorable” on several levels (for both students and staff alike). Just one example… in my case I have police records that irrefutably show (by a correspondence between the school and the police) that the Principal of Mt Wellington Residential School buried my sexual abuse (i.e. there was a cover up). Literally, an official of the ministry (written on a Ministry of Education letterhead) explaining to police why he didn’t report a suspected pedophile to police after he (my abuser) had been reported for kissing a student of Mt Wellington Residential months before. Then he goes on to explain that he let my abuser go (asked for his resignation) due to the fact that his performance was inadequate – never mind the fact that they had just received a report of him kissing a student:-( This gave a pedophile 3 more months on the loose until he was finally reported to police by the parents of a boy he coached soccer to. Then after this three months, when police arrested Gavin Ross Mitchell – by then an ex Assistant Housemaster at Mt Wellington Residential – they made contact with the school, whereupon an official of the MOE writes to the police explaining why they had not reported him, and how it was that at least one of their students (it was more – there are records where he had taken several other students home and a very good friend of mine at the school at that time had told me what had happened to him) had been sexually abused by one of their staff. Following this, nothing was seemingly done to ensure no repeat could occur (in fact they didn’t even bother making contact with me or my mother to offer help or say sorry).

      This is all acknowledged in my case review with: “Staff in both the residential and school were organised and rostered to ensure that children were safe and to also minimise risks for staff. This included the provision of a school and hostel system to prevent abuse of children and that where approvals had been given for off-site visits there would be safe adult oversight of the children. If there was suspicion or allegations of abuse it was expected that these would be appropriately responded to. While the incidents involving Mr edit occurred away from the school, it is clear that Mr Mitchell used the opportunity provided by his job at the school to contact and abuse students.”

      and:

      “There was an expectation that students knew how to complain if they were unhappy with how they were being treated at school by staff member and to feel safe that any complaint would be listened to and acted on. This included the requirement that all significant incidents concerning the protection of children within the school would be notified to school management through the known systems. As detailed in paragraph 5.8 when Mr edit did express concern regarding Mr Mitchell to a staff member he was more likely than not assaulted and punished. Not surprisingly Mr edit was reluctant to make any further disclosures.” and

      (Most Inportantly)

      While Mr edit was at the lower level of need for enrolment at Mt Wellington School he had real behavioural needs that needed to be met. However, there is sufficient evidence to support a finding that the abuse that he was subjected to added further detriment. Once he left the school there was no further recorded follow-up of any kind. Mrs edit advises that no contact of any kind was made by Mt Wellington School subsequent to the arrest of Gavin Mitchell. Even if one allows for the more limited understandings and awareness of the psychological ramifications of sexual abuse in the late 1970’s compared to now that there was not even some informally supportive contact for Mr edit and his family seems at the very least to be a lapse in standards by the Mt Wellington School leadership. It could be assumed that the school priority was to distance itself from what had been a shocking event.

      How many other incidents such as this occurred before they introduced adequate policies/system checks? How many more of societies most vulnerable were harmed further? I feel extremely sorry for teachers who lost their jobs without adequate explanation but in truth based on my own experiences I do not believe the state is a fit carer. It is good to hear though that in its last years the MOE implemented sound policy to prevent children from being sexually and physically abused. I do tend to agree with you re time out rooms but from what I have heard from some sources, time out often extended far further than a matter of minutes or even hours. There is quite a difference between reasonable time out and solitary confinement of a child over an unreasonably long period (days in some cases) and which is deemed as illegal imprisonment and has also been challenged as torture in legal cases.

    • By far was the school a safe place for the children. By far were most of the staff equipped to handle or understand, except to abuse the children when various behaviours were displayed. The environment of the school and specific staff did damage to the children that will be felt until they die an old age. So very sad.

