Category Archives: Human Rights

Abuse breeds child abusers – Jarrod Gilbert. 

Often when I’m doing research I dance a silly jig when I gleefully unearth a gem of information hitherto unknown or long forgotten. In studying the violent deaths of kids that doesn’t happen.

There was no dance of joy when I discovered New Zealanders are more likely to be homicide victims in their first tender years than at any other time in their lives. But nothing numbs you like the photographs of dead children.

Little bodies lying there limp with little hands and little fingers, covered in scratches and an array of bruises some dark black and some fading, looking as vulnerable dead as they were when they were alive.

James Whakaruru’s misery ended when he was killed in 1999. He had endured four years of life and that was all he could take. He was hit with a small hammer, a jug cord and a vacuum cleaner hose. During one beating his mind was so confused he stared blankly ahead. His tormentor responded by poking him in the eyes. It was a stomping that eventually switched out his little light. It was a case that even the Mongrel Mob condemned, calling the cruelty “amongst the lowest of any act”.

An inquiry by the Commissioner for Children found a number of failings by state agencies, which were all too aware of the boy’s troubled existence. The Commissioner said James became a hero because changes made to Government agencies would save lives in the future. Yet such horrors have continued. My colleague Greg Newbold has found that on average nine children (under 15) have been killed as a result of maltreatment since 1992 and the rate has not abated in recent years. In 2015, there were 14 such deaths, one of which was three-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri, or baby Moko as we knew him when he gained posthumous celebrity.

Moko’s life was the same as James’s, and he too died in agony; he endured weeks of being beaten, kicked, and smeared with faeces. That was the short life he knew. Most of us will struggle to comprehend these acts but we are desperate to stop them. Desperate to ensure state agencies are capable of intervening to protect those who can not protect themselves and, through no fault of their own, are subjected to cruelty by those who are meant to protect them.

The reasons for intervening don’t stop with the imperative to save young lives. For every child killed there are dozens who live wretched existences and from this cohort of unfortunates will come the next generation of abusers.  Solving the problems of today, then, is not just a moral imperative but is also about producing a positive ripple effect.

And this is why, In the cases of James Whakaruru and baby Moko the best and most efficient time for intervention was not in the period leading up to their abuse, but rather many years before they were born. The men involved in each of those killing came from the same family. And it seems their lives were transient and tragic: one spent time in the now infamous Epuni Boys home, which is ground zero for calls for an inquiry into state care abuse (and incidentally the birth place of the Mongrel Mob).

Once young victims themselves, those boys crawled into adulthood and became violent men capable of imparting cruelty onto kids in their care.

This cycle of abuse is well known, yet state spending on the problem is poorly aligned to it, and our targeting of the problem is reactionary and punitive rather than proactive and preventative.

Of the $1.4 billion we spend on family and sexual violence annually, less than 10 per cent is spent on interventions, of which just 1.5 per cent is spent on primary prevention. The morality of that is questionable, the economics even more so.

Not only must things be approached differently but there needs to be greater urgency in our thinking. It’s perhaps trite to say, but if nine New Zealanders were killed every year in acts of terrorism politicians would never stop talking about it and it would be priority number one.

In an election year, that’s exactly where this issue should be. If the kids in violent homes had a voice, that’s what they’d be saying.

But if the details of such deaths don’t move our political leaders to urgent action, I rather fear nothing will. Maybe they should be made to look at the photographs.

• Dr Jarrod Gilbert is a sociologist at the University of Canterbury and the lead researcher at Independent Research Solutions.

Australia’s Death by Numbers – Roger Cohen. 

The dead refugee had a name. But even in death Australia did not want to humanize him. For years now he had been no more than a registration number — BRF063 — under the country’s cruel refugee deterrence system known as “offshore processing.”

The brief announcement on Dec. 24 from the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection said: “A 27-year-old Sudanese refugee has sadly died today from injuries suffered after a fall and seizure at the Manus Regional Processing Center.”

This was all that Australia could muster for Faisal Ishak Ahmed, who fled the Darfur region of Sudan in 2013. His was a death foretold, like that of the other deceased asylum seekers and refugees banished by Australia to the small island nation of Nauru and to Manus, a remote corner of the Papua New Guinea archipelago.

