Grandmother tells state abuse inquiry she was forced to get smear test at 12, sexually assaulted

Source: 1News

Stories of horrific abuse suffered by Māori girls were heard today at the ongoing Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in State Care. 

One Christchurch grandmother told the hearing extreme trauma from her childhood has stayed with her throughout her life. 

Gwyneth Beard took those gathered back to the 1970s, when she was taken to live at Strathmore Girls Home. 

She said the abuse started almost immediately, when she was locked up for days. 

Beard also said she was made to have a smear test at just 12 years old. 

"Very clearly it was then said between the doc and the staff member 'oh she's sexually active' and I was sexually abused and that sits with me everyday."

Beard said she was sexually assaulted during those smear tests, leading to a lifetime fear of them. 

She also described how little affection was shown to her.

"Next minute the principal of Strathmore dragged me down to the cells and beat the crap out of me with the vaccuum and a staff member came down and stopped him."

Researcher Oliver Sutherland said the state's approach was simple racism.

"Back in the 70s the belief was we (New Zealand) had the best race relations in the world. Nobody really understood institutional racism if it was there. It was there staring them in the face, but in fact nobody wanted to even talk about it."

Beard now advocates for whanau who are dealing with Oranga Tamariki. 

She said she sees herself in those children, everyday. 

"I see these lost children that just sit there and these ones that throw bad tantrums and they're getting labelled ADHD and you think they just want to be heard, want to be cuddled. They just want to go home."