Government may do more on historic state care abuse

It’s amazing what an impending election and a downturn in the polls can do.

But on this issue no matter what circumstances prompts common sense and decency this is a welcome shift in position.

RNZ:  Govt softens stance on abuse inquiry

Between the 1950s and 1990s, more than 100,000 children were taken into state care, most of them Māori.

The government set up a Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS) in 2008 to hear from victims. It wound up in June 2015.

It also introduced an optional fast track process to resolve the backlog of claims where survivors can receive a personal apology and financial settlement.

More than 1000 have told CLAS they were physically and sexually abused, and the government has paid out $17 million and apologised to 900 people.

Survivors of abuse last week presented a petition and an open letter to Parliament, calling for a public apology and full inquiry.

Prime Minister Bill English has previously rebuffed such calls, but today said he wanted to hear more about exactly what they want.

“If there are additional steps to be taken which can help them, then we’re interested in that.

“Have we got an accurate view of the scale of what happened historically? It may be possible to find out more about that.”

But Mr English stressed that any action must not be “a large distraction of resource and focus” from the work that was already underway.

“If we can find something that doesn’t get in the way of what’s happening, then we’re looking for it.

So they are open to offers – in other words they would welcome a way out of the dead end of denial that they had stuck themselves down.

Mr English said the government would also consider offering a wider apology to the survivors.

“That wouldn’t be a problem at all.”

So do it. Soon. And do more to repair as much of the damage as possible.

The Nation: state care abuse

On The Nation this morning:

Mike Wesley-Smith investigates what could be one of the worst cases of abuse in state care in New Zealand’s history. Alison spent 40 years in psychiatric hospitals, suffered sexual and physical abuse – and she didn’t have a mental illness.

A major stain on New Zealand’s recent past.

Abuse and misogyny in politics

There may be more than misogyny at play here but it certainly suggests that female politicians are subjected to worse abuse than male politicians.

RNZ: Gender bias and Facebook comments: Is there a male equivalent of a vile hag?

Analysis – Is there a male equivalent of a “vile hag?” What about a “sanctimonious bitch?” How about “patronising c**t”?

When RNZ posts stories about gender to Facebook, they’re invariably the ones that attract the nastiest comments.

More than race, sexuality, the environment or politics, stories about gender attract abuse, profanity and flat-out nastiness.

That’s bad.

So, when we posted a video from our series The 9th Floor, featuring former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley pointing out the difference in the way women politicians are spoken about, compared to their men counterparts, we braced for an onslaught.

Of more than 100 comments across a dozen RNZ Facebook posts, there is one abusive comment for Jim Bolger (two if you count, “He’s an idiot”), one for Moore and one for Palmer. There are more than 60 for Dame Jenny.

Over at The Spinoff’s Facebook page, at the time of writing, Shipley is called a vindictive bitch and a despicable turd.

Jim Bolger gets called fascist, “thick as pig s**t”, Mike Moore gets called boring, and Geoffrey Palmer gets off with no comments that could be called abusive – that have remained public, anyway.

Politics can bring out the worst in some people. So can gender issues. And when gender and politics are combined it can get very ugly.

Attacks against male politicians happen a lot, but often the worst is directed at female politicians – and the abusers aren’t just male.

“Helen Clark and I could give you the long list of counterpoints. How people have described both of us, compared with our peers … It tells me more about other people than myself,” she told us.

“A giant predatory slug emerges when she unzips the ‘human’ bodysuit at night,” was one way she was described on Facebook.

She was also advised to lose “unwanted pounds” by cutting off her head.

“As vomitingly heinous and odious as perata [sic] or collins or bennett.”

She’s “wasting precious air”, “fit only for the gallows” and should be pushed “in the woodchipper”.

Appalling, but sadly not uncommon.

