This article is dedicated to Daryl Brougham and all the other survivors of New Zealand’s ‘care’ that didn’t live to see justice.
Daryl Ritchie Brougham.16 November 1979 to 26 July 2018. RIP
It’s been a long time since I last published on newzealandchildabuse.com. I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting (and waiting!) for the final Terms of Reference (TOR) for the promised to be independent Royal Commission, which in fact appears to be anything but “independent” (i.e. free of influence from those being investigated).
However, there’s still been no announcement of the final TOR and I have decided to put pen to paper and record what has been happening in the drawn-out period between the announcement of the RC on February 1st 2018 and now, nine months later.
As Peter Dunne, the onetime leader of United Future put it in some recent media;
“The Government milked political kudos from setting up the Royal Commission of Inquiry into abuse of children in state care but, having launched it with a fanfare, has now left it dangling with the clock ticking on the reporting deadline… The commencement of the Inquiry is no nearer than it was some months ago, yet the clock is still ticking.
The Royal Commission is still expected to complete its work and submit its final report during the term of the current Parliament. (In practical terms, if the Government is intending to take any action on the Royal Commission’s final recommendations, before the next election, it will need to receive the report by about February 2020 at the latest.)
When the Royal Commission was announced the Prime Minister lauded it as a “chance to confront our history” and a “significant step”.
The Minister for Children was no less voluble, acknowledging the scope of children who were abused, the impact on their families, whanau and communities, and the need to make sure it never happened again.
Fine words indeed, but perhaps the Prime Minister’s final comment that day put the Inquiry’s establishment into its proper perspective from the Government’s point of view. Her closing focus was not about the children, the victims, or the failures, but about the fact that establishing the Inquiry was the final step in the Government’s first 100 days’ plan.” (original here)
While Survivors Die
Recently it came to my attention that Daryl Brougham had passed away after a two-month battle with pneumonia and an unknown virus that left him on life support for four weeks. He was 38. Brougham, a state abuse victim and qualified social worker, had published a book, ‘Through the Eyes of a Foster Child’ and he had championed the rights of children who are in state care. It saddened me to hear the news – far too many of us have died prematurely over the time that I have been involved in lobbying for justice. Brougham though was a public figure, outspoken and regularly featuring in the media, and his passing was widely and respectfully reported; however, the premature deaths of many other survivors go unnoticed… nameless and anonymous they quietly disappear, their struggle over, their stories never recorded.
Brougham’s death though got me thinking that all of us who survive owe it to the others to tell their story and fight for their justice because they cannot. It is a story that goes well beyond being banged up and raped and abused in New Zealand’s institutions. It transcends to now through our lives and the legacy the abuse left us with. Further, the story extends to successive governments who have cynically tried to contain the facts through intimidation, separation, silence and lies. So, for example, the perpetrator of abuse, the state, has hired private detectives to investigate claimants in at least several cases and just today, as I write, as a vocal and outspoken critic against the New Zealand State I am about to sign a privacy waiver with a journalist so that he can look into why I am being harassed by the tax department (ATO) and Centrelink in Australia. Additionally, this waiver also allows him to look into why my phone appears to be tapped. I won’t go into detail but suffice to say there has a been a string of events which all point to a concerted effort on the part of someone or something to target me through government instruments and institutions.
The Jacinda Ardern Government Form to Date
The Ardern Labour Government came into power on a platform of, among other things, the promise of a public apology and an independent inquiry surrounding generations of abuse against children in state care. However, so far, we have not received the public apology (not a whisper), nor have the final terms of reference been announced for the inquiry. Other than this, the initial announcement for the independent inquiry was a proposal for a Ministerial Inquiry, an inquiry by Government of Government. This initial announcement was quickly and loudly slated by myself and many others as anything but “independent” and the Ardern Government then changed course and announced on February 1, 2018, the inquiry would be a Royal Commission with to quote:
“Thank you for joining us…. For this last announcement of part of this coalition government 100-day plan. With this announcement I think we have saved one of the more significant historic issues that this government will deal with in our time in office; in fact, that New Zealand is likely to deal with for some decades to come…
Today we are announcing that the inquiry into state care will be a Royal Commission. This I think is a significant step towards acknowledging and learning from the experiences from those who were abused in state care, but the fact that it is a Royal Commission, the highest level of a commission of inquiry that this government is able to establish acknowledges two things; the independence that survivors and victims asked us to provide this inquiry with and just the level of impact it has had on individuals lives and their views of the state…
We do want this inquiry process to be responsive to survivors needs and their desires and believe the way in which this inquiry has been established will do that.
First and foremost, we will consult on the draft terms of reference. So, the terms of reference put before you today will be taken out …. for consultation…. Our expectation though, our hope, is we will have an opportunity as a government to see this through to its end. We’ve asked Sir Anand (the appointed inquiry head) to be in a position to start hearing from individuals around midyear and that we will have a report back before the end of this parliamentary term.”
