Redress from behind prison bars
Roy Takiaho, of Ngāpuhi descent, was born in Auckland in 1972.[i] He was two when made a ward of the State and placed in foster care. Roy’s parents fought to get him back, but the Department of Social Welfare was determined he should go into foster care. The department placed him with a Pākehā family in West Auckland where he lived until he was 12. Roy said he was separated from his whānau and so alienated from his culture he didn’t even know for a long time that he was Māori.
His older foster brothers physically abused him. His foster parents took Roy to the local sports clubrooms where different perpetrators sexually abused him numerous times over the space of 10 years. Roy never told his social workers about the physical and sexual abuse because he did not feel comfortable talking to them, and his foster parents would maintain a front that everything was going well. However, Roy said: “In my mind, I was being a child. There was things I wanted to say to them, but I wasn’t allowed to. I was told to be present and quiet. I was told that they’re not here to see me.”
“When I started to realise I was a Māori in this Pākehā family, I started to rebel against the rules of my foster parents ... I was seen to be erratic and out of control, so DSW started bouncing me off to boys’ homes.”
At 12, Roy was moved to two other foster homes and eventually to the State-run Ōwairaka Boys’ Home in Auckland where he remained for around six months. Roy was in and out of Ōwairaka Boys’ Home for the remainder of his years in care. At the boys’ home, he was subjected to sexual, physical and psychological abuse by staff and other boys. He was frequently put in locked cells for long periods. “Boys homes introduced me to hate, violence and hate against the system. Which later on introduced me to the borstals.”
After Ōwairaka Boys’ Home, Roy was moved between multiple State foster care homes, but none of these placements lasted for very long. At 13, the department moved him to The Salvation Army’s Hodderville Boys’ Home in the Waikato where he remained for a year. There he suffered more physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Allan Galley, who was employed by The Salvation Army as a staff member to work at Hodderville Boys’ Home, raped him repeatedly throughout his entire time at the home. Galley told Roy not to speak about the abuse to anyone, for example, by telling him, “Jesus also says that those with a quiet mouth are seen as good children.”
Roy described his time at Hodderville Boys’ Home as the darkest of the many already dark chapters in his short life. “Compared to the abuse I’d already suffered, Hodderville was the worst place I’d ever been ... the worst and ugliest place I’d ever seen.”
The impact of the abuse on Roy was profound, as he readily acknowledged. “As a result of the abuse I suffered, I became the abuser. I used physical abuse. I wanted to hurt people. I became a person who wanted to administer pain. At the boys’ homes, gang colours were introduced to us, and you chose which one you wanted to be part of.”
It was not surprising, therefore, that Roy ended up in prison. He spent a total of 12 years behind bars, and in that time he saw many old faces from Ōwairaka Boys’ Home and Hodderville Boys’ Home.
The impact of his time in care and prison has seeped into every aspect of his life, including his relationships with his tamariki and mokopuna. He struggles being in crowds or around people he doesn't know. “Every day I think about what happened to me. I’ll never be the same, regardless of counselling. I am living with what happened to me.”
Roy is in his second year studying psychology at Waikato University. He chose psychology so he could help rangatahi Māori and ensure those in care do not suffer as he did.
Claim lodged from prison
In 2004, while in prison, Roy heard about individuals who had gone to law firm Cooper Legal for help in making a claim for abuse suffered during their time in care. His initial motivation was mainly financial, as he was in prison and the money would make a big difference. He also wanted answers to why he had been put in care and why he had been physically and sexually abused.
When Roy talked to a lawyer from Cooper Legal, it was the first time he had ever disclosed the abuse to anyone, and he remembered the relief he felt. The lawyer was sincere and listened to his story carefully. It began to dawn on him how serious the abuse had been.
Roy’s lawyer approached The Salvation Army and on 9 December 2004, the pair met Murray Houston at Rangipo Prison in Tūrangi. Since 2000, Mr Houston has been responsible for handling abuse claims involving Salvation Army children's homes. He has also headed its redress process for these claims, which has been in place since 2003. He made it clear to Roy that he worked for, but wasn’t an officer or soldier of, The Salvation Army. Mr Houston’s independence was an important kaupapa for Roy.
Roy found the meeting intense. He said Mr Houston wanted “straight facts, he wanted to know exactly what happened”. He also wanted Roy to go into a lot of detail about the abuse. Roy found recounting those incidents very tough. He was unable to recall all details of the abuse “because I was a kid at the time”. He managed to contain his feelings during the meeting, knowing he had to describe what happened and wanting to get it over with. However, it opened a “can of worms” for him. “It was the first time I had properly told someone about the abuse I suffered as a child. I can cover up the feelings for a short time, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist ... The feeling of what happened to me as a child was fresh after that.”
