Many survivors said they did not trust the organisations they went to for redress to treat them fairly because those same organisations were responsible for the abuse they had suffered. This applied even if the organisation no longer existed, but its responsibilities and liabilities were transferred to a new organisation. Many said they simply could not accept that these organisations could be impartial or manage the conflicts of interest well. Instead, they viewed redress processes as designed to defend organisations’ reputation and interests – and sometimes to defend the abuser. James Packer said it was “impossible for claimants to truly feel the process is fair and impartial”.
Many survivors said they did not want to have anything to do with the institution in which they were abused but, without any independent way for redress, other than the courts, they had no choice. Frances Tagaloa said she found it “strange to me that I had to go back to the Marist Brothers, to the very organisation that allowed the abuse to happen ... to try and see if they would fix it”. Keith Wiffin said the lack of independence completely undermined the integrity of the claims process. He said the Ministry of Social Development had a “very high threshold” to prove claims, and its starting point was to be “suspicious and disbelieving” of claimants and “protective of its own staff, even those with criminal convictions for abusing children”.
Mary Marshall, who suffers from depression since her abuse as a child and teenager, said there was a “clear bias and an unwillingness by Catholics to believe a Catholic nun could ever engage in such heinous crimes”.
Wiremu Waikari told us he found “the redress process to be a bit like a slap in the face. It’s like being retraumatised. MSD locked us up back then and now they want to shut the book on what all the workers that were hired by them did to us. There’s no transparency because MSD are assessing themselves. To me, MSD having that level of power is not on”.
Cooper Legal, speaking for the many claimants it had represented over the years, said there could be no real accountability while agencies “placed themselves in the position of information provider, information assessor, Judge, actuary and service provider”.
Survivors said they found the absence of any independent review or appeal mechanisms unfair because it left them with two unpalatable choices: either take the offer as presented or take the claim to court. As Phillipa Wilson discovered, the Ministry of Social Development will consider reviewing an offer internally – but at a cost. She said the ministry told her it would have to go through the claim “with a fine-tooth comb” and this “would probably take another four years at least and there was a chance the settlement offer would decrease”.
Survivors said the ministry was unwilling to review settlements after they had agreed to them, even when new information had come to light about the abuse or abuser. They said this was unfair. One survivor participated in the ministry’s fast-track process, and said it was only fair that claims settled in this way should be open to review.
Next: Frustration at lack of accountability