Some worrying and all too familiar trends then emerged during the press questions that followed. For example, Jacinda Ardern informed the media pack that the inquiry didn’t have the power to determine what constitutes fair and adequate redress and that the resolved cases of abuse (about 1,400 cases) were done and dusted and no further compensation would be considered by the “independent” (Cough! Cough!) inquiry. This in the face of UN Committee Against Torture findings in 2015 of:
“19. While welcoming the commitment of the State Party to provide compensation to victims of historic claims of abuse, the Committee is concerned at the fact that victims have not been awarded with full redress, including compensation and rehabilitation, as prescribed by general comment No. 3 (2012) on the implementation of article 14 by States parties.
… The State party should establish the legislative and structural framework necessary for ensuring that all victims of torture receive redress, including medical and psychological assistance, full compensation and the means for full rehabilitation.”
indicated that the Ardern Government, much like the John Key National Government before it, would continue to doggedly violate the rights of the historic abuse claimants through offering up by far the lowest redress in the developed world.
As one journalist (Aaron Smale) puts it;
“The official response to victims, from both National and Labour governments, was spun as kindly and benevolent. Finlayson said it was working. In reality, it was only working for the government. The political response was a cynical and well-resourced strategy to shut down victims, bullying them into accepting the solution that best suited the state. I even saw a Cabinet paper that predicted the claims would taper off as victims died.
As I looked closely at the institutional response, I came to the conclusion the state was behaving like a psychopath. If you consider that perpetrators of abuse, particularly child sex offenders, are in the habit of silencing their victims by threats and manipulation, the state fits neatly into this pattern.”
31st December 1999 Cutoff Date – an Umbrella of Protection for the Guilty
The next worrying thing that occurred was the press were informed that there was a December 1999 cutoff date – thus, any events that have occurred after the 31st of December, 1999 fall outside of the remit of the inquiry.
So, for example, Helen Clark, Jacinda Ardern’s Labour predecessor and mentor, took power in September of 1999.
During her time as PM it was Clark who set the tone for New Zealand’s approach to resolving claims of historic abuse after legal action was taken by onetime Lake Alice inmates/patients/wards against the state. It was Clark’s government that failed to adequately investigate crimes against the Lake Alice claimants and it was Clark’s government that failed to pursue and prosecute alleged perpetrators of abuse from Lake Alice in the face of overwhelming and compelling evidence – an issue of contention with the UN today. Further, it was the Clark government’s actions that were labeled “Kafkaesque” (characteristic or reminiscent of the oppressive or nightmarish qualities) by Judge Broadmore during a case where it was shown that Lake Alice payments had been scalped by the Clark Government.
Additionally, it was the Clark Government that established the now widely slated historic claims processes/redress scheme and it was the Clark Government that sort to quarantine/contain information surrounding the generations of abuse of New Zealand children in state run institutions through, among other things, holding closed door inquiries where the panels of these inquiries were explicitly instructed not to release information to the public and/or press.
It is, therefore, the Clark government, among others, which needs thorough investigation at the Royal Commission; however, it is the Clark government, which came into power in September 1999, which is coincidently (or not) protected by the current Labour government through the December 1999 cutoff date of the independent (Cough! Cough!) RC.
As journalist Aaron Smale, puts it:
“the call for an inquiry looks all very prim and proper. But the inquiry will be instructed in such a way that it doesn’t turn up any damming conclusions about those calling for it. MSD and Crown Law have even tried this with the Royal Commission. For some inexplicable reason they were allowed to shape the draft terms of reference, even though they are the ones being investigated. In the draft there’s a cut-off date of 1999 for the scope of the inquiry. 1999 was when Helen Clark’s government started developing a litigation strategy, which included the White case, that was focused on the needs of the state not the victims. The current staff of Crown Law, MSD and the current Labour government for that matter don’t want the actions of the Clark government, and the bureaucrats who served it, exposed to the scrutiny of a Royal Commission.”
It’s not about the Institution
The hackles went up when Minister Tracey Martin, who attended the press conference with Jacinda Ardern, stated the inquiry was not a “witch hunt” and it was about the person and not the institution. This language – “witch hunt” – is reminiscent of the language that pedophiles and their enablers use when describing inquiries that ultimately target them and their crimes; the logic of course being that in labeling something a “witch hunt” it invokes a meaning where the innocent are falsely accused.
The only problem being that the state is anything but innocent and by making the inquiry about the individual this shifts the focus away from the real problem – the guilty… the state.
Almost within the same breath, Ms Martin then said that “people aren’t abused by institutions, people are abused by other people”. In response to this statement (as just one survivor) – yes Ms Martin, this is true if you overlook the fact that what the Australian Royal Commission and other inquiries have found is that while it might be individuals within institutions who commit crimes against children it is often the institution itself that is rotten to the core. So for example Ms Martin, in my case it was indeed an individual who sexually abused me and another individual who then bashed me when I reported this abuse. However, it was the institution that covered the whole affair up which is all documented in police records.
