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Intellectually disabled boy in state care beaten, given enough medication to tranquillise horse

The Kimberley Centre in Levin. Photo / Kirsty Head By Jonty Dine of RNZ Warning: This story contains details of abuse. The...

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The Kimberley Centre in Levin. Photo / Kirsty Head

By Jonty Dine of RNZ

Warning: This story contains details of abuse.

The brother of an intellectually disabled man has described the 30-plus years of neglect and abuse his kin suffered at the hands of the state.

David Newman told commissioners at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care public hearing in Auckland that his brother was regularly beaten and given enough medication to tranquillise a horse.

He is the most recent case of a number of disabled New Zealanders who suffered horrific abuse at the hands of the state between 1950 and 1999.

Newman said the mischievous little boy that went into care was not the aggressive and easily agitated man that came out.

His brother was bounced around Kimberley Hospital (later called Kimberley Centre) in Levin, and Marylands School, Templeton Centre, Brackenridge Estate and Hillmorton Hospital in Christchurch from approximately 1970 to 2003.

There, his brother was subjected to years of medical abuse.

“He was seemingly prescribed one medication which would lead to another medication [to] treat side effects of the first one and so on, until there was a real cocktail of medications that he was on.”

Bruising was also regularly found on his body which was consistent with being manhandled.

“That bruising also extended to his genital area as well, there was other stuff going on.”

Another incident saw Newman’s brother go through either a plate glass window or door.

“The only thing that mum and I could conclude was that he was being chased either by a resident or by a staff, and we don’t know.”

He said his mother attempted to get to the bottom of it but was unable to make any progress with her inquiries.

“I believe the aggressive behaviours were a result of a variety of medications over a prolonged period of time combined with the physical abuse that my brother had been subjected too from staff and other residents at various institutions.”

Newman said the abuse his brother suffered had long-lasting impacts on his family.

“We became very dysfunctional and still are to this day.”

His brother became a product of institutionalisation, he said.

From a curious little boy who would follow his brother around, Newman said he became violent, would bang his head until it bled or pull off his own toenails.

He said his mum and brother were owed an apology.

A former disability researcher who spent time interviewing residents at Kimberly also gave evidence to the commission.

Paul Milner said at least 80 per cent of the time residents were not engaged in anything meaningful and essentially were doing nothing.

Milner said physical and verbal abuse were commonplace as well as general depersonalisation.

He also experienced what was known as the “Kimberley Cringe”.

This was the term used to refer to the reaction of residents when approached by people in that they would almost always cower.

Milner said physical abuse within the institution become normalised.

He described a particular villa of Kimberley, “Palm Grove”, as akin to a prison.

One of its residents was able to drive a tractor prior to going to Kimberley, but after his time there the man became completely mute.

“Imagine the deprivations that would make you lose your language. That language had no use to you in an institution. I struggle to imagine that.”

Milner said these actions were not defensible for anyone.

The inquiry into Abuse in Care said abuse in state care of disabled, deaf and people who suffered mental distress was overt and systemic.

The hearing continues this week.


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• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
Youthline: 0800 376 633
What’s Up: 0800 942 8787 (11am to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757(available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Helpline: 1737
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111


• If you’ve ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline Safe to Talk on 0800 044 334 or text 4334. (available 24/7)
Male Survivors Aotearoa offers a range of confidential support at centres across New Zealand, find your closest one here.
Mosaic – Tiaki Tangata: 0800 94 22 94 (available 11am-8pm)
• Alternatively contact your local police station – click here for a list.
If you have been abused, remember it’s not your fault.

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