Abuse of children at Marylands School in Christchurch from the 1950s to the 1980s will be the subject of a special Royal Commission investigation.

The Royal Commission looking into the abuse of children in state and religious institutions has announced it will inquire separately into events at Marylands.

Marylands was a residential school for boys, many with learning disabilities, run by Catholic brothers of the St John of God order.

The commission is asking for victims, families, staff, witnesses or anyone else with knowledge of abuse at the school to call them confidentially on 0800 222 727.

Published in Stuff

The investigation is one of eight separate inquiries into abuse in care announced by the Royal Commission.

The others will look at redress, the experiences of Māori and Pacific peoples, abuse in state residential, disability and psychiatric care, events at Lake Alice child and adolescent unit, and abuse in the care of the Anglican and Catholic churches.

The commission said it would investigate “the nature and extent of abuse that occurred at Marylands, why it happened, and the impacts of abuse that may have occurred at the hands of priests, religious or lay employees of the church.”

It will investigate “whether there are any systemic, structural or other factors which contributed to the abuse occurring and the adequacy of the response by the Catholic Church to allegations of abuse”.

“Investigations will give a voice to victims and survivors of abuse and neglect in care who want to share their experiences,” the commission said.

Among those who have spoken about their abuse at Marylands is Darryl Smith, who published a memoir A Shattered Life about his experiences.

Smith has said he was first abused as a six-year-old at the school.

Last year he travelled to Rome where he spoke at a global summit on sexual abuse in the church.

It was reported in 2018 that more than 120 sexual abuse allegations had been made against staff at Marylands. About 80 former students were paid compensation totalling $5.1 million by 2007. The order said at the time it had no records of how many people, or how much money, had been paid since.

Critics claimed that the 2007 resignation of Brother Peter Burke led to smaller and non-negotiable settlements.

Catherine Fyfe, chair of Te Rōpū Tautoko, a group coordinating Catholic engagement with the Royal Commission, said the church welcomed the inquiry and would work “supportively and diligently” to do everything possible to co-operate.

Brother Timothy Graham, the Sydney-based Provincial of the St John of God order, said the inquiry was an acknowledgement of those who were harmed in the brothers’ care.

By Liz McDonald
Published in Stuff
21 August 2020