As a more contemporary example Ms Martin, and one that is relevant to state abuse, it wasn’t an individual who wrote in a reservation to the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) surrounding Article 14 (redress) which has not been withdrawn despite the UNCAT’s recommendation that the state consider doing so, which reads: “The Government of New Zealand reserves the right to award compensation to torture victims referred to in article 14 of the Convention only at the discretion of the Attorney General of New Zealand.” This was all the state.
As yet another example, Ms Martin, it wasn’t an individual who used every formidable resource at their disposal to deprive a rag tag and beaten band of institutional abuse survivors of a meaningful justice. So for example, it wasn’t an individual that established a redress scheme for survivors of state care where the very same institution that was responsible for the abuse in the first instance then, years on, acts as judge and jury in deeming what is considered justice for their crimes. The end result being a second round of human rights violations and by far the lowest redress in the developed world. This was all the state.
As another example, it wasn’t an individual who entered a reservation into the Convention for the Child which is so wide it effectively negates New Zealand’s responsibility to uphold/respect that Convention. Further, Ms Martin, it wasn’t an individual who failed to ratify an element/section of the Convention for the Child, which allows individuals to make personal, formal complaints to the Committee. This was all the state.
As yet another example, it wasn’t an individual who allowed for statute of limitations to be circumvented for child sexual abuse cases in the Limitations Act 2010 (Section 17), but ensured this wasn’t made retrospective, thereby protecting the state from pre-2010 historic abuse court cases which the state knew would number in the dozens. This was all the state.
As yet another example, it isn’t up to an individual to institute into NZ law the duty of care to children. This is the role of the state. Something the state has failed to do. I mean there are so many examples I could raise but I expect you might take my drift by now. Suffice to say, as Aaron Smale points out, the New Zealand State has acted like a psychopath and this makes it rotten to the core. The fact that your government is now ignoring the concerns raised by the UNCAT about inadequate redress and is trying to hold what it claims to be an “independent” (Cough! Cough!) inquiry, whose TOR was drafted by the guilty party, and which doesn’t include redress and has a 1999 cut off date, which acts to protect the guilty, only supports this further.
Minister Martin also stated when questioned about compensation that the inquiry wasn’t about “that, it’s about truth and reconciliation and validation”. To quickly respond to this, we’ve already had a truth and reconciliation commission which was slated by the Labour (your) government and yet here you are using the same rhetoric that the National Government did when describing the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS). For example, in the CLAS final report the author states:
“I’m really hoping this doesn’t become about money”… (Tracey Martin)
I bet! Let’s face it, the whole game plan is now and has always been to ensure the state is never held accountable.
Besides this, the funds allocated to the inquiry are extremely low when you consider that Australia spent a million dollars a week after announcing the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and announced in April of 2013 that it would provide 44 million AUD over four years for counselling of those who testified at the Commission and, as such, had to relive traumatic childhood experiences. Further, they provided free legal help to all of those testifying at the Commission. This brought the known cost to $66 million before the Royal Commission had taken any formal evidence, with the overall budget for the commission being $372 million. Comparatively, your government has allocated 12 million dollars to the inquiry in its first year of taking evidence.
What you’re also saying is that 1,400 cases of abuse that have been resolved are done and dusted and in spite of UN findings your government is happy with the redress that the victims received, and the fact that the NZ redress scheme caps out at 30 grand through the MOE and 50 grand through the MSD when Australia’s redress, as a result of the Royal Commission, caps out at 150 grand, or three to five (dependent on ministry) times more than NZ. Further, most Australian states have now dropped statute of limitations in historic child abuse cases and what wasn’t mentioned in the press conference was your government has no intention of allowing historic claims before the courts. So for example, I recently spoke to David Parker, Labour’s Attorney General. He informed me that Labour would continue to use any and every defence at their disposal when defending claims of historic abuse in the courts. This included statute of limitations.
What you also are saying is that as the bastards who are responsible for compensating us for the abuse we copped you “really hope this doesn’t become about the money.” However, in the same press conference you wank on about reconciliation and other toss such as truth and validation which really are just fine words where talking the talk while failing to walk the walk are the order of the day – the same shit we were subjected to under the National Government that came before you.
I mean the corker is Jacinda Ardern wanking on about survivor needs. That one is dead simple – survivors need some hope and dignity, a roof over their head and the ability to put food on the table. That takes money – money they haven’t got now, and PM Ardern damn well knows this. Myself and lots more like me have been in contact with Ardern for years. The other corker, of course, being that you actually take people to be stupid enough to buy your toss about independence and integrity when it is patently obvious that this inquiry has been shaped by the state to look out for the state and not the survivor.
“But this is New Zealand, Not Australia” (Tracey Martin)
This is perhaps the most honest thing you’ve said so far. Yes.. true. So, what you are saying is that New Zealanders shouldn’t expect the same level of justice as Australians?
Original Royal Commission announcement here