Crying children tell, jurors weep
The heading said it all: “Still killing our children.”
And readers’ letters mirrored the anguish of caring, frustrated, worried people in the community desperate to stop the deaths and the brutal beatings.
In the days that followed that column, two news items about political priorities and public behaviour in the world around us. • One from the Beehive: Dr Pita Sharples frees up $3 million in Maori funding for what he sees as a good cause – not preventing harm to children in their whanau but giving Maori TV what could be a winning try for world cup rugby cover as a new version of the Cargo Cult. • Another from a Dunedin Court where a mother was found guilty of beating her three sons aged 12 down to five in a two-year ordeal for them. Her punishment weapons included a jug cord and a fibreglass rod.
The eldest broke down and wept giving his evidence on closed circuit television – and so did several of the jury as they listened.
The woman’s husband and adult daughter also told of the regular violence.
I wish I’d been in court to hear their reply to a question which must surely have been asked: “Why didn’t you stop her?”
Typical of readers’ worries:
“How your article spoke to me. I’m a United Kingdomqualified social worker for more than 20 years.
“I’ve lived in New Zealand nearly three years and I’m shocked at the amount of child abuse in this country.
“Who’s doing anything about it? Is it part of the Kiwi culture? Surely not.
“I spent about nine years in child protection. After an interview for a call-centre supervisor at Child, Youth and Family, my feedback included: ‘Overall, we thought you did quite well with your interview and role play, but not in supervision of the social workers.’
“‘Oh, why was that?’ I asked. ‘Well, we felt you were too supportive. With our team, you have to give fast instructions, quick decisions. We’re a call-centre.’
“So what support do the social workers get? They don’t need it? Many of them are parents too.
“I must praise you publishing the details of these slaughtered youngsters last year. Please do so again in the weeks leading up to Christmas when families are supposed to be together, peaceful, etc.
“It’s also the most stressful time of the year, when families are expected to fork out lots of money on gifts that they can’t afford.
“When a West African child was tortured and died at the hands of a relative in England several years ago, there was a comprehensive Royal Commission of Inquiry. Its findings were no surprise.
“Several agencies had come into contact with her, none of them communicated properly with one another and, those that did, had to stand before the committee and give an account.
“Can anyone tell me why the government – or previous government – hasn’t arranged for a public inquiry into child abuse? No interest? Cost too much?
“With such a small population in New Zealand, shouldn’t we be among a minority of countries that don’t batter our children – not one of the highest, as you say?”
– Shirley Freeman,
From a victim: “You are so right.There would be an uproar if those heads of the country ended up in hospital or died as the battered children do. But nothing ever gets done about them.
“I get so mad when TV media and politicians get all angry about a child being killed, then it dies away with nothing done, and it happens all the time, absolutely useless. It gets pushed under the carpet.
“For all the reported child abuse there are another hundred that go unreported and worse still I don’t know how to help.
“I apply for jobs where I may be able to do something but the skills I have are not enough.
“I was an abused child and only want to help others. Are a degree and life skills not enough? It always feels like I need more – and then that’s not enough.
“I suppose there are many who try but it is overwhelming and the government spends hundreds of thousands on stupid things.
“Thank you for your column and interest.”
– Name supplied
“The Manukau Courier publishes a weekly account of burglaries in the Manukau area which must alert the general public to the huge incidence of burglaries and the areas.
“A similar list of abused children, their addresses and ethnicity would be a big shock to the general public. Most are blissfully unaware of this catastrophe and the frequency of it.
“There could be an upwelling of support for more drastic action than happens at the moment.
“I am constantly amazed that the Kahui twins never got justice and the case seems to have died.”
– Name supplied
“It would be interesting to remove the Maori and Polynesian numbers and then see what the statistics look like.”
– W A Hunt
Also from the Beehive: In her response to an OECD report slamming New Zealand statistics, Maori Party coleader Tariana Turia spoke of “a piecemeal approach which has failed” and a serious wake-up call to New Zealanders.
“It gives me no comfort at all to see that the report confirms all of the things the Maori Party has been saying about the plight of our children and shows that we must lift our game considerably by investing more in our children.
“The report makes grim reading with this country ranking poorly in child poverty statistics, youth suicides, child pregnancy, health and other indices.
“A society is judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens and this report has found us wanting.
“The Maori Party campaigned to get rid of child poverty, and our whanau ora policy – an holistic approach to dealing with the multiple problems of whanau in need – is the best chance we have of dealing with these issues.
“The piecemeal approach we have taken to date has failed.
“Without an approach like whanau ora we will continue to fail.
“Investing in our whanau is an investment in our future.
“If we don’t do that then we not only doom them to a miserable future but we create a greater problem for us all.”
“Yes, keep repeating the message as long as necessary.
“We need to keep being faced with the chilling facts. We, as a country, need to take responsibility for protecting our kids.
“How many more are being abused that we never hear about?
“Sure, the government has a huge role to play but what can the average Kiwi do about it?”
– Peter and Simone Bruce, Hillsborough
To contact Pat Booth email email@example.com or write care of this newspaper.