Marylands School abusers used fear of God to threaten victims

Andrew McRae for RNZ

Warning: This story contains references to sexual and physical abuse and may be upsetting for some readers.

A man who was sexually abused by brothers in the Catholic Order of St John of God, in both New Zealand and Australia, says they used God to put fear into a child.

Darryl Smith, who is 58, was sent to the Marylands residential school in Christchurch, which was run by the Order, at the age of seven.

He was sexually, physically, and spiritually abused while there.

''We were threatened with, be a good little boy and do this, because this is what God wants you to do.''

He said St John of God left him with a spiritual scar.

''Here they are as a spiritual organisation, a religious organisation looking after our mokopuna in all walks of life and are suppose to be our spiritual leader and making sure you are healthy. There was none of that.''

''St John of God brothers were cruel to children. They weren't there to look after you. They know what they did to us.''

He said the State also had duty of care no matter what and failed.

''This school was running in New Zealand, not Africa or Pakistan or anywhere else. This is my country, these people came from Australia, they're not a New Zealand organisation. They're an Australian organisation, they came here knowingly with their paedophile priests or brothers or whatever they were. They came here knowingly to harm our children. And they trafficked them (the brothers) across the ditch to different schools and that's how we have such a major problem today.''

Smith was sexually abused by at least three of the brothers at Marylands and also by some of the older boys.

He said he did not like the use of the word abuse as it should be called exactly what it was - rape.

He said he does not trust members of the Catholic Church, even to this day.

''I wouldn't trust a priest even if you paid me.''

He said he feels, because of the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care, he is finally being listened to.

''I have never been able to go to court for this, so I am hoping this is not a waste of time for me because I really want to put this Order in front of the coals.''

''This is my justice now. I hope you guys can get justice for us.''

After leaving Marylands, he spent time in Templeton Hospital, Campbell Park School, where abuse continued.

In 1978, he moved to Queensland with his family and it was not long before he was back in care, and to his horror it was with St John of God. Before long he was being sexually abused by one brother and some of the other boys.

Later, drug and alcohol abuse which was followed by time in prison.

Smith said the nightmares have not stopped.

''I sleep with the light on. I sometimes get frightened so I need to sleep with the light on.''

Smith has gone on to write five books about his experiences.

He attended the Vatican Summit on Child Abuse in 2019 in Rome representing New Zealand.

He is also New Zealand Ambassador for the National Association for Adult Survivors of Child Abuse Survivors.