Most Pacific survivors also described cultural obstacles to full and proper redress for the harm done to them. They said both State and faith-based redress processes reflected Palagi outlooks and values and were insensitive to the needs of Pacific cultures. Many of the obstacles to reporting abuse including strong respect for authority and church leaders, power imbalances, fear of not being believed, the imperative not to disrupt the vā among and between families also applied to seeking redress. Traditional hierarchies related to age, status and gender influence who can safely speak about sex and sexual abuse, as well as who is likely to be supported by their family. People who spoke out risked bringing fakamā or shame on their families, and risk isolation from family, church and community relationships.
“When you pull away from [the Church], you pull away from so much of the cultural stuff, so much of the support village stuff. It’s almost like being ostracised from your whānau. Because of what’s happened, we don’t do any of those events any more. There are also events that we do not get invited to anymore.”
These risks can outweigh a survivor’s motivation to seek redress. Survivors said exercising sensitivity to these cultural considerations would have gone a long way towards improving the claims process – and might well have encouraged other Pacific survivors to come forward. But they said there was no such cultural sensitivity because both State and faith-based processes were steeped in Palagi values.
David Crichton said everyone he dealt with at the Ministry of Social Development was Palagi and unable to appreciate what it felt like to be “lied to about your cultural identity and the existence of your extended family”.
Many Pacific survivors said redress processes were insensitive to the needs of Pacific cultures, felt unsafe, and lacked transparency and accountability.
Fa’amoana Luafutu described his first interview with Ministry of Social Development as deeply disconcerting. He said he was asked his name at the outset and replied Fa’amoana, to which the woman from the ministry responded: “Okay John, and who have you brought with you today?” He said he repeated that his name was Fa’amoana, yet continued to be addressed as John. Eventually he said he was asked what name he would prefer and he answered: “I don’t care, I don’t care what you call me, whatever’s easier.”
Pacific survivors said they found redress processes complex, difficult to understand and drawn-out. They also said processes seemed designed to protect the reputation of the organisation rather than provide redress that would help them rebuild their lives. Frances Tagaloa, who engaged in a redress process with the Catholic Church, said she was left in the dark about the redress process until a settlement letter arrived. She had no input into the process, no support or legal advice, and no influence over whether her abuser was held to account. Ms CU, who also engaged with the Catholic Church, said that her background education and experience helped her understand the complaints process. Without these advantages, she said, she would have been “scared and afraid” about going through the processes, and would have found it very confusing.
The use of standardised, rather than culturally informed, processes was particularly difficult for Pacific survivors who, throughout their time in care, had been cut off from their cultures, languages and identities. They said they should have had input into the form of the apology and the venue for its delivery, which, as a matter of course, should have been a public place. Hake Halo said it would have meant a lot to him if “someone very high up in the government genuinely apologise[d] to me and [sought] my forgiveness. Even though [Prime Minister] Helen Clark apologised, it was to everybody. I should have got a personal apology that was addressed to me”.
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