Te Uiui o te Manga Tamariki me
te Rangatahi ki Lake Alice
Beautiful Children, the report on our case study into the Lake Alice Child and Adolescent Unit is being released today on our website, after it was tabled in Parliament and formally presented to the Governor-General.
It confirms that physical, sexual and emotional abuse of tamariki and rangatahi was widespread at the Lake Alice Child and Adolescent Unit.
Psychiatrist Selwyn Leeks and some of the unit’s staff inflicted extreme physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, degradation, and seclusion on the children and young people in their care. The atmosphere in the unit was one of intense fear.
Very few of the tamariki and rangatahi admitted to the unit had a valid diagnosis of mental illness that required hospitalisation. There were no proper processes for admission, diagnosis or treatment, and it is likely that many admissions to the unit were unlawful.
Our inquiry also found that multiple State agencies and professional bodies failed to act in response to the abuse and torture at Lake Alice.
“Tamariki and rangatahi have the right to thrive, free from abuse and neglect. The children of Lake Alice were denied that right by the very agencies set up to protect them.
“The State failed survivors then, and it has continued to fail them for decades afterwards,” said Inquiry Chair Coral Shaw.
“Beautiful Children confirms what survivors have been saying all along – they were abused and tortured at Lake Alice.”
Those who experienced and witnessed abuse at Lake Alice have suffered lifelong damage to their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. For many, it has affected their ability to create loving relationships, access education and hold down jobs. Its impacts are intergenerational, affecting their children and mokopuna, and society as a whole.
The report finds that racism, ableism and homophobia were widespread at the unit. These attitudes enabled abuse to occur, and then impeded the inquiries and investigations into the abuse.
The report highlights the key role the State played in such a horrifying and traumatic part of our history and on the lives of the tamariki and rangatahi they were entrusted to protect.
The story of the Lake Alice child and adolescent unit is a shameful chapter in the history of Aotearoa New Zealand. It must be faced head-on, without excuses or explanations, and with a determination to make proper amends and ensure such tragedies never happen again.
Our investigation into the Lake Alice Child and Adolescent Unit will directly inform the findings and recommendations of our final report, due in June 2023.
To protect a related criminal trial, the Minister of Internal Affairs has asked for changes to a small number of parts in the report. Following the trial, the report will be released in full. At that time, printed copies of the report will become available. In the meantime, the report will be available through our website. The executive summary is available in Easy Read, Large Print and Braille. Translations of the executive summary in te reo Māori, NZSL and Pacific languages will be available soon.
The report and its content may raise difficult emotions when you read it or hear about it in the media. If you need to reach out for support, there is a list below of some of the phone helplines or services that offer support, information and help. All services are free. You can also contact the Royal Commission on 0800 222 727 (Mon-Fri, 8.30am to 4.30pm).
To the survivors who spoke to the Commission as part of this Inquiry, thank you for your courage and determination to share your experience.
How to get in touch with us
Call us in New Zealand on 0800 222 727 between 8.30am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday, or text 8185.
Call us from Australia on free phone 1800 875 745.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Write to us at PO Box 10071, Wellington 6140.
Visit our website www.abuseincare.org.nz.
Help and support services
Alcohol and Drug Helpline 0800 787 797 or online chat for people dealing with an alcohol or other drug problem; 10 am to 10 pm)
Anxiety phone line 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY)
Depression Helpline 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 (to talk to a trained counsellor about how you are feeling or to ask any questions)
Family Services 211 Helpline 0800 211 211 for help finding (and direct transfer to) community based health and social support services in your area.
Lifeline 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Aotearoa New Zealand Support services for male survivors of sexual abuse. Refer to website for the support organisation nearest to you.
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
OUTline NZ 0800 688 5463 (OUTLINE) provides confidential telephone support for sexuality or gender identity issues; 9 am to 9 pm weekdays, and 6 pm to 8 pm weekends)
Rape Crisis 0800 883 300 (for support after rape or sexual assault)
Safe to talk (Available 24/7) 0800 044 334, free txt 4334, email email@example.com, live webchat on www.safetotalk.nz. Free and confidential information and support from trained counsellors for people affected by sexual harm in any way.
Samaritans 0800 726 666
Skylight, 0800 299 100 for trauma, loss and grief; 9am–5pm weekdays
SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests Providing peer support for women and men wounded by religious and institutional authorities
Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Supporting Families in Mental Illness For families and whānau supporting a loved one who has a mental illness. Auckland 0800 732 825.
Victim Support This free service provides emotional and practical support, information, financial assistance, referral to other support services and advocacy for the rights of victims.