Cry­ing chil­dren tell, ju­rors weep

Central Leader - - News -

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 off­ or write care of this news­pa­per.

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