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Survivor tells of ordeal in system that ‘couldn’t care for us Pacific children’

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The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry’s Pacific hearing has begun, with survivors discussing the fallout from the Dawn Raids, among other pain suffered by the state.

Tulou: Our Silent Voices; Open by chairman is the first of its kind for New Zealand and is held for two weeks at the Fale o Samoa in Mangere.

The second witness to testify, Fa’amoana Luafutu, is a survivor of state care abuse and now an artist and playwright.

Fa'amoana Luatufu was barely 12 when he was placed in state care.  Speaking before the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Monday, he went through the impact that decision had on his entire life.

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Fa’amoana Luatufu was barely 12 when he was placed in state care. Speaking before the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Monday, he went through the impact that decision had on his entire life.

“We were put in a system that couldn’t take care of us Pacific children. The state shouldn’t take you away if your life gets worse,” he told the investigation.

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His experiences of abuse in state care left him lost, suicidal and struggling before finally finding solace in the creative arts during a stint in prison.

In response to his testimony, the commissioners chose not to question him and instead Commissioner Aliimuamua Sandra Alofivae thanked him in English and Samoan.

“We receive your story in its entirety. We receive it and want to use it for exactly what you were fighting for, to create change.”

The commissioners attending the Pacific Hearing on State Care Abuse are Aliimuamua Sandra Alofivae, Julia Steenson, Dr.  Andrew Erueti and Judge Coral Shaw.

Chris McKeen / Stuff

The commissioners attending the Pacific Hearing on State Care Abuse are Aliimuamua Sandra Alofivae, Julia Steenson, Dr. Andrew Erueti and Judge Coral Shaw.

From the audience, incumbent district court judge Ida Malosi (New Zealand’s first female Pacific Island judge) also rose to honor Luafutu.

“I stand for the power of our people and I honor you for showing the best of our people,” she said, holding back her tears.

Today, Luafutu is a successful writer and recording artist, even co-starring with Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell. His stage work speaks of the abuse he has endured in state care, and he said he hopes those plays help other people process their experiences, especially children.

“I want these children to know that they are not alone. There are other people who have been through this abuse, who have been through hard times growing up and understand what they are going through.”

The first time Luafutu was abused by the authorities was from his first teacher in New Zealand, who insisted on calling him John instead of Fa’amoana, his grandfather’s name.

“Part of my identity was erased when they gave me a new name.”

The courtroom was exchanged for a Pacific Fale as the setting for the historic Pacific Hearing on Abuse in State Care.

Chris McKeen / Stuff

The courtroom was exchanged for a Pacific Fale as the setting for the historic Pacific Hearing on Abuse in State Care.

Four years after moving to New Zealand from Samoa, he was taken to the Ōwairaka Boys’ Home, where the caretaker facilitated “Sunday boxing sessions” between the children.

“If you were new and he saw that you might be able to put up a good fight, he would pick you someone who could actually fight, someone who had been in the home for a while and he would offer you up for a welcome bashing. That was its own sick buzz.”

At one point, Luafutu believes he spent 21 days in a secure unit where a staff member tried to molest him.

“He wasn’t the only one trying things… I got so down, so depressed and I felt helpless. I made a suicide attempt and tried to get rid of myself,” Luafutu said.

His third stint in state care was with a foster home in Ponsonby, where the girls in the home were sexually abused by the caretaker, he said.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the two-week hearing on the experience of state care abuse in the Pacific.

Chris McKeen / Stuff

Members of the public are welcome to attend the two-week hearing on the experience of state care abuse in the Pacific.

“His wife would go to work, and he would take girls in the room and sexually abuse them. We were helpless. We couldn’t do anything and we couldn’t say anything.”

Later in life, Luafutu obtained his files from the state, which contain lines such as:

“This 12-year-old boy comes from a family that has not quickly settled into European ways and clings to a Samoan language and dress. If the parents had been more interested in English, they would have been able to help their young much better.”

His two sisters and two other cousins ​​all went into state care for the same reasons he did and have since passed away. Their loss has destroyed their parents, Luafutu said.

His turning point came when he was in prison when he opened up to a psychotherapist and faith leader, who he says saved him.

“Until I got into recovery, I didn’t know why I had become the way I was. And all those people, they actually took me all the way back to the beginning of it all. And then I started to understand and get a clearer picture.

“I came to realize that I had artistic and creative skills.”

Earlier on Monday, New Zealand’s first MP in the Pacific, Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban, gave her testimony, saying the country needs to do more practically to repair the damage done to the Pacific islanders in Aotearoa.

Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban, New Zealand's first female MP of Pacific Island descent, gave her testimony on Monday, urging New Zealand to make tangible repairs to the damage done to Pacific Islanders over the years.

Chris McKeen / Stuff

Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban, New Zealand’s first female MP of Pacific Island descent, gave her testimony on Monday, urging New Zealand to make tangible repairs to the damage done to Pacific Islanders over the years.

She called for a more culturally aware social service immersed in Pacific ways of restorative justice.

Laban, who is today the Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) at Victoria University of Wellington, said the seasonal work schedules and international agreements between New Zealand and the Pacific Islands could be ways to bring real money and support into Pasifika’s homes. to cross families.

She said New Zealand should better respect the economic contribution that Pacific Islanders have made to the country’s development.

She said restorative justice between survivors and their families, and the perpetrators of abuse, is needed to heal the damage done not only to their persons, but also to their ancestry and genealogy.

The hearing will be held at the Fale o Samoa in Mangere, south Auckland.

TORIKA TOKALAU/Things

The hearing will be held at the Fale o Samoa in Mangere, south Auckland.

Chief Attorney for the Royal Commission Tania Sharkey began her opening statements by acknowledging the survivors in the room, those who have died and those who are still unable to come forward to talk about the abuse they experienced.

She said the experience of Pacific peoples across New Zealand has been characterized by discrimination and neglect, leaving the community overrepresented in the state welfare and criminal justice system.

Even today it is difficult to get a clear picture of how bad the problem has been or still is, with poor reporting by government agencies leading to inaccurate data.

“Inaccurate reporting is a form of neglect, and as we’ve heard … has led to various forms of abuse for people in the Pacific,” Sharkey said.

Pacific culture took center stage in a moving opening ceremony before the actual hearings on abuse in state care began Monday afternoon.

Chris McKeen / Stuff

Pacific culture took center stage in a moving opening ceremony before the actual hearings on abuse in state care began Monday afternoon.

Crown Secretariat Director Alana Ruakere said the Crown will not question survivors or witnesses during the hearing, and only intends to listen and learn from them.

“Their contribution cannot be overstated and their courage and strength inspires us all.”

STUFF

Pacific Peoples Secretary Aupito William Sio talks about his family’s experience with the dawn raids

The public hearing examines the effects of the Dawn Raids on individuals and the wider Pacific community – part of a larger investigation into abuse and neglect in care from the 1950s and 1999.

Pacific Peoples Secretary Aupito William Sio said the Pacific hearing will give victims of abuse in care an opportunity to tell their story.

“And hopefully, in my opinion, will shine a light on the darkness that many have tried to cover up,” Sio said.

Sio often said that when it comes to cases of family abuse and sexual abuse, these issues are brushed aside and glossed over.

“Because it’s so challenging for our communities to talk about it.”

Before the investigation began, a traditional ava ceremony was held.

SAP MAYRON/Things

Before the investigation began, a traditional ava ceremony was held.

Over the two weeks from July 19-30, the hearings will follow the story of survivors in the Pacific of state care abuse.

They will talk about their migration to New Zealand, the circumstances that separated them from their parents and families, and the care they received in their new country.

Sio said it is important to take the hearing to the Fale rather than using a courtroom.

“In Pacific communities, important issues need to be discussed and discussed publicly, for full transparency.”

Where to get help?

  • 1737, Would you like to talk? Call or text 1737 toll free to speak with a trained counselor.
  • Fear New Zealand 0800 FEAR (0800 269 4389)
  • Depression.org.nz 0800 111 757 or text 4202
  • Children’s line 0800 54 37 54 for persons up to 18 years. Open 24/7.
  • lifeline 0800 543 354
  • Mental Health Foundation 09 623 4812, click here to access the free resource and information service.
  • Nationwide Support Confidence 0800 787 254
  • Samaritans 0800 726 666
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Supporting families with mental illness 0800 732 825
  • thelowdown.co.nz Web chat, email chat or free SMS 5626
  • How are you 0800 942 8787 (for 5 to 18 year olds). Telephone counseling available Monday through Friday from noon to 11pm and on weekends from 3pm to 11pm. Online chat is available daily from 3pm to 10pm.
  • Youth Line 0800 376 633, free text 234, email [email protected], or find online chat and other support options here.
  • If it’s an emergency, click here to find your local crisis assessment team number.
  • In a life-threatening situation, call 111.

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