All the ex Prime Ministers featured in the 9th Floor so far are from last century so won’t be as fresh on many people’s minds, and younger people may hardly know them, but Shipley was only PM for two years following Bolger’s eight, so the quantity and degree of vitriol is way out of proportion to length of tenure. It looks like misogyny, or there is some other reason why female politicians get much worse abuse.

Helen Clark will feature on the 9th Floor this Friday, and she has been subjected to a lot of abuse in the past so will probably cop something like what Shipley did.

So the abuse isn’t just coming from the left or the right of politics, there are abusive people who lash out at politicians, especially female ones, regardless of their leanings.

Failure to have state care abuse inquiry: “sticks like a knife in my guts”

The Prime Minister and Government ministers keep refusing to have an inquiry into historical cases of abuse of children while in State care (there are claims that abuses are still occurring).

Paora Crawford Moyle (at E-Tangata) describes what state care was like for her, and how “it sticks like a knife in my guts” whenever she hears a refusal to have an inquiry.

Every time Anne Tolley and Bill English talk about the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, or oppose an inquiry into the historical abuse of children in state care, it sticks like a knife in my guts.

I am Ngāti Porou through my mother, and I’m Weira — Welsh — through my father. After spending 14 years in state care, and 25 years in social work, I consider myself an expert on what it is truly like for a child with Māori whakapapa to grow up separated from all that intrinsically belongs to them.

I was five when I was taken into state care, and 18 when I was finally able to escape it. My mother, miserable and unwell, had left us, for her own survival as well as ours, to escape my father’s violence. She was deemed to have “abandoned her children”, and so my father was awarded legal custody of us.

He then applied to Social Welfare to have us temporarily placed in its care. On my fifth birthday, he took me and my two brothers (my older sister was placed with other caregivers) to a children’s home, and left, promising to be back for us soon. I waited every day for weeks and months after that, but it would be many years before I saw him again.

Over the years, other children came and went, but my siblings and I stayed in those homes. To everyone who came to visit and view the “underprivileged” children, we looked well adjusted and cared for.

But our experience contradicted appearances and we suffered things children are not supposed to: psychological, sexual, and other physical abuse over many years. It still makes me sick to say that.

She goes on to describe how Maori children were subjected to institutionalised racism.

We are survivors, although none of us came through that experience unscathed. Even after I left state care, the trauma followed me. For many years, I tried to fill the emptiness with drugs and alcohol, and toxic relationships.

But, as my brother Tipene said to me: “Our stories have to be told. How would people know what it’s like for a child to go through state-imposed trauma unless we all tell our story?”

There are still thousands of kids in state care who don’t have a voice. And too many of them are Māori. According to the Children’s Commissioner, Māori make up 61 percent of all kids in state care and 71 percent of the total in youth justice residences.

If that isn’t institutional racism, what is?

There may be institutional racism, but there also seems to be a disproportional problem in Maori families – probably a minority of families but far too prevalent.

Problems continue:

Anne Tolley has ignored multiple recommendations to establish strategic partnerships with iwi and Māori organisations. Instead her ministry consults and engages with and privileges organisations like Barnardos and Open Home Foundation.

The refusal of Government to have an inquiry obviously hurts.

Bill English, interviewed on The Hui, denied again the need for an inquiry into the state’s epic abuse of children in care. What this says to survivors is: “It didn’t happen.” Or “You weren’t beaten or raped that badly”.

It sticks like a knife in our collective guts. And while it’s fantastic that Susan Devoy and others are calling for the inquiry, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Māori have been calling out state abuse of our mokopuna for decades. For example, in the landmark Puao-te-Ata-tu report in 1988.

Bill English and Anne Tolley keep referring to April 1 when the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki will kick in and miraculously make children safe. That’s like saying cigarettes are safe because Big Tobacco says it is.

Āe, we absolutely need an inquiry to know the scale of the state’s historical abuse on children. Without it, the cogs in the machine keep churning, trucking and trafficking.

English has changed his mind on a number of issues – like Super, like charging for water. Perhaps he will think again about how to deal with this.