  3. Suzanne Hoevers on said:

    Hi I Really need help, My 21 year old son just 3 weeks ago committed suicide partly because of what happened to him at Waimokoia school, he spent time in both red and blue cottage and then green cottage, he was bullied by staff and other students, he told many stories of what was done to him and went to cyfs recently to get help they told him to go to the police and ACC for sensitive claims unit, he told me the police told him to go away, and consequently he ended his life, i could not get him out of Waimokoia, he would tell me things and when the staff found out they would hurt him, he felt in the end no one would believe him so was easier to try and block it all out, now my baby is gone and i am left devastated and cannot now apply for a funeral grant :-( shame on the people who did this to my child.

    • admin_grant on said:

      I am so sorry to hear about your loss and what your son was forced to live through. What years was he at Waimokoia and did he mention any names of those he was abused by? Is there anything in writing and is there any records from CYFS etc?

      • Suzanne Hoevers on said:

        Hi My son was in Waimokoia twice 2nd time he was there for 2 years from 2002 till 2004, he could not remember their names but could remember their faces he tried so hard to block the horrible images from his mind, i am in the process of trying to get records from GSE and cyfs, cyfs told me 3 months ago they would send the file but have not yet received them, I also know he told me he once ran away from the school or escaped as he put it lived rough for a week till he with a few friends were found i was never told by staff, and when i would ring they would tell me different reasons why i could not talk to him :-( he also told me the smell in the time out dungeon was vile he would be shut in there for long periods of time with no clothes and no where to go to the toilet :-( disgusting!!! i am heart broken.

        • Suzanne Hoevers on said:

          also i would like to say i also know for a fact the kids were made to run laps around the outside field in their boxers in many weather conditions in the early hours of the morning.
          My son was also a day student, and would be transported there by mini bus on one occasion he along with others were stood down for attacking the driver, i remember him saying to me Mum you don’t understand what happened, but of course who believes a child with behaviour problems? he received death threats from the other kids, and at one point was covered in bruises especially over his back he told me several of the kids had kicked and punched him whilst the staff watched and did nothing.

        • admin_grant on said:

          Hi Suzanne, have you applied through OIA material for your sons records? If not I suggest this is the best course as they have an obligation at this point to supply the OIA within a reasonable time frame (I think this is 2 months).

        • Ross Stewart on said:

          was at Mt Wellington Residential School from 1960 till 1963

  4. Ross Stewart on said:

    I also attended Mt Wellington Residential School when it first opened as a government experiment .
    Yes there were abuses and various punishments dealt out to all the pupils, being 35 in total.
    Often I remember running away and being caught only to face punishments by various teachers or house masters which took a huge toll on me.
    I can recall being abused by a house master on several occasions and always feared more abuse at the house masters hands should I have said anything about what was done to me.
    its only in the last 2 years I found out about some the teachers being charged which greatly upset me as no official ever made contact in regards to what went on at Mt.Wellington Residential School or the effects it had on those who were subject to abuse.
    Whats more upsetting is that the police from what I can first gather tried hard to bury the truth by claim we were just disturbed kids and were in a habit of lying.
    Also I am now aware the government of the day was fully aware what was going on in both schools and yet did nothing, so what hope did we have as kids…..none .
    They wanted to bury us stating we had no hope or future , I know like other kids I pleaded with my adopted parents to let me come home and cried every weekend knowing I had been disowned by all concerned even the medical psychologist who recommend I be sent away.
    Even today I still suffer flashbacks of the abuse I suffered

    • admin_grant on said:

      What year/s were you at Mt Wellington Residential?

      And yes, as someone did say, they took the broken and broke them further. While there were no doubt some very good caring staff at the school at times they (the Ministry of Education) systematically failed to implement systems that would vet pedophiles and thugs before they had access to children. Then when the alarm bells should have sounded they ignored the warnings. Sadly, I expect many of us have horror stories from our time at the Institution. Fortunately, the school is now closed. Too bad so many of us were irreparably damaged before this happened.

