Stanmore Road Boys’ Home in Christchurch ‘is kind of a violent place’ but what’s worse is coming for a man who has shared his experiences with RNZ. Photo / 123rf
By Andrew McRae for RNZ
One man who came through state care at an orphanage, boys’ home, corrective training and finally prison, believes his life has been pushed back by at least 30 years by the way he was treated and the physical and psychological abuse he endured.
Aaron, who is 50 years old, comes from a broken home and his interview with RNZ is the first time he has spoken publicly about his experiences in care.
He lived on the streets for a year at the age of 9.
Aaron ended up at Stanmore Road Boys’ Home in Christchurch at 13 o’clock.
Her stepfather beat her if she made a mistake and one day she stood up and beat her back. The police were called and Aaron was sent to Stanmore.
One of his first memories of being at a boy’s house was seeing a drug addict using a syringe. “ It’s kind of a violent place. ”
He said those who run the house put one of the older boys in charge, as a kingpin to fire shots.
“Anyone who doesn’t do what he wants or behaves badly, he will make other people beat them. That’s perfectly normal. ”
She said she was never sexually assaulted like some of the other men in the house at the same time, but there was a lot of physical abuse.
Aaron was sent back to the Stanmore Road home when he was 14 or 15 after fighting and assaulting someone.
At the age of 16 he was sent to Rangipo Prison (now Tongariro Prison) for three months on the central North Island for what was then called corrective training.
A place of constant violence
He described it as the worst place he had ever been. “ That’s so unreal. ”
He was sure that all of the officers were former soldiers.
He said prisoners were forced to run all over the place and work in the forestry blocks and there was a lot of violence – “heaps, all the time”. “
“ You will not look at a prison officer, you will only be punched.
“ I had officers beat me, choke me, do dirty tricks like inserting a fire hose through my window in the middle of the night and then turning it on. ”
He said the inmates had to do a 20 km run every weekend and although he was lucky to be fit, others were not so lucky.
” You will get a new person there and he will not know what the way is and they will not be fit and decide to get into the truck with the runners – big mistake.
In the back of the truck there are always half a dozen officers there smoking drugs, so whoever gets into the truck is beaten and kicked out about 60 seconds later.
“ They would be covered in blood and we sometimes helped them get up and other times we were forced to do push-ups when they got together and started running again, but they ran away after that, ” he said.
Self-harm is an option
Aaron said some inmates were taking bold action to leave Rangipo. This includes injuring yourself for transfer.
“People try to break their arms all the time or break bones because if you can’t work there, you can’t stay there and you have to go to the main prison.
“ I saw a friend, a good Māori boy, he had to work first, jumped out of the truck first and took the ax used to cut the bushes in the forest and walked behind the bush and cut off his leg, telling boss that he slipped with an ax.
“ His boots are flapping and he has cut off quite a bit of the toe. ”
He said the inmates would fight amongst themselves but if they were caught, they ended up being beaten up by “ some screws ” (prison officials).
At the age of 18, Aaron was convicted on a range of charges including murder, assault and grievous physical assault and sentenced to eight and a half years in prison.
He is serving a five-and-a-half year sentence but says three months in Rangipo is much more difficult.
“ Before going to Rangipo, I thought I was lucky enough to live on the streets when I was 9 or 10 years old because it made it difficult for me. ”
Prison opportunity ‘to find out’
He was 24 years old when he was released from prison and has since tried to stay straight and narrow.
“ Maybe, to me, prison is what I need because it gives me time to stop and start thinking about it. ”
She married shortly thereafter and moved to Australia to work as a diamond driller and in mining.
He returned to New Zealand and studied adult building apprenticeship and now has his own building company that employs people.
“ Many people who know me will not know about my past. ”
Prepare both of them to fail and overcome them
Aaron is thinking of telling his story to the Royal Commission in Abuse in Care.
“ The system in some ways prepared me for a life of failure, but it also set me up to cope in other ways too, for some of the things I was going through.
“ I think the main thing in my life that probably impacted the most was three months in Rangipo. It was truly like no other place on Earth.
“ I saw people who were with me in Rangipo and of course they are victims and they have had other victims and I think it’s just a vicious circle and it has to stop somewhere. ”
He said the time in Rangipo only made them harder, which did not benefit them or their family or community.
“ I don’t know if what happened can be fixed. There are still things in my life that I do and sometimes I have to like to open them up and say: ‘That’s not really what I want to do and not what I want’.
“ Sometimes I have to hold back because some of those things can happen naturally and you don’t even notice it before you’re halfway through.
“There is a lot of hope for the next generation which is certain but it must start now. ”
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 SUPPORT) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (13.00 to 23.00)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Helpline: 1737
If it’s an emergency and you think you or someone else is at risk, call 111.