New Zealand Rejects Calls for Royal Commission Into Historic Child Abuse – Australia Leads the Way

In November 2012, the Archbishop of Wellington New Zealand, and President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC), John Dew, publically supported the Royal Commission into institutionalised child abuse announced in Australia.

Archbishop Dew said the NZCBC would support any similar investigation in New Zealand.

But the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key said that he does not see the need for an inquiry into child sex abuse, similar to the one announced in Australia noting a lot of work has already been done in New Zealand to prepare a white paper for vulnerable children.

NZ Social Development Minister Paula Bennett backed up Key’s position stating enough is already being done.

“I think the fact that we have been addressing historical abuse cases in this country, we have been doing it faster than it’s ever been done, we’ve been fronting up to some of the liability around that and settling a number of cases,” Ms Bennett said.

That includes the confidential listening and assistance service, through which people can raise allegations of abuse or neglect, or who have concerns relating to their time in state care before 1992.

“I think we’ve got other things in place that are addressing what, without a doubt, is cases of historical abuse.” (source: http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/2012/11/13/17/01/nz-govt-sees-no-need-for-sex-abuse-inquiry)

Which, I guess, is why we’re here. Upon quick analysis (putting aside the political smoke and mirrors).

Confidential Listening Services: A government funded/run body headed by Judge Carolyn Henwood, who is currently a member of the New Zealand Parole Board (handy, given that many historic abuse claimants have had histories with the criminal justice system – call me sardonic. I.e. characterised by irony, mockery and derision). Among other things, they note on their site: “You can bring support people, however legal representation is not allowed.” (Why?) Quick note… as just one of those who were abused in state care, any chance of a neutral, “independent”, non-government body to speak to? It seems only fair. (see footnote)

Settling Historic Abuse Claims: Government acting as prosecutor and defense, claiming that their anything but independent review process is “independent”, while invoking a six year statute of  limitations clause to escape legal accountability through the courts.

The White Paper -  A paper that focuses on monitoring/reporting/policing (crime and punishment) while totally failing to identify with proactive social measures to protect children prior to abuse. “A very poorly thought out piece of work…An insult to the people who took the time to make submissions.” Read more about the White Paper here….

Footnote re Confidential Listening Services: I had contacted the ‘Confidential Listening Services’ in mid 2011, via email, and explained my case re being denied legal aid and other factors. Their response was to place my trust in the government process. My response/question was: “Do you think it’s a good idea to tell those who were shafted by a government to now trust that government?” No reply!

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutionalised Child Sex Abuse

The Australian Federal Government recently (November 2012) announced a royal commission into child sex abuse, with PM Julia Gillard stating:

[Quote]

“Any instance of child abuse is an evil and vile thing. It is appropriate for there to be a national response through a royal commission. This, I hope, will help with the healing.” Adding, “this will never happen again”.

[End Quote]

And in coverage that featured in the UK Telegraph (12/11/2012):

[Quote]

The historic inquiry will be the country’s most extensive investigation into institutional abuse and will have wide-ranging powers to call witnesses and unearth evidence.

The prime minister has come under pressure to act following explosive claims late last week by a senior police officer that the Catholic Church covered up evidence of paedophilia by priests.

Stipulating that she was not seeking to single out an individual church, Ms Gillard said the commission will consider the role of all Australian religious organisations, non-profit groups, child welfare agencies and the response of the police.

“There have been too many revelations of adults who have averted their eyes from this evil,” she said.

“The allegations that have come to light recently about child sexual abuse have been heartbreaking. These are insidious, evil acts to which no child should be subject.”

(Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/9671952/Julia-Gillard-launches-Royal-Commission-into-child-sex-abuse.html)

[End Quote]

The Royal Commission will cover schools, community groups and religious institutions. While the commission will look at all institutions (state run homes, juvenile justice, foster care, church and charitable organisations etc) the Catholic Church is coming in for the most attention.

There will be consultations with stakeholders including victims of abuse, community leaders and religious groups.

The latest Herald/Nielsen poll shows a record 95 per cent of Australian voters support the Royal Commission, while only 3 per cent are opposed. Nielsen poll director, John Stirton, said he could not recall a poll issue receiving such universal support.

Among other things:

  1. The Royal Commission into child sexual abuse will be asked to suggest new rules to prevent future attacks and procedures to follow when allegations are raised and how to deal with abuse that has occurred.
  2. A discussion paper released by the Federal Government says the commission can suggest new laws as well as policies to make government agencies better able to respond.
  3. The commission will also be asked to identify roadblocks inside institutions and organisations that prevent proper notification and investigation of claims.
  4. State governments will be asked to hand over information to ensure no individual, institution or organisation “can avoid scrutiny”.
  5. The inquiry may also make findings about counselling and support for victims and their families.

Additionally, at time of writing, there are already two state government inquiries underway, one in Victoria and one in the Hunter region of New South Wales. There has been public apologies  by the PM of Australia and several Australian State Premieres to victims of historic abuse dating back to 1999 when the Queensland Government, with representatives of religious authorities, including the Catholic and Anglican churches and the Salvation Army, issued a formal apology for instances of past abuse and neglect in Queensland institutions.