 

Inquiry on state care abuse?

There has been a lot said recently about Anne Tolley’s refusal to consider an inquiry into state care abuse, despite one being recommended by  Judge Carolyn Henwood  after chairing a Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS) panel on the historic abuses.

Like many others I’m puzzled why Tolley won’t address this via an inquiry.

Deborah Hill-Come writes Memo to Anne Tolley – it’s time to stop talking and start listening

Note to Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley: Try stopping being a politician for a minute, and just listen.

. “If you listen to me …” Tolley kept saying to Kim Hill on Morning Report, but actually Minister sometimes it’s not your place to talk, it’s your place to shut up. You attest the victims don’t want an independent inquiry. However Judge Henwood, who chaired the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS) panel that heard from more than 1100 people who were abused in state care, came to a different conclusion.

She recommended an independent inquiry. The government ignored this recommendation, seemingly for reasons to do with fiscal and legal risk. “It’s very disappointing for our participants. I feel offended on their behalf,” Judge Henwood said, bravely. Survivors had nowhere to go and no further support.

One of the most pertinent points:

It is insulting for someone who suffered at the hands of the state to be expected to go to the very same agency which allegedly traumatised them to lay a complaint.

Tolley says the historic claims unit is a separate part of MSD, but it is still an agency within ministry. This is hardly independent.

Child victims of abuse and inadequate state care often grow up unwilling to trust state agencies. Understandably.

Kim Hill: “You are not setting up an independent body and I’m interested to know why not?” Anne Tolley: “Because we are three-quarters of the way through settling those claims. Why would we stop that process?” Answer: Because the 1100 victims who spoke to the CLAS said that is what they want.

If the current process is fundamentally flawed due to not being done through an independent agency then rearranging the current process may be essential if it is serious about repairing as much damage as possible.

Tolley said “Some of the claimants have different sorts of care. In some cases they have received very good care.”

Kim Hill: “You mean when they weren’t being raped or abused, Ms Tolley?”

Tolley: “Part of their care was extremely good.”

Kim Hill: “You want them to focus on the good times?”

That exchange is troubling. If Tolley tries to downplay abuse because  some care of some of the victims was ok then I really wonder whether she is the right person to be in charge of this Ministry and this issue.

Harmful communications and Your NZ

From today people who believe they have experienced online abuse, harassment and cyberbullying van submit complaints to the appointed agency, Netsafe, to try to stop the attacks.

Your NZ may have to deal with this if complaints are received under the Harmful Digital Communications Act. I will do what I can to ensure comments posted here don’t breach the Act and moderation may be necessary to do this.

Now the Act has taken effect it is important to note:

What are harmful digital communications?

Harmful digital communications take a variety of forms such as private messages or content that others can see. It includes when someone uses the internet, email, apps, social media or mobile phones to:

  • send or publish threatening or offensive material and messages;
  • spread damaging or degrading rumours about you; and
  • publish online invasive or distressing photographs or videos of you.

What are the 10 communication principles?

The 10 principles work as a guide for how people should communicate online. Netsafe and the District Court will look at these when deciding if a digital communication breaches the Act.

The 10 principles say that a digital communication should not:

  1. disclose sensitive personal facts about a person;
  2. be threatening, intimidating, or menacing;
  3. be grossly offensive;
  4. be indecent or obscene;
  5. be used to harass a person;
  6. make a false allegation;
  7. breach confidences;
  8. incite or encourage anyone to send a deliberately harmful message;
  9. incite or encourage a person to commit suicide; and
  10. denigrate a person’s colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.

I will moderate comments here that I believe risk breaching those principles. I don’t want that sort of behaviour here anyway, but if I don’t then it puts this site at risk of breaching the Act.

If you believe that anyone has posted comments here that breach any of these principles then contact me. You can do this either through comments or directly:

  • Email: YourNZContact@gmail.com
  • Phone: 027 327 3468

I will deal with it as soon as I can. I’m not always available so it may take a few hours but it will be as soon as possible.

