The Royal Commission into abuse in state and faith-based care has today heard from a man so affected by abuse that he set fire to his sleeping father, and later in life killed a man in revenge for his hurt.

Twenty-eight witnesses are currently giving evidence in a two-week hearing in Auckland.

Published in Radio NZ

Dr Rawiri Waretini-Karena, a former child of the state, detailed his whanau’s forced separation from Māori culture over generations and the abuse he endured as a child.

He is an expert on the Māori experience of historical intergenerational trauma, and the seeds of his own trauma were sown generations ago.

His grandfather who only spoke Māori, was taken by the state in 1930 and beaten until he learned to speak English.

His father was taken by social welfare officers in 1954 and also beaten.

Dr Waretini-Karena told the inquiry his father passed on the same abuse that he received, and it impacted the whole whānau.

He was taken to the state-run Hamilton Receiving Home for boys, or “Tower Hill” when he was five years old.

After living there for a year, without suffering abuse, his parents took him back home, where he met his one-year-old younger brother.

He told the inquiry how he was often left to care for his brother.

He took the baby inside and dried him off but he caught the flu and died days later, prompting his father to blame him and beat him.

Dr Waretini-Karena told the inquiry he was taken back to Tower Hill months later after another violent episode at home.

From then on he was bullied and abused in state homes and detention centres, and even by foster parents.

He told the inquiry he struggled to deal with the trauma, and his anger boiled over when he heard about the recent abuse of a five-year-old boy.

The mother of the boy had told him that the father was the abuser, so he took matters into his own hands.

He was convicted of the man’s murder and later found out the mother had lied about the father’s involvement in the abuse.

Dr Waretini-Karena spent ten years behind bars with six other Maori men who grew up in state care.

He told the inquiry after his release, he went on to explore his culture and heritage, going on to earn a PhD and became a lecturer and researcher for the Māori King.

He says the solutions to current problems facing Māori can and must be found within Māoridom.

The inquiry also heard today from some who suffered from the colonial attitude that Māori could not take care of their own.

Dr Alison Green was removed from her whānau as a baby and adopted by a Pākēhā couple in 1958.

She says her adopted mother was told to tell her she was Spanish because if she grew up Māori her outcomes would be much worse.

Dr Green says she has spent her lifetime rediscovering her identity.

The hearing continues in Auckland.

By Checkpoint
Published in Radio NZ
30 Oct 2019