21 Jul 2021

Samoan man calls for immediate closure of all residential homes

6:50 am on 21 July 2021

A Samoan man who went into state care speaking his native language, but came out not knowing a word says it robbed him of his cultural identity.

Man looking into the distance.

A Samoan man says his time in state care has defined his life, and included physical and sexual abuse. File photo Photo: 123rf.com

The man, who is now 48, has given evidence to the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care.

Known only as Mr CE, he went into care at the age of 13 and ended up in a number of boys' homes and then corrective training and finally prison.

After time spent at Weymouth Boys' Home, Mr CE was sent to Hokio Beach School.

He said the violence there was much worse than at Weymouth.

''The boys all had groups and fought a lot between each other. The staff members at Hokio would request for boys to be beat up by other boys.''

He said he was also sexually abused there by another boy.

''Everyone knew that the physical and sexual abuse was happening behind the sand dunes.''

After Hokio he went to Owairaka Boys' Home and then to a residential home called The Glade.

Here he experienced physical and psychological abuse with a form of punishment called a Michael White.

''That's when they get you to sit cross-legged on the floor and a staff member sitting on a chair behind you would reach around you and grab both your arms and pull them across your chest like you were in a straitjacket.

"And they would hold you there for as long as possible and it (pain) could be that bad that you would become unconscious.''

CE said he heard very little Samoan language in any of the homes or anything about his culture and even now his understanding is still very limited.

''It's part of my identity, it's who I am. It's who my parents brought me up to be, Samoan, so it's frustrating when you once knew how to speak Samoan and do things the Samoan way and now you can't.''

He said when you are in care, nobody cares about who you are or your background.

''You just fell into a system that you had to comply with and that didn't have anything to do with your culture. That was more to do with you being there for punishment.''

Homes an unnecessary last resort - witness

He is in no doubt that all residential homes should be closed immediately.

''Through my own experiences I have found that these boys' homes are basically the last resort, therefore, they really don't need to exist because there are a lot of things that you can do between now and when they may need to go into these last resorts in order to stop them from getting there.''

CE said the government should apologise for the whole generation of children who were abused in care and are just starting to find their feet.

''They would need to do a lot more than just apologise. They would have to show it through their actions by focusing more on shutting down these homes and getting the kids of today the help they need so they don't end up like us.''

Mr CE said his time in care has defined his life for so many years and he is telling his story so it might help others heading down the same track he did.

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