If I decide a comment here breaches the Act I will edit or delete the comment. If I can’t deal with it properly immediately the comment may be deleted in the first instance and then later edited and reinstated.

The aim of Your NZ has always been to allow robust discussion but not to be nasty or abusive. The Act does not change this approach, but it provides different means of dealing with abuse.

Some abuse is obvious, but sometimes it can get tricky. One person’s ‘joke’ can be perceived by others as abusive or offensive.

We don’t have to be prudes but we should be decent humans in the way we interact here. Most of it should be common sense.

It shouldn’t change things much here as I done my best to maintain reasonable standards already, sometimes in very trying circumstances.

If this site was to be subject again to the sort of attacks experienced last year by a couple of malicious visitors using multiple identities then I won’t rule out making complaints to Netsafe myself.

For more details see Harmful Digital Communications or Netsafe’s website.


Your NZ has already experienced an attempt to gag the site and threats were made to imprison me prematurely under the ACT. A vexatious court order didn’t comply with the procedures specified in the Act, was nearly a year before this part of the Act came into effect (today), and relied on evidence planted in anonymous comments here. When this was pointed out to the Court it was immediately thrown out.The vexatious incompetents who attempted this are some of the worst online abusers I have seen, frequently breaching the principles of the Act.

Harmful Digital Communications

The Harmful Digital Communications Act has taken a long time to come into force, but from today anyone who is experiencing online abuse, harassment and cyberbullying can report to the appointed agency, Netsafe, who will “receive, assess and investigate complaints”. What they will do to help targets of abuse and how effective this will be is yet to be seen.

From Netsafe’s website:


Anyone who is experiencing online abuse, harassment and cyberbullying can get help from Netsafe thanks to the Harmful Digital Communications Act (the Act). Netsafe will receive, assess and investigate complaints related to harmful digital communications from 21 November, 2016.

UNDERSTANDING HARMFUL DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS

The Act tackles some of the ways people use technology to hurt others. It aims to prevent and reduce the impact of cyber-bullying, harassment, revenge porn and other forms of abuse and intimidation.

The Act provides quick and affordable ways to get help for people receiving serious or repeated harmful digital communications. A digital communication is harmful if it makes someone seriously emotionally distressed, and if it is a serious breach of one or more of the 10 communication principles in the Act.

What are harmful digital communications?

Harmful digital communications take a variety of forms such as private messages or content that others can see. It includes when someone uses the internet, email, apps, social media or mobile phones to:

  • send or publish threatening or offensive material and messages;
  • spread damaging or degrading rumours about you; and
  • publish online invasive or distressing photographs or videos of you.

What are the 10 communication principles?

The 10 principles work as a guide for how people should communicate online. Netsafe and the District Court will look at these when deciding if a digital communication breaches the Act.

The 10 principles say that a digital communication should not:

  1. disclose sensitive personal facts about a person;
  2. be threatening, intimidating, or menacing;
  3. be grossly offensive;
  4. be indecent or obscene;
  5. be used to harass a person;
  6. make a false allegation;
  7. breach confidences;
  8. incite or encourage anyone to send a deliberately harmful message;
  9. incite or encourage a person to commit suicide; and
  10. denigrate a person’s colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.

How to get help?

If you are concerned about the immediate safety of you or someone else, please call 111. If you or someone you know needs help with a harmful digital communication, contact Netsafe toll free on 0508 NETSAFE or complete a complaint form at netsafe.org.nz/report.

Netsafe can look into your complaint and tell you if there’s anything else you can do to stop the abuse and stay safe. We may also work with you and the person harassing you to get them to stop.

If Netsafe can’t resolve things, you can apply to the District Court for help – but you have to have tried to resolve things with Netsafe first.

How can the District Court help?

The court deals with cases of serious or repeated harmful digital communications that Netsafe hasn’t been able to resolve.

