by Stacey Attwood
The impact of nurture in child development should not be underestimated. As valid as biological factors, the environments in which children are raised have a significant impact on their learning of the world around them. Uncovering the harsh reality of state care abuse in New Zealand leaves me feeling deflated in our capacity and responsibility to protect our children.
Children’s commissioner Russell Wills revealed the 2013-2014 annual statistic substantiating that 117 children in state care were abused- 88 in the care of CYF caregivers, 25 in care of parents (with state custody obligations), and 5 in the care of unapproved caregivers (Moir, 2015). Between the 1950s and 1980s, the state exceeded more than 100,000 placements of children into welfare guardianship- many of which experienced severe cases of neglect (Smale, 2017). To illustrate the types of neglect our vulnerable children were exposed to; food deprivation, sexual assault, torture, ridicule, and social isolation were just some commonalities (Manhire & Morris, 2017).
This is where I feel our government contradicts itself most. With reference to an historical context, a multitude of abuse reports have surfaced from children who were removed from their homes by the state to allegedly ‘protect them’. Instead of safeguarding our tamariki, thousands of children were left abandoned with no trust left for the state (the institution supposedly dedicated to child protection). Some of these children have grown to perpetuate certain unfavourable social behaviours which our government then criminalises them for. How can the government expect these victims to abide to governmental law and protocol, when the state indirectly enabled others to abuse them?
The atrocities of contemporary and historical state care abuse have rightfully unleashed a national outrage. In support of the thousands of victims who are insisting on an inquiry, Maori First, United Future and Act Party (all supporting parties of National) have banded together insisting on an investigation of the historical state abuse claims.
However, it seems that persistent ignorance has lead Bill English to assume that monetary delegations and formal apologies will compensate for the egregious treatments of our children (Finem, 2017). Social Development Minister Anne Tolley is in favour of the Prime Ministers stance. She argues that an inquiry would do more damage for the victims by re-living their trauma (Manhire & Morris, 2017). This makes no sense when thousands of victims compose the body of people insisting on the inquiry! The allegation of ‘re-victimising the victims’ is a feeble attempt at depriving victims the opportunity to voice their experiences. This is a cruel injustice in my eyes- a means of oppressing the already oppressed.
Tolley insists that the state care abuse was not systematic and that the Ministry of Vulnerable children will ensure that history will not repeat itself (Manhire & Morris, 2017). How can she possibly make that promise when state child care abuse reports continue to be written?
An inquiry is paramount to inform the government of historical practices that proved ineffective. No amount of fear for shame of the state’s actions should shadow the importance of giving our victims the justice they deserve.
Finem, L. (2017). Why Bill English & Nasty Nats find Child Abuse
Royal Commissions Terrifying. [online] Lauda Finem. Available at:
abuse-royal-commissions-terrifying/ [Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].
Moir, J. (2015). Children in state care are being abused and CYF is failing them –
report. [online] Stuff. Available at:
are-being-abused-and-cyf-is-failing-them–report [Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].
Manhire, T & Morris, T (2017). Toby & Toby launch an inquiry into abuse in state
care. [online] Available at: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/on-the-
27 Apr. 2017].
Smale, A (2017). Justice delayed, justice denied. Te Manu Korihi [online] Available
[Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].