Native Affairs - Hush money claim

By Peata Melbourne

A former state ward is accusing the Government of paying out hush money not compensation to children historically abused in state care.

As at 31 March 2017, the Ministry of Social Development had paid $22.1 million in compensation to people as a result of claims of abuse while in state care. This includes $7.7 million paid to claimants referred to the Ministry by CLAS. Its compensation that Albie Epere says is hush money so claimants don’t demand a public inquiry.

"I'm not even supposed to be speaking about this because I signed some paper and they gave me a stinking $16,000. You know why they gave me a stinking $16,000? So they can hurry up and sweep it under the carpet. That's why they're quickly trying to pay everybody out now so that they don't have this inquiry."

In the settlement letter he received in 2011, Albie was required to waive his right to bring subsequent proceedings against various Government departments. “The defendant’s agreement to enter into the settlement is made without any admission of legal liability.”

Epere went through Dunedin Boys Residential Home at Lookout Point and Kohitere Boys Training Centre in Levin, a welfare institution that has been the subject of complaints about abuse in state care.

"If it wasn't happening to you sexually it was happening to you mentally and physically,'" recalls Epere.

His partner of 25 years,  April Mokomoko, also spent time in state care at the Kingslea Residential Centre in Christchurch. She has not lodged a claim but vented her frustration at the system of care.

"If you (the Government) don't acknowledge what you did to us, and open up an inquiry, then your blessed or cursed for the same s*** to go down," says Mokomoko.

Both Albie and April support a Waitangi Tribunal claim for Māori seeking a full inquiry into historical abuse, being led by a group of experts on indigenous laws and rights.