‘Inspiring’ battler for justice on abuse dies
Ill-health was legacy of childhood in state care, says widow who vows campaign will continue.
The work of a man who helped launch a Crown inquiry into state care abuse following his own appalling childhood won’t be in vain, his heartbroken widow has pledged. Daryl Brougham, 38, died on Thursday after a two-month battle with pneumonia and an unknown virus that left him on life support for four weeks. The Aucklander leaves two daughters aged four and two, and widow Emily Gao. ‘‘We need to carry on what he started,’’ Gao said last night. ‘‘We want everyone to celebrate his life, remember what he has done and to continue his work so no child has to go through what he went through.’’ Brougham died before having a chance to see out the Royal Commission of Inquiry into historical state care abuse – announced in February by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Children Tracey Martin. At that time Brougham publicly called on the Government to launch an inquiry, having previously documented his 18-year physical and sexual abuse in a book, Through the Eyes of a Foster Child. His story was featured in the TVNZ documentary IAm just two weeks ago. Brougham received an official apology from the Ministry of Social Development and $70,000 in compensation in 2015 after it found 40 instances of serious misconduct by his social workers and caregivers while he was moved between more than 50 foster homes. Martin last night told the Sunday StarTimes Brougham was one of the ‘‘brave souls’’ whose public campaigning led to the inquiry, and hopes to fulfil his desire to do better by children in state care. She learned of his death from senior leadership teams involved in advocacy work with Oranga Tamariki. ‘‘He was one of those terribly let down by the state, however Daryl made a brave decision to tell his truth and focus his energy on making sure that other children do not share his experiences,’’ she said. ‘‘I was, and am, immensely saddened to hear of Daryl’s death.’’ Gao believes his ill-health was a sideeffect of his abuse, and has pledged to continue his work. ‘‘We are heart-broken,’’ she said. ‘‘He was an inspirational man and always looked on the positive side of life and put others first. We want everyone to celebrate his life, remember what he has done, and to continue his work so no child has to go through what he went through. ‘‘Abuse is not okay. We know there are negative emotional impacts but there is also physical and long-term effects. There is a part of me that believes the long-term damage from all the starvation and physical abuse is a part of the reason his immune system couldn’t fight the pneumonia.’’ Brougham was in state care from the age of three months and was starved, beaten and sexually abused. It prompted his life’s mission to enact positive change. ‘‘If I can change the lives of even 100 children out of the 3800 currently in foster care then I will have achieved something,’’ he said in 2015. In February he told NewsHub that despite an apology to him his abusers were still walking free, and he recommended a wide-ranging inquiry. The terms of reference for the Crown inquiry are still being drafted, but it will examine cases from 1950 to the end of 1999 to cover state-run institutions including child welfare institutions, borstals or psychiatric hospitals, and where the government contracted services out to other institutions.
Daryl Brougham, who was starved, beaten and sexually abused in foster care, campaigned for a Royal Commission of Inquiry but did not live to see it.