The court will look into whether the person harassing you has seriously breached, will seriously breach or has repeatedly breached one or more of the 10 communication principles. It will also consider how people responded to the advice Netsafe provided.

The court has the power to order people to stop their harmful digital communications and take action including:

  • Ordering material to be taken down;
  • Ordering someone to publish a correction, an apology or give you a right of reply;
  • Ordering online content hosts (like social media/telecommunication companies or blog owners) to release the identity of the person behind an anonymous communication; and
  • Order name suppression to protect your identity or the identity of anyone else involved in the dispute.

Anyone who ignores the District Court’s orders can be prosecuted and penalised. The penalty is up to six months in prison or a fine up to $5,000. Companies can be fined up to $20,000.

What if the situation is really serious?

The Act also includes a criminal offence to penalise the most serious perpetrators. It is illegal to send messages and post material online that deliberately cause somebody serious emotional distress.

Police will handle these most serious cases. They may prosecute a person or company if:

  • they intended the communication to cause harm;
  • it’s reasonable to expect that a person in your position would be harmed by it; and
  • you were harmed.

The court will consider a variety of factors including how widely the material spread and whether what was said was true or not. The penalties for this offence are a fine of up to $50,000 or up to two years’ jail for an individual, and up to $200,000 for a body corporate.


How this affects  Your NZ and you if you comment here: Harmful communications and Your NZ

 

Blog moderation and hypocrisy

There’s been a bit of a spat on Twitter about lack of moderation at Kiwiblog, with a number of people joining criticism of David Farrar’s hands off approach to moderation.

It’s well known that Kiwiblog comments can at times get very abusive. I’ve commented there a lot in the past and often confronted the worse of the abuse, and have been abused and lied about there quite a lot, sometimes in reactions to confronting them. Several times I reported abuse to DPF, and on one occasion  I had him remove defamatory comments, which he did as soon as I contacted him.

I have also been subjected to a lot of abuse and mob attacks at The Standard, and have been banned from there several times for confronting some of that.

So I was a bit bemused when Stephanie Rodgers joined in put me up alongside Farrar in the Twitter spat.

SRTwitterModeration.jpg

There’s a bunch of irony and hypocrisy in that.

King Kong is a regular abusive figure on NZ blogs. Yet you never see them on mine, because – radical – I moderate them.

Yes she does ‘moderate’. But one person’s moderation can be another person’s message control or even censorship.

Bloggers like DPF and Pete George want to pretend it’s hard to moderate out abuse, and it simply isn’t.

Rodgers has made that up about me. It can be easy to moderate out abuse.

What is difficult is getting the balance right between enabling and allowing free speech and free discussion but minimising abuse and personal attacks.

It can be particularly difficult to keep their own views and disagreements separate from moderation.

Likening my moderation to DPF’s  shows quite a degree of ignorance.

DPF’s moderation is very hands off. He relies on people reporting abuse to him, and rarely engages in comments threads. With the number of comments at Kiwiblog it would be a huge job to vet each one.

I am actively involved in moderation here as much as time allows. I actively discourage abuse and act on it whenever I see fit. It isn’t required often, apart from the occasional burst from individuals, because the regulars here understand my aims and support and help achieving a reasonable balance between robust comment and debate but avoiding personal attacks.

It’s imperfect, and it is hard, nigh on impossible, to please all of the commenters all of the time. But it moderation is a continual effort for improving the commenting environment.

You just have to give a damn about not publishing pointles personal attacks – instead of actively encouraging them.

This looks like blind hypocrisy from Rodgers. As has been noted here in the weekend there was a typical mob attack on me at The Standard in the weekend, starting here.

That not only involved abuse, it was an obvious attempt to discredit, shut down, shout down and get me banned by someone some of the numpties there – a number of familiar names.

And Rodgers joined in. That’s a form of active encouragement.

