19 Nov 2008

Mayor confident other child deaths will be prevented

9:05 pm on 19 November 2008

Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters says he is confident efforts to pull the community's anti-violence services together can prevent another death such as that of Nia Glassie.

At the High Court in Rotorua on Tuesday, Wiremu Curtis and Michael Curtis were found guilty of murdering the three-year-old girl, who died of fatal head injuries in July last year.

Nia's mother, Lisa Kuka, was found guilty of two charges of manslaughter. Two other people who lived at the Rotorua house, Oriwa Kemp and Michael Pearson, were convicted of child cruelty.

Mr Winters says the week after Nia's murder, the council called the first of two summits asking community agencies how it could have happened.

He says Nia and her family had contact with a number of agencies, including the Work and Income service and police, but she fell through the cracks.

"Collectively, the dots were never connected," he says. "I want to make sure the dots are connected so there's a lot more sharing of information across agencies, so that when something happens it comes to the fore very quickly as opposed to being too late."

Mr Winters says representatives from different agencies now meet once a month to compare case notes. He says the Ministry of Social Development has suggested that the initiative could be used in other parts of New Zealand.

However, an organisation that trains other agencies to recognise signs of abuse in children is asking whether the Rotorua community is numb to domestic violence.

Charitable trust CPS says it has struggled to attract enrolments for its courses in Rotorua, Nelson and South Auckland.

Trust chief executive Anthea Simcock says there have been violent child deaths in each of these areas in recent months, and it is possible people feel overwhelmed by the topic, or they believe there is nothing they can do.

Challenge to Maori communities

An advocate for children is challenging Maori communities to take full responsibility for the security of every child.

Hone Kaa, from child advocacy group Te Kahui Mana Ririki, told Waatea News on Wednesday that incidents such as the horrific abuse and murder of Nia Glassie can only occur if adults ignore the signs.

Dr Kaa says his advocacy group is about to start a series of workshops for iwi and whanau throughout New Zealand.

Dr Kaa says the hui will try to build on social marketing campaigns such as "It's not OK", which he believes are starting to have an impact.

Meanwhile, the government agency charged with keeping children safe says it had no involvement with Nia Glassie's family.

Child, Youth and Family chief executive Ray Smith says it is sometimes difficult for people to report a suspected case of child abuse or neglect when it involves a family member.

Mr Smith says in most cases of suspected abuse, somebody in the family knows the people involved are struggling. He says notifications can be made confidentially.

Curtis separated from inmates

Wiremu Curtis has been separated from other inmates at Waikeria Prison due to fears for his safety.

His lawyer, Craig Horsley, says his client is on remand at Waikeria Prison in Te Awamutu and has been told by the Department of Corrections that he has been put in segregation.

Mr Horsley says there is concern about Curtis' emotional well-being. He could not comment on whether he is in danger from other inmates.

The lawyer for Michael Curtis, Jonathan Temm, declined to comment.