Since July 2013, Australia has herded more than 2,000 desperate people into these island prisons. There has been no “process” in centers housed in poor countries paid by Australia to do its dirty work. Human beings have been left to fester, crack up and die, as I observed on Manus during a five-day visit last month. Draconian nondisclosure contracts have gagged staff, although the whole system is beginning to crumble under the weight of its iniquity.

The conservative Australian government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull argues that its policy has “stopped the boats” at a time when more refugees are on the move across the world than at any time since 1945. The argument’s flaw is its inhumanity. Despite being a signatory of all major international human rights treaties, Australia has instituted an indefensible policy of cruelty as deterrence

New York Times 

Faisal Ishak Ahmed

How You Can Help The Standing Rock Sioux Fight The Dakota Access Pipeline – The Huffington Post

Here’s where to call, donate, volunteer or send supplies.

Protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline have been going on since the project was approved in July.

Hundreds of protesters have been arrested and demonstrators and police have accused each other of violence. Law enforcement has used pepper spray, beanbag rounds, a water canon and a high-pitched sound generator meant to disperse crowds. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has described the protests as an ongoing riot and says it uses “the force necessary to maintain control.”

Huffington Post

Sign the petition to the White House to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Petition

Investment in the Early Years Prevents Crime. 

Instead of competing in some sort of bizarre race to the bottom with the United States for the most number of people incarcerated per head of population, we need to attend to what works to prevent crime.

While the idea of scaring young people out of crime (boot camps, prison visits etc) might have popular appeal, it is a total failure as it has been found to increase the probability of crime. What does work is reducing the stress on low income families and providing them with sufficient material resources to ensure their kids have opportunities to thrive.

Increasing the incomes of low-income low opportunity parents using unconditional cash assistance reduces children’s likelihood of engaging in criminal activity. Yes giving parents more money, and trusting them to identify where the pressure points in their family life are, improves both the economic position of a family and reduces stress, the key pathway between poverty and poor outcomes for children.

A substantial body of research supports unconditional cash assistance in countries similar to New Zealand.

Jess Berentson-Shaw. Morgan Foundation 

More Prisons in NZ. Spending $1 billion is criminal.

Of course we need to keep the public safe from dangerous offenders, but how many of our 9798 prison population really pose a risk to the community?

And how many are in prison because there is nowhere else for them to go? Prisons are for the bad, not the mad. And they also shouldn’t be used as ad hoc detox centres. If drug and alcohol addictions were treated as a health issue, not a criminal issue, surely the appalling rate of recidivism would reduce. NZ Herald

Studies and trials done overseas show clearly that crime rates are inextricably linked to poverty and inequality.


Refugees in Greece. ‘We’re never getting out of here’. European Solidarity?

On June 26, 2015, as asylum seekers were rushing into Europe in growing numbers, EU leaders met until the wee hours in Brussels. Two countries were bearing the brunt of the crisis – the Mediterranean entry points of Greece and Italy. In what leaders heralded as a remarkable show of “solidarity,” the rest of the EU agreed to share the burden.

The EU would relocate 40,000 refugees – mostly Syrians – to member countries from Portugal to Finland. They would be given shelter, aid and a chance to rebuild their lives. As the number of asylum seekers surged, the EU later boosted its pledge – promising to relocate up to 160,000.

But 16 months after its initial decision, the EU has lived up to only 3.3 percent of that pledge, relocating 5,290 refugees – 4,134 from Greece and 1,156 from Italy. NZ Herald 

NZ School Punishment: 11-year-old locked in ‘dark cell’ 13 times in 9 days.

Victorian era attitudes still alive and well in New Zealand education. 

Children were repeatedly locked in a darkened, cell-like room at a primary school as punishment for bad behaviour.

Education officials launched an investigation at Miramar Central School in Wellington after a behaviour therapist found a 11-year-old disabled boy alone and distraught in the cupboard-sized room, with no way to get out.

The boy, who is autistic with the mental age of a toddler, was one of at least 10 children – mainstream and special needs – put in the “time out” room within the past year, largely without parent knowledge or consent. NZ Herald