State care abuse survivors call on Government to 'show some remorse'

Harrowing stories of historic abuse in state care and faith-based institutions have been heard publicly for the first time. 

The long-awaited hearings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry started in Auckland on Tuesday, where survivors called for accountability from some of the darkest corners of New Zealand. 

Although Arthur Taylor is known as a "career criminal" and a "jailhouse litigator", his history of abuse is a lesser-known narrative.

"I mean people have just heard one side of the story, here people are going to hear both," says Taylor.

Taylor was taken into state care when he was just 11 years old, and had three stints at Lower Hutt's Epuni Boys' Home - where he was beaten.

He later spent 40 of his 63 years in prison and says were it not for his time in state care his life would have been much different. 

"Innocent kids - innocent in the way of crime, I might add - went in one end of Epuni and came out the other seasoned criminals."

Taylor is one of 28 witnesses giving evidence during the first hearings. And what he wants in simple. 

"When people have broken the law the common theme from the State is own your actions, show some remorse," says Taylor. "And that goes a long way for making up for the crime. Well, hey State, own your actions - show some remorse and start admitting your actions."

Accountability is a common theme  

A former chair of confidential service for abuse told the commission there's only one way to achieve it.

"I'd have an independent thing like the Police Complaints Authority," says Judge Carolyn Henwood. "It can't be in house. It just gets watered down again and there's no confrontation of the issues."

And while some voices were heard inside the inquiry, there were others just as loud outside it.

Change has to be paramount in this inquiry - we have to learn from our mistakes of the past," says Toni Jarvis.

Jarvis was just nine years old when he was taken to Cherry Farm psychiatric hospital for the start of what he calls his "life of hell".

"[I] got to this place and I was thinking, where are the cherry trees? It was a psychiatric hospital. I was stripped naked, put into these big pyjamas like Holocaust victims - striped blue and white pyjamas - thrown in a locked thing with adult patients and left at their mercy."

More evidence from survivors, advocates, academics and lawyers will be heard over the next two weeks.

The final report and recommendations are due in 2023.


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