Redress demanded by Dunedin survivor

Sexual abuse victim Darryl Smith, of Dunedin, shared his experiences at Marylands School in a...
Sexual abuse victim Darryl Smith, of Dunedin, shared his experiences at Marylands School in a report by a royal commission. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Evidence discovered by a royal commission details a "hell on Earth" for pupils of a Catholic school subjected to depravity and sexual, physical and spiritual violence.

The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry compiled its interim report, "Stolen Lives, Marked Souls", following a hearing in February last year.

The report, made public yesterday, detailed abuse experienced by survivors in three Catholic Church institutions in Christchurch: Marylands School, Hebron Trust and St Joseph’s Orphanage.

The commission said it found that cries for help from survivors of Marylands School and Hebron Trust were ignored for decades, with the State failing to address the harm.

Survivors told the commission the facilities were a "hell on Earth".

A survivor described to the commission being raped on a marble altar table, with another being told: "If you be a good little boy, you’ll go to heaven."

One survivor was both groped in a swimming pool and made to gas puppies in a barrel, sitting on the lid until they all died.

Another was hit in the head with a baseball bat for refusing to perform oral sex.

Of the 537 boys who attended Marylands, 118 reported abuse while in the school’s care, more than one in five.

Dunedin man Darryl Smith is one such survivor.

Mr Smith was among a group of seven survivors who helped name and design the report, as well as sharing his account of abuse with the commission.

In 1971, he was raped by Brother Damian Keane, when he was only 7 years old.

In the report, Mr Smith recalled being told, "Don’t tell anyone, not even your parents, and if you do they will not believe you anyway".

He told a Marylands nurse and was not believed.

Mr Smith suffered abuse at the hands of the St John of God brothers, both in New Zealand and Australia.

He underwent a redress settlement process for his abuse in Australia, and received compensation from the Queensland government.

Mr Smith presented to the commission his recommendation of what a redress scheme by the New Zealand government, in response to the inquiry, must include.

He recommended mandatory participation by all faith-based institutions in the redress, for it to be managed independently from such institutions and for historical claims to be reviewed with financial compensation adjusted where necessary.

The report said Mr Smith was of the view that redress is much more than financial compensation, and he said he hoped New Zealand would follow in Australia’s footsteps.

"Queensland has more support for survivors than in New Zealand.

"The Royal Commission Act also shows survivors in Australia that the changes are there for the long haul. New Zealand also needs to commit to redress in legislation.

"I have the same hopes for the outcomes for survivors from the Royal Commission in New Zealand."

Marylands School was a residential school for disabled boys run by the Hospitalier Order of the Brothers of St John of God, one of the oldest clergies of the Catholic Church.

Among five brothers staffed at Marylands was a New Zealander, Brother Bernard McGrath, who has been convicted of more than 100 offences over three decades, in both New Zealand and Australia.

The report said its members took vows of "poverty, chastity and obedience" and devoted their lives to serving the sick and socially disadvantaged.

Commission of Inquiry chairwoman Coral Shaw said the commission had not heard of any other institution with a more prolific history of sexual abuse than Marylands School.

"Marylands School was a place of depravity, sexual, physical and spiritual violence.

"At Hebron Trust, rangatahi were sexually and physically abused by one of the most prolific serial abusers of the Order."

“We are aware of no other circumstances or institution where the sexual abuse has been so extreme," she said.