A 14-year-old boy who was sent to a bootcamp in Te Urewera in 1995 told the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care that he was violently attacked multiple times there.
During today’s hearing, the man, who requested anonymity and was referred to as Mr U, was sent to the Moerangi Treks camp while in welfare care.
Any staff members, he said, randomly hit him in the head and verbally assaulted him.
After trying to run away he would be made to play what was called “crash in the bush”, which involved being chased by up to 20 other boys and badly beaten by them when caught, he said.
He was also knocked unconscious.
“I was cutting firewood, I was hit over the back of the head. I was knocked unconscious and when I woke up I was in a little cabin with a tarp over me.
“The other kids told me I had been hit over the back of the head with a metal shovel by a man, but I can’t be sure it was him as I was knocked out cold. He wasn’t a staff member but an adult who would come along to activities at Moerangi Treks.”
At another time he tried to run away, joining two other boys in stealing a truck, but they did no get very far.
“When we got back we were made to sit on seats surrounded by all the other boys. He then made the other boys take turns beating us. I felt like they were trying to kill us. I ended up on the ground curled into a ball as the other boys punched and kicked me.”
One time he was made to go out hunting with a staff member.
“I was not good at hunting and was noisy. At one point he got angry with me and put his rifle to my head and told me he would shoot me if I did not shut the f… up.”
In another occasion, he was beaten up by a staff member and sustained a series of bruises, including scratches on his body and face and a black eye, but he was never given medical attention.
After two weeks, he was able to contact his parents, and his father rode out to Moerangi Treks to pick him up.
He was then sent to the Weymouth Boys’ Home, where he had previously been raised.
He filed a formal complaint with his social worker three days after returning from Moerangi Treks. He described the assaults he had undergone in it.
A police report was lodged requesting an impartial investigation. Mr. U said that he had no idea what transpired after his complaint to his social worker.
“I found out much later that Moerangi Treks had been investigated because of my allegations, but I was not told about the investigation and did not know what the outcome was.”
He was discharged from Weymouth in October 1995 but was readmitted about two weeks later on a charge of aggravated robbery.
He was released shortly afterwards but his records showed no school would enrol him in the area and he continued to get into trouble.
Mr U continued to get into trouble with the police over the next year and was held in police cells on multiple occasions.
At age 16 he was transferred to the District Court and sentenced to adult prison.
“I have been in and out of prison ever since my first incarceration at age 16.”
He struggled with drug and alcohol addictions and began using methamphetamine at 16.
“My drug abuse has had a massive impact on my family and I have often been absent from their lives,” he said.
“I have been involved in gangs and violence and am lucky to still have my family around me.”
Mr U has struggled with depression and has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.