Kohitere Boy's Training Centre in Levin, ONE OF THE INSTITUTIONS AT THE CENTRE OF ABUSE CLAIMS(Photo: RNZ / Aaron Smale)

The Bulletin: Painful testimony at abuse in state care inquiry

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Painful testimony at abuse in state care inquiry, student loan generation in focus, and hoiho breeding season wrecked.

This week, public hearings for the Royal Commission into abuse of children in care have finally got underway. This is a useful backgrounder on it from Radio NZcontributor David Cohen, who has significant expertise in the matter. The discussion coming out of the Royal Commission is certain to be painful and difficult.

The process so far has been dogged by difficulties and mistakes. Newsroom’s Laura Walters has looked at the Survivor Advisory Group, a group with a vital purpose, but which so far has been plagued with problems. Even the members of the group are speaking out, with concerns that their presence is merely lip-service, rather than being the driving force behind the Royal Commission.

So far, the testimony has been brutal and devastating. The reporting from Radio NZ’s Katie Scotcher has outlined a heartbreaking aspect of it all regarding borstols. Humiliation, corporal punishment and abuse comes across as being the normal way kids were treated, rather than being an exception. With that in mind, it is worth going back to this piece from Stuff a few months ago, when warnings were raised that abuse in state care was not a purely historical issue.

It is also worth going back to the stories of four men who in 2017 came forward to share their stories, giving impetus to the whole process. The Hui spoke to them, and it was clear that their experiences in state care set them on a much worse path than they would have otherwise had. “The more I was institutionalised, the harder I became,” as one of the men put it.


A really strong series has been running over the last few days on the legacy and culture around students loans. Simon Collins at the NZ Herald (paywalled) has been looking into various aspects around how they’ve changed both people and New Zealand, and the story I’ve linked to will be relatable to many. It includes a lot of discussion around the impact student loans have on life options – for some, the system has dramatically opened them up, while for others, their loans have put them in too much debt to return to NZ.


The hoiho breeding season has been wrecked, seemingly by flooding and starvation, reports Newshub. The hoiho, or yellow-eyed penguin, has colonies around the southern South Island and Stewart Island. Nest numbers are way down this season, with a DOC statement suggesting that more muddy water following floods has inhibited their ability to hunt fish. The hoiho is considered one of the rarest penguin species in the world. Meanwhile in further bird news, the first Fairy Tern egg of the season has been laid, reports Radio NZ – this is genuinely a big deal given how critically endangered the species is.


Cash-strapped Kaikōura District Council could be about to lose about half of its ratepayer base, reports local democracy reporter Chloe Ranford. Clarence and Kēkerengū, to the north of the district, want to instead join up with Marlborough. The 2016 quake – for which the repair bill will require big rates hikes – is part of the impetus for leaving, though the ratepayers say they had been campaigning for it to happen before that. There’s a general feeling as well expressed in the story that