Roy thought the interview went on for hours, but the recording of the meeting was only 88 minutes. The topic of access to counselling was raised by Mr Houston, but ultimately Roy returned to his cell without any counselling or support. He remembered feeling very negative and frustrated after the meeting, and those feelings “continued to build up until I acted out”. He knew a convicted paedophile was in his unit, and later that month he stabbed him. Roy received six years for the assault.
On 1 February 2005, Roy accepted a settlement offer of $25,000. The Salvation Army requires claimants who accept an offer to sign a document agreeing that the offer constitutes “full and final settlement” of their claim. There is no confidentiality clause.
How Roy’s claim was handled
Within six months of the first approach from Roy’s lawyer, The Salvation Army had Roy’s agreed offer ready for signing. The Salvation Army’s policy is to prioritise the resolution of claims, knowing that delays can cause undue stress to survivors.
The Salvation Army did not offer Roy any cultural support or advise him this was an option. It did not have a process whereby it sought to tailor the claims process to Roy’s cultural values or tikanga, unless specifically requested. Generally, The Salvation Army did not involve Māori when creating its redress process or at any subsequent point. Its process has not been formally reviewed, and it does not generally incorporate tikanga Māori – a point Mr Houston acknowledged.[ii]
The Salvation Army’s original offer was $15,000, plus $2,500 toward counselling costs. Roy’s lawyer negotiated this up to $25,000 plus legal fees.[iii] The Salvation Army has given Mr Houston broad authority to settle claims, allowing him to use his knowledge and experience to gauge, with guidance from legal advisors and senior leadership members, what an appropriate settlement amount should be.[iv]
Mr Houston does not use a matrix in calculating financial offers and instead takes into account a number of factors, including the individual circumstance of the survivor type and severity of abuse, some legal considerations and equality between survivors. He is also guided by lawyers acting for survivors who frequently make recommendations on settlements for their clients.[v] Mr Houston acknowledged during the inquiry’s redress hearing that it would be possible to form a matrix of some sort today, based on his experience, and this may allow for a consistency of process, but it would not have been possible to do in 2003.[vi] Mr Houston stated at the redress hearing that while he is clear in his own mind as to how and why each redress sum was reached with an individual survivor, he also acknowledged that some errors of judgment or assessment may be expected.[vii] He accepted that the lack of any publicly available settlement criteria meant survivors could be more likely to settle for what he first offered them in some cases, especially those without legal representation.[viii]
Mr Houston told the redress hearing The Salvation Army decided in early 2004 against adopting a legalistic approach to out-of-court claims. It did not rely on any legal defences and did not require survivors to prove allegations. Rather, its approach was to “largely accept the allegations at face value, but to seek to verify or corroborate what was said”.[ix] Even so, Mr Houston acknowledged during the redress hearing that correspondence with survivors continued to contain references to legal defences and a lack of legal liability until around 2014.[x] The use of legal language is at odds with the empathetic style of communication that should be employed with survivors.
Roy, quite rightly, thought The Salvation Army had failed to acknowledge its responsibility for the abuse he suffered, and this was evident in its settlement offer letter, in which Mr Houston extended his deepest regrets “if any misconduct by anyone for whom the Army was responsible has caused Roy to be mistreated”.[xi]
Roy said he was looking for his various abusers “to be held accountable properly”. Mr Houston made inquiries into Roy’s main perpetrator, Allen Galley. He found out that he was deceased and told Roy. Given this, and the fact Galley had only been a staff member and not an officer or soldier of The Salvation Army, the organisation did not take any further steps.
A better approach, and one that might have been more meaningful and supportive of Roy’s needs, would have been for The Salvation Army to tell Roy it believed and acknowledged the harm done to him and that it was willing to hold itself fully accountable for the harm he suffered. While The Salvation Army sought to show this acknowledgment with a letter of apology and payment of redress, it was not sufficient for Roy. His recollection of the process was:
“I remember Murray kept asking, ‘how can we make this better?’ I said I want someone to be held accountable. That never happened ... [t]he financial part of the process meant nothing to me; it was something to help my family.”
Roy was in prison when he met with Mr Houston and was unable to process his experiences. The Salvation Army was unable to approach Roy without his lawyer's consent, or to provide any other support either before or after the interview. As explained above, Roy stabbed a convicted paedophile in prison. Roy said:
“I hadn’t been given the material or skills to deal with my feelings. The only way I knew was to act out, so I stabbed someone. I didn’t know how to deal with what happened to me in my childhood, I had opened the can of worms during that interview. And I was just sent back to the violent prison environment afterwards.”
The Salvation Army offered counselling to Roy but was told it was not available while he was in prison.[xii] It likely would have required an arrangement through the Department of Corrections, with assistance from his lawyers. The Salvation Army was wholly unaware that Roy felt the level of distress reported and was shocked to hear of this during the inquiry’s redress hearing.