  5. nicholas autupuna on said:

    hello my name is nicholas

  6. I left a message last night.
    I woke to find it gone am I not doing it right.
    I was a student at Mt Wellington residential school
    1974 to 1975. Mr Browne was principal at that time.
    I to suffered abuse at the hand of a teacher there.
    If anyone out there can respond that would be great.
    I can tell you I was,nt as messed up before going into that school.
    As I was when I left, can anyone help I would like to talk to persons who attended around those dates.Thanks Chris

    • admin_grant on said:

      Hi Chris -message is up and just needed to be approved to appear on the site. Have you tried the old friends site where Mt Wellington Residential is listed. There are only a few members for the school. If anyone contacts me with info I’ll be sure to send it your way. Who was the teacher? I was there in 77-78.

      • All I know he was knowing as Mr Smith.
        Am I able to get a staff list for those years thanks.thanks for getting back to me

        • admin_grant on said:

          Hey hit me at nzchildabuse@gmail.com and we can discuss ways of getting records. The first thing to try is applying officially for records through OIA with the MOE. However, oddly (not) the MOE seems to have destroyed a lot of records re Mt Wellington Residential. They fed me lines of shit when I applied for records. However, join old friends at http://www.oldfriends.co.nz/ and put the word out with ex Mt Wellington Residential students and ask if anyone can remember his full name. Actually M8 just did this for you so I will see if anyone knows his full name. He wasn’t there when I was there although we did have another peddo bastard of a teacher in 77-78. I think he has since been charged and convicted. Chances are if he (Smith) messed with you he also got to other children (standard rock spider MO) so if bringing a case against him you should go to police and report the abuse because others may have come forward to them also. There was a massive police investigation into the institution and because it was so rife in peddos and other low life I expect you’ll find the police take your complaint seriously. The MOE may not be willing to cough up Smith’s details to you but they will have no choice when questioned by police.

        • Terrence Wensor on said:

          mr tom smith was the hobby teacher i have all ways thought i could be wrong

  7. Thanks for your reply
    The reason for my investigation is more peace of mind rather than justice.

    My abuse was sexual not physical.
    And to find out if he had his day like all sick dogs do.
    I would hate It if he slipped through the gaps & went undetected
    Allowing him to prey on other children.
    Saying that my bed wasn’t the only bed he parked his sick ass on.
    It would be nice to know that he is now dead giving the years that have gone bye.
    Still by talking to any one else that did suffer at the hands of that piece of shit
    Helps them to feel better about the situation they are in all good I am happy to talk.
    If I find there are others out there in the same boat & would like to take it further then
    That also would be fine by me Thanks Chris

  8. Stephen Close on said:

    Someone has just told me about the abuse which took place at this institution. While it is to be applauded that the school was much better in its last years the legacy of the place sounds as if it is one of shame and abuse. Your efforts in helping to support former pupils is commendable and this is a great resource. It appears my informant had read what was on this page so there are many who are helped by this information who may not contact you directly.

  9. Ross Stewart on said:

    Hi
    after 6 months of official requests to Ministry of Education I have obtained a full list of staff members names and positions of Mt.Wellington Residential School from opening in 1960 till closing in 1966.
    Regards
    Ross

    • admin_grant on said:

      Hey Ross could you send me a copy of that to my email nzchildabuse@gmail.com – looking for a couple of names myself. Thx

  10. i hope this question is not taken in offence, and I am very sorry to be asking this. But is there any evidence, or to anyone’s knowledge, any deaths occurring on the grounds at Waimokoa?

    • admin_grant on said:

      Not as far as I know, although I have heard of a death by drowning accident that occurred under teacher/carer supervision outside the grounds.

  11. the teacher with the last name Bryant name was Kevin..he used to carry a drum stick and either poke you with it or hit you with it..I know for sure that he was Gay..he was a bit to feminine..he hit me in the back of the head one day next thing I remember is thinking how the fuck did end up here..later was to find out he hit me for talking to another kid beside me when we used to have 15 minute sleep periods..pretty ironic cause most of us would be out like light ..I wonder if it had anything to do with having to be on guard at night because of that CUNT McArdle..