For people like Rodgers moderation seems to be a tool to shut down comment they disagree with and shut out people they don’t like, but to allow attacks when it suits their prejudices and agendas.

it helps not to nurture a commenter base made entirely of deplorables.

But then who would comment on DPF’s obvious flamebait?

Rodgers seems to be blind to the culture of the commentariat she is a part of at The Standard, where flamebait and deplorable abuse are allowed by moderators like her.

Crap on social media “fucking disgusts me”

@FrancesCook posted this on Twitter yesterday:

I didn’t know Jo Cox. But I have some thoughts on her awful, tragic death.

There is quite a bit – far too much – of disgusting, disgraceful personal attacks in social media. Mass attacks are common.

Confronting this sort of gutless behaviour is not without it’s risks, as I’ve found out. People have gone as far as attempting legal action, trying to shut down this website and threatening me with jail – someone said they wanted me jailed for 3 months ‘by Christmas’ (last year).

But that doesn’t mean confronting abusive and threatening behaviour shouldn’t be attempted. It’s critical that it is done, double. Bullies typically react badly to being ridiculed but that’s one of the best and most deserving approaches.

Because if more people don’t step up and speak up about online anger and provocation then it’s just a matter of time before some nutter sees things said online as encouragement and justification for doing very bad things. As we have seen in the US and UK this week.

Political debate should be, must be vigorous. Passion is and should remain a part of it. There are serious issues at stake.

But there are lines that should be obvious to anyone involved in politics that should not be crossed.

Partly for basic human decency.

Partly so as not to provoke and reinforce less controlled people.

And partly because talking up intolerance and evil and violence are counter-productive to sensible and effective politics.

Democracy 101 is to attract support and attract votes. Arsehole behaviour does the opposite.

Crap on social media is too often disgusting. And ironically it is often perpetrated by people who somehow believe that a million people disillusioned with politics (or never illusioned) will suddenly like their crap behaviour and start to vote their way.

Violent language wins few arguments and less respect and votes.

Some politicians and many political activists set very poor examples of acceptable behaviour, but the rest of us should rise above this, confront the crap and show that there are better and more decent ways of debating.

Abuse problem in the music industry

A few weeks ago The Spinoff exposed claims about “how a prominent New Zealand music identity conducted a troubling series of relationships with young women, including girls as young as 12” – ‘I will come forward’.

Today in the Herald Lizzie Marvelly writes ‘The music industry has a problem’

The man who’d just molested me spent the next half hour interrupting our conversation, trying to coax me into sitting on his knee. I left the party.

This was just one of a number of examples of her personal experience that Marvelly detailed.

The music industry has a problem.

A problem I’ve been too scared to talk about. Recent events, however, here and overseas, have shown me that I need to join the voices that have come before me to help to shine a light on the culture of sexual harassment that infects our industry like a cancer.

People in the music industry, mostly many, have substantial power over the future prospects of artists.

New artists, especially female artists, are keen to get somewhere, are usually quite young, and are very vulnerable to abuse of power and straight out abuse.

Claims by Marvelly and others add weight to claims that some many have been abusing this power in abusing women.

Statistically, the industry is still dominated by men.

Men decide whether or not your song gets played on radio. They decide whether they’ll promote your tour. They decide who gets a record deal, who plays a festival, and even who receives a New Zealand On Air grant.

Over the last five rounds of music funding, only eight women have served on the panel tasked with deciding which songs to fund. Compared to 21 men.

And even when women do call the shots, as a woman in the industry it’s hard to speak up.

Especially when the people doing the abusing are your friends. It’s much easier to stay quiet. I know. I’ve kept my mouth shut for years.

But that culture of silence enables abusers to prey on their victims with impunity.

Enough is enough. It’s time for us to say, loud and clear, this has to stop.

The best place to start may be for men and women in the music industry who are not involved in abuse to speak up in support of those who claim abuse and speak up in support of cleaning up the music industry.

And it’s especially important for those who have witnessed abuse to stop remaining silent.