Friday, June 07, 2024

‘I will validate them’: Abuse survivors remember ‘brothers’ who didn’t make it

A Christchurch street and park, named after Catholic residential school Marylands, where more than a hundred boys suffered horrific abuse, has officially been renamed to ‘validation’.

It is a meaningful victory to the men who survived, but those who spoke at the Thursday ceremony said when they visit Validation Reserve, they’ll remember those who didn’t make it.

“To our survivor community ... I see you, I hear you,” said Peter Wall, who was 10 when he was sent to Marylands School in 1970.

“Far too long we’ve sought acknowledgement and validation for the trauma we suffered. Today we take back control and reclaim this space here, for the strength and resilience of survivors,” he said.

For the victims who didn’t survive, he said he will remember them, “and I will validate them”.

Hanz Freller was abused while attending Hebron Trust (which was also run by the Catholic order, St John of God) in the 1990s.

“It’s never easy talking about something that’s so hard, something that’s so traumatic,” he told the crowd, which included survivors, supporters and representatives from the Christchurch City Council, including mayor Phil Mauger.

Freller said he shared his story because not everyone could, and he wanted to make sure the abuse they suffered was remembered.

The new name showed survivors it was worth holding on to “that glimmer of hope that things will change”, he said, and thanked the council for agreeing to change the name.

Eddie Marriott attended Marylands and was abused between the age of 5 and 15. He said he was concerned about the coalition government bringing back charter schools, as he considered Marylands to have been a type of charter school where people were hired without government oversight and without the need for qualifications.

“In some ways I see the government stepping back ... almost having history repeat itself,” he said.

Marylands School (1955-1984) was a residential school for boys with learning difficulties. It was followed by the Hebron Trust (1986-1993), a residential programme for youths in need of safety and shelter, like ‘street kids’.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care found that of the 537 boys who attended Marylands, 118 reported abuse, but the true number was likely much higher.

They were sexually and physically abused by people in charge of their care, including Brother Bernard McGrath, who was first jailed in 1993 for abusing boys, and most recently in 2018 for 33 years.

Validation Reserve and Validation Place, as it is now named, is in the vicinity of where Marylands School was originally located before it moved to Halswell in the mid-1960s.

Judge Coral Shaw, commission chairperson, said the name change is the first - but hopefully not last - time a location has been shed of its association with an institution the inquiry investigated.

She said a final report, which will include recommendations for redress for survivors, will be released by June 26.

Advocate Ken Clearwater - who many survivors thanked in their speeches - said the first time a Marylands survivor’s story was told was in The Press, in 1994.

Thirty years on, he said survivors were proud with what they achieved. However, so long as children continue to be abused, there was always more work to be done, he said.