A trauma-informed approach includes proactive access to psychological and emotional support, as well as an empathetic approach with a wholehearted belief in survivors’ claims. While Roy’s engagements with The Salvation Army occurred approximately 17 years ago, when knowledge of a trauma-informed approach to survivors was less developed, it is not clear The Salvation Army actively considered this approach.
Murray Houston did not have any experience or training in dealing with abuse and trauma before beginning his role in the redress process.[xiii] He has acknowledged it would have been valuable to have proper training. The Salvation Army has since recognised the need for personnel involved in redress processes to undertake training to ensure an empathetic and trauma-informed process.[xiv]
Roy didn’t receive the answers he wanted from the redress process: “I still don’t know why I wasn’t placed back with my family when clearly they wanted me back.” He now better understands the cycle of abuse, how the abused becomes the abuser, but this doesn’t take away the trauma he carries with him each day.
In the redress hearing, Roy spoke about his desire to close the book on his time in care. He said:
“Yeah, I don't want to be repeating this again and again, yes. This is, to me now this is the final chapter, this is the book I'm going to close now at this time. The only way I want to open the chapter of this again, is to be helping our rangatahi later on down the track. That's about it. But, as far as my abuse in care is concerned, this is the place now that it's going to be staying.”
Summary and findings
Taking the above into account, we find:
- The Salvation Army failed to provide appropriate acknowledgement of harm suffered by Roy in relation to the abuse he suffered in their care, or to provide a meaningful apology
- The Salvation Army process failed to take into account te Tiriti o Waitangi or incorporate te ao Māori or tikanga Māori principles and values, resulting in a failure to ask Roy whether there were cultural arrangements he wished them to include in his redress process
- while accepting that a timely outcome is beneficial for many survivors, The Salvation Army redress process failed Roy as there were insufficient checks as to what he required in his specific circumstances in terms of timing and process
- The Salvation Army failed to adopt a trauma-informed approach in the conduct of the interview with Roy, demonstrated in the way questions were asked and the details sought, despite knowing the events happened when he was a young child many years prior and that he had been moved between multiple institutions
- overall, the redress process caused Roy additional trauma.
Next: Robert Oakly: Archdeacon’s sexual abuse has lifelong impacts
[i] Witness Statement of Roy Takiaho, WITN0071001 (Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care, 10 September 2020); Witness Statement of Roy Takiaho, WITN0071002 (Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care, 10 November 2020); Transcript of evidence of Roy Takiaho from Faith-based Redress Hearing Phase I, TRN0000337 (Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse, 11 December 2020).
[ii] Witness Statement of Murray Houston for The Salvation Army, WITN0250022 (Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care, 29 January 2021), pp. 11-12.
[iii] File note by Murray Houston regarding counter-offer for Roy Takiaho’s claim, SAL0001670 (28 January 2005).
[iv] Witness Statement of Colonel Gerry Walker for The Salvation Army, WITN0249001 (Royal Commission of Inquiry in Abuse in Care, 18 September 2020), p. 6.
[v] Witness Statement of Murray Houston for The Salvation Army, WITN0250001 (Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care, 18 September 2020), pp. 36-37. See also: table of settlement sums reached with survivors represented by Grant Cameron as compared to the sums sought by Mr Cameron on behalf of those survivors: Witness Statement of Murray Houston, 29 January 2021, Appendix, pp. 29-30.
[vi] Transcript of evidence of Murray Houston for The Salvation Army from Faith-based Redress Hearing Phase II, TRN0000340 (Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care, 17 March 2021), p. 164-165.
[vii] Witness Statement of Murray Houston, 18 September 2020, p. 43.
[viii] Transcript of evidence of Murray Houston from Faith-based Redress Hearing Phase II, 17 March 2021, p. 167; Witness Statement of Murray Houston, 29 January 2021, Appendix, pp. 29-30.
[ix] Witness Statement of Murray Houston, 18 September 2020, p. 29.
[x] Ibid., pp. 18-19.
[xi] Letter from Murray Houston, The Salvation Army, to Sonja Cooper, Cooper Legal, regarding Roy Takiaho, SAL0001672 (27 January 2005), p. 3.
[xii] Transcript of interview with Roy Takiaho and Murray Houston, The Salvation Army, SAL0001633 (9 December 2004), p. 37.
[xiii] Transcript of evidence of Murray Houston for The Salvation Army from Faith-based Redress Hearing Phase II, TRN0000339 (Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care, 16 March 2021), p. 144.
[xiv] Transcript of closing submissions of The Salvation Army from Faith-based Redress Hearing Phase II, TRN0000348 (Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care, 29 March 2021), p. 882.