    • admin_grant on said:

      Yes mate he was as queer as a fish (re Bryant). I remember him also. Nasty little bastard with a sadistic streak.

    • Terrence Wensor on said:

      i remember that teacher taking photos of me he got angry when i knocked over blocks that he d made me stack.i was put on Ritalin by doctor werry i have been told about their effects. i was possibly doped up to the eye balls. i can remember sum good times at mt wellington.

  12. oh by the way I was in waimokoia from 1980-83..and I just want to say im really gutted that McArdle is dead..Why ??coz it would of been good to stove his head in all by myself ..I honestly would of put a hammer straight over his head ..and I may not go to heaven when I pass but that’s ok it will be good to catch up with mcardle in Hell coz that’s where he is..

  13. Terrence Wensor on said:

    i was one that smashed out of the time out room in mt wellington res. i also fell in love with a girl. i still have a photo of the train trip down in wellington train station. we went in the beehive. i would like to meet up with past detainees. my phone number 0275325990 please text ring me .

    • admin_grant on said:

      I think a few people smashed their way out of that room – you mean the windowless plywood box beneath the boys dorm right? What year were you there? Around 77?

      • Terrence Wensor on said:

        I was in there in 1979 not sure for how long. that’s right under the boys dorm they made it stronger after another boy tai broke out of it. I couldn’t stand up in it and have always remembered it like a bobby calves pen.

  14. hi there admin Grant I was reading this blog I was at waimokoia in the early 80′s and was a permanent resident in the blue dorm and did not go home much Palmerston north was my home and to all the people that had bad experiances there im so sorry I was unable and so blind to be able to help you with what was happening around me and others I found my time there at that time a hell of a lot better than where I came from just to learn the basics of bein a kid with other kids and they were how would you say like brothers from another mother I have kids and was going to show them this place that was a big part of my life is now smudged out of existance by all that has happened

  15. Terrence Wensor on said:

    I can remember the teacher telling me I wasn’t going to have any afternoon tea until I had taken my meds. I still remember doing the coloured reading and writing stuff.

  16. Toni Collier on said:

    I went to Waimokoia in 2000-2001.. I’m 27yrs old now… was 1 of only 4 girls at the time… sexual abuse was happening there at the time by the staff and other pupils… we were given medication every night that had not been prescribed by doctors.. blue pills and little pink pills.. I had no idea this all went through court I’m gutted I couldn’t have a say and can tell of a lot more names of pupils that need justice and staff that need to be behind bars…

    • admin_grant on said:

      Please hit me at nzchildabuse@gmail.com with names and info. Why couldn’t you have your say??? Were you excluded from the CLAS because of your age and the years the abuse occurred in?

  17. Trevor Bryan on said:

    hi there i went to mt wellington for a year in 1972.I never saw or heard of anything like i’m reading when i was there.i remember some of the staff.Bob Cunis of course ,great guy,i remember running away and was sitting on a bench in panmure and he pulled up took me to his home and his missus gave me scones.anyway Mr laughton?and his wife was head master.mr griffith?[spelling not right] mr erickson, were teachers.John Barttle and mr hay were housemasters.Hay left and mr twyman took over.and mr lattee? was the groundskeeper.i remember one of the woman i think she was the cook mrs vercoe.she made yorkshire pudding on sundays .mr browne come as headmaster later on in the year.anyway hope you all get the justice you deserve and can find some peace.I think we were all a bit broken to be there and being there did nothing to fix us.i resented being put there and to this day have never forgiven my mother for doing it.

