Tiny voices from the grave …

By Pat Booth 24/11/2008

To whom it may concern – and that should be all of us.

Please accept this as an urgent petition calling for changes to laws and ministry methods, an end to bland – even disinterested – public attitudes and terrifyingly brutal private attacks on children.

Named below, we want politicians to honour the trust they asked for.

We want the public to see and hear what is happening around them.

We want people who know about terrible child beating to speak up, ignore the risk they face through what some are calling “narking”.

They’re not dobbing people in, they’re giving other kids the protection we didn’t get.

We want the nation’s battered and abused children to have greater priority than emissions control and a genetically modified horse flu vaccine.

Other controversies take up time, energy and money while this crisis of literally life and death goes on unchallenged.

We want leaders and decision-makers to act, family and whanau to break their years of terrible silence and indifference.

We want those who can and should act to end this scandal – now.

We can’t tell you what to do, anymore than we could end the cruelty that killed us. Some of us didn’t live long enough to learn to sign our name, much less vote.

But if we can land on the moon surely we can protect small children who are said to be loved and cherished so much and yet get beaten and neglected so long and so often. Like we were.

Signed on our behalf:

Delcelia Witika – I was two in 1991 when my mother and her boyfriend bashed, burned and hit me so hard my appendix burst. They went to jail for manslaughter. I died.

Craig Manukau – My mother turned the radio up to block out the noise when my father kicked me to death in 1992. I was 11

Veronika Takerei-Mahu – I was 11 months in 1995 when a public health nurse reported she was worried about my safety. But they didn’t listen – before my father beat me to death.

Tichena Crosland – I was three when CYFS took me away from my mother, Moana Whakamarurangi, and my father David got custody in 1997. Three months later I died from terrible head injuries and with a badly damaged vagina. My dad was jailed for my murder but acquitted of my rape.

James Whakaruru – Like Nia Glassie, my name and photo were all over the media back in 1999 when I was beaten and stomped to death by my mother’s boyfriend Benny Haerewa who was out of jail after he beat me up. He got 12 years for manslaughter. I was dead at four.

// Hinewaoriki (Lilly-bing) Karaitiana-Matiaha – Two of my aunts were jailed for my manslaughter in 2000. I had brain swelling, bruising and lacerations to my genitals. I never had any love and died in my cot on my second birthday while my mum was out partying.

Mereana Edmonds – I died of three serious brain injuries after my mother and her partner Dorothy Tipene beat me. I was six. My mum was sentenced to eight years in 2000 and her friend got 27 months.

Saliel Aplin – My stepfather was sent to jail for 25 years non-parole after my sister Olympia and I died of knife wounds in 2001. I was 12, she was 11.

Tamati Pokai – I was three in 2003 when my foster father beat me to death because I brought a packet of jellybeans home from kindy.

Coral-Ellen Burrows – When I didn’t want to go to school, my stepfather Steven Williams said I was cheeky, beat me to death and hid my body. That was 2003. I was six. My real dad had already told officials he was worried about me but that didn’t save me.

Tangaroa Matiu – I was three when my stepfather took to me in 2004 after I filled my pants because I was frightened. Police reckoned he hit me 100 times in 20 minutes, some of it with a piece of wood. When mum came, she didn’t stop him, she slapped me. He got life for murder, I lost mine, my mum got seven years for manslaughter.

Ngatikaura Ngata – Same with me. It was in 2006 and I was three and I filled my pants too. I got done over with a few things, like a baseball bat. My stepfather and my mum both got eight years for manslaughter.

Name suppressed – I don’t know why those guys did all this to me in 2005. Threw me against the wall, beat me, made me eat dog poos. They lived with my mother. She knew it happened and did nothing to stop it. She got 18 months. Harley Wharewera got 10 years, Jeremy Tawa got two. I was dead at two.

Chris and Cru Kahui – No one will say who killed us in 2006. Our father was acquitted of murder and there are no plans to charge anyone else over our bad head injuries and broken bones. Detectives had to cope with the silence of our family.

Nia Glassie – Everyone knows what happened to me – spun around on a revolving clothesline, put into a tumble drier, kicked around the head, thrown on the floor. Five, including my mother, have yet to be sentenced after convictions including murder and manslaughter.

And the terrible list isn’t finished.

Dylan Hohepa Tonga Rimoni – I literally ended up in Starship this April, dead at three with “unexplained head injuries”. A woman has been charged with my murder.

Petition PS: Why didn’t someone do something before now to protect us over all those years – and other New Zealand kids whose agony went undetected or who are still in danger? Please listen to our voices now.

• I say: Why has the horror of it not got through to lawmakers and law enforcers, to the families and the whanau who see the dreadful injuries, hear the unlikely explanations – “He fell off his bike … she was on my shoulders and fell off … maybe their younger brother injured them like that … it was all just a bit of fun”.

New Justice Minister Simon Power promises “personal priority” to law changes – “we must send a message that such acts are obscene”.

He talks of moves in the new government’s first 100 days.

Long overdue. By at least 17 years, as the “petition” shows. Probably much more than that.

Child bashing and killing certainly didn’t begin as a new trend in 1991.

Nor did the unforgivable code of silence that still continues.

Any new law must find ways of dealing with that – what legal historians understandably and for good reason may label as the Kahui precedent – or the Motueka method.

A five-month-old Motueka boy has a fractured skull, suspected brain damage and injuries so bad that one paediatrician had only seen before in a child who fell 11 storeys.

Police say the injuries were deliberately inflicted last month but five of the extended family, including his parents, who were there during that timeframe, have closed ranks.

Look hard at this unacceptable hole in the law, Mr Power. And fast.

– To contact Pat Booth email offpat@snl.co.nz. All replies are open for publication unless marked.

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