The Australian apologies can be summarised as:

  1. 1999 – Queensland (as above)
  2. April 2005 – Western Australia issued an apology to “people who were harmed in institutional care” over the period covered by the ‘Forgotten Australians report’.
  3. May 2005 – The Tasmanian Legislative Assembly apologises to the victims of abuse that occurred in state care and expresses their deep regret at the hurt and distress that this has caused.
  4. June 2005 – the NSW Minister for Community Services apologised in the form of an answer to a question without notice in the NSW legislative assembly. In September 2009 the NSW government issued a second apology.
  5. August 2006 – Victorian Premiere Steven Bracks apologises to victims of abuse in state institutions. The standing orders of the parliament were suspended to allow the Premier, the leaders of the Liberal and National parties and the Minister for Community Services to make statements.
  6. June 2008 – South Australia issued a formal apology to those who suffered or witnessed abuse or neglect in State care. The apology took the form of a motion moved by the Premier, the Hon. Mike Rann, in the State legislative assembly.
  7. On the 16th November 2009, Kevin Rudd, the then Australian Prime Minister, made a public apology for the decades of abuse endured by children in Australian state care.

Calls for New Zealand to Mirror Australian Royal Commission

Australian Police have indicated they want to speak to members of St John of God in New Zealand in relation to incidents of historic abuse at Marylands school in Christchurch where three Catholic brothers were convicted of historical abuse.

National manager of the of the NZ organisation Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust, Ken Clearwater, says many other victims came forward after those cases went to court – highlighting the scope of the issue in New Zealand.

“It’s widespread throughout New Zealand and the Catholic Church in New Zealand have tried to downplay it and I think now they may have to open it up.”

Mr Clearwater says the New Zealand Government needs to follow Australia’s lead.

“Hopefully it will certainly help the Australian inquiry, but we’ve got to have an inquiry here in New Zealand. We’ve got to stop pretending that it’s OK and that it didn’t happen, we certainly (must) have an inquiry here.”

 

More soon…

3 comments on “New Zealand Rejects Calls for Royal Commission Into Historic Child Abuse – Australia Leads the Way

  1. Royalcommission on said:

    It is a tragedy that the Prime Minister does not see a need for a Royal Commission. As a New Zealand citizen who was victim of abuse in Australia I think that something serious has been missed, and the issue is that a religious organisation has been responsible for the rape and torture of citizens of New Zealand, and the uncovering of these crimes which are against the Geneva convention ought to be brought into the open.
    It is unfortunately a serious misunderstanding or even the height of arrogance to suggest that the problem has been dealt with appropriately, it hasn’t. The Australian RC will create a platform for many people to come forward and testify, this will uncover the networks which have been hidden within the church. With what we are currently seeing in LA, what we have seen in Ireland and what is gradually emerging in Australia, it would be quite absurd to say that New Zealand did not have the same problem. As the representative of the Franciscans said ‘it is priveleged information’ when questioned on child abuse. As I will be testifying my ‘privileged information’ about the Franciscans in Australia at the RC, it seems only be fair to citizens of New Zealand, that all that privileged information about children who were raped and tortured be shared publicly. As the Franciscans haven’t made the priveleged information public in Australia about myself and others, we will do it for them. If a Government doesn’t stand up for their people on human rights issues, they have no right to govern.

    http://www.peterellis.org.nz/church/2003/2003-0222_NZHerald_HealingPath.htm

    • admin_grant on said:

      Certainly NZ needs to face up to its past and hold a Royal Commission into institutionalised child abuse just as many countries are now doing. Obviously much of this would fall on the Catholic Church, as has been the case in findings of other Royal Commissions. Actually I was an Australian citizen who was sexually and physically abused in NZ state care – our stories in this respect are similar, albeit opposite poles…However, regardless of nationality or country the problem exists and child sexual abuse has gone largely unchecked for far too long in all countries. I personally believe this is largely due to the abhorrent nature of child sexual abuse and the fact that it was easier for a society to deny it then to face up to it. Let’s face it, accepting that children were molested, raped and abused while in the care of those that were (and to some still are) highly respected is a hard cross to bare. I also believe that the skeletons have been allowed to remain in the closet due to the political power of those with the most to lose perverting the course of justice and lobbying to ensure their dirty secrets remain unexposed. Let’s face it – who are the most guilty in terms of institutions? The State and the Church! To Australia’s credit their RC is not only investigating the church, but also investigating their own past failures and the latter is the thing the NZ Government seems most resistant to do.

      There’s a couple things happening in NZ now that may force the NZ Government to hold a commission. Namely, the long awaited human rights report on NZs handling of child abuse, I suspect, will be condemning of NZs human rights record in this area and secondly the fact that it has taken a philanthropist (Owen Glenn) to fund any type of inquiry (to the tune of 80 million NZD) – even offering to fund a Royal Commission only to have his offer rejected by a Government who seems to be doing their best to deny justice to victims – worse yet to politicise those victims and economically rationalise them while feeding them half arsed apologies with legal disclaimers and utilising a 6 year statute of limitations that only exists for Government (not for its citizens) to create a legal loophole in which they can escape being held legally accountable. What’s certain is while Australia has held several State Inquiries and offered unreserved apologies to victims and is now in the process of a major Royal Commission into historic institutionalised child sexual abuse and while other countries such as the UK are making serious investigations through inquiries and commissions NZ is looking extremely bad. Let’s hope the Glenn Inquiry results in the NZ National Party losing the next election so that another party may do what John Key and his cronies (e.g. Paula Bennett) have failed to do. Either way, let’s hope Owen Glenn’s vision of forcing NZs political parties to work together on the problem becomes a reality. Politics aside – this comes down to the future welfare of children and it’s too easy to lose sight of this.

      On the upside, historically we seem to have finally reached a point where future generations of children may be protected through the acknowledgement that for far too long children, through denial and system failures, were unnecessarily sexually and physically abused in instituionalised care. While it is easy to be cynical about NZs approach it is just as easy to be positive about what is happening elsewhere.

      Thanks for speaking on behalf of others at the Australian Commission. Let’s hope that one day those who were sexually abused in NZ will get true justice.

  2. Royalcommission on said:

    Thankyou

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