    • admin_grant on said:

      Yeah hey I think many had okay experiences at the Mt. It wasn’t all bad for all. The problem here was a pedo was hired and then quietly asked to resign and yes the staff are all important. There were some great staff there also. I would have had happy memories of the place had the sexual abuse not occurred and had I not been smashed when I reported it. I think you will get mixed reviews from onetime students. Some have horrible memories and others good. What it comes down to is who were the staff there at the time. I was there is 77 – 78 and a few different names then you mention here. I have some fond memories too I guess. It’s all a bit cloudy now because my memory tried to bury the memories surrounding the abuse which means recall is hard and painful. As kids though we were kind of family and I hope my Mt family faired okay in life.

  18. Kaitlyn T. on said:

    Hi! I was a student at the school in the last year of it being open…
    I was infact in Miss Blands class, I was a very very troubled and angry child before I went there, but as soon as I walked through the doors on the first day I was really calm and not anxious. Usually I would have huuuge temper tantrums atleast once a week but whilst I was there I only had one in my entire year of being there. The one I did have was a massive fit. I repeatedly punched and attempted to harm other students and teachers in that one fit of rage. I was chucked into a building I believe it was the green one. I was locked in a room for a week, no bed no nothing I had to sleep on the floor Ionly had one meal a day and that was it. The fit of rage was caused by me hearing that the school was shutting down and I didnt understand why at the time.. I was an excellent student when I was there (not to sound narcisstic or anything ) I do remember a few of the male teachers being quite creepy and giving me bad vibes though.

  19. PAOLA PAGAIN on said:

    Does anybody remember me Paola or paula Pagani in 1979 Mt Eden residential school or waimokoia residential school please reading this stories brings tears to my eyes as much as this was the same for me

    • admin_grant on said:

      We were there about the same time but I think I was out of there in 1978 at second semester. There was a page on old friends but the site isn’t there anymore unfortunately. I guess we’d know some of the same people. Who were the teachers there in 79? Hinds, Booth, Bryant???

  20. PAOLA PAGAIN on said:

    It was 1978 and 1979

  21. PAOLA PAGAIN on said:

    I have evidence of me attending these institutional schools before I attended I had been raped for 6 years buy a friend of my father’s often. so yes it was that there were a lot of behaviour problems I had that I developed from and was sent to Mt Wellington regional school and waimokoia because of my behaviours but at Mt Wellington my behaviours escalated with more and extreme much more where I was dealt terrifying and horrifc abuse sexual and physical violence I sufferd in that school that was supposed to help me not to torment me the only salvage I ever had there was running away to a cliff on the side of the quarry crying quite a ways from the back side of the school where we ate in the dining room where they used to ignite dynamite and I would cover my ears and cry but it felt safer being there on a cliff I absolutely hated the school especially at night I can fully relate to these stories I have never told anyone but my husband as I thought it was too unbelievable who would believe me I’m sorry my spelling and predictive text is not good.

  22. I ended up getting a lump sum off the ministry of education of 20 grand..ended up in jail and heard of people getting 60grand at places for less traumatized shit that what I went through in the Mid 80s in Waimokoia..apparently being put in Time out for days on end and being beating up for trying not to be raped at 10 is only worth 20grand..when I asked Cooper Lawyers why they said that because my mother signed some documents it made things ok..that was at the beginning of this year..come on Cooper legal are you for real..any suggestions on how I can reclaim ??

    • admin_grant on said:

      You can’t reclaim if you accepted the offer of $20,000. All you can do is reject the amount which also is pretty pointless because offers aren’t negotiable. That’s what happens when the perp also becomes the judge and jury – i.e. the victim of the perp gets raped again by the very same perp (the NZ Gov). And yeah look we are pushing for a Royal Commission which is looking very likely in the near future. At that point I expect many negative things will be said about Cooper Legal including my experience with the callous fucks. Unfortunately though for now they are the only option the historic abuse claimants have re choices for legal aid. Hopefully we can also change that

  23. Paola pagani on said:

    I am not looking for compensation or money I just want this s*** to stop because it seems to follow me throughout my life causing more for syndemic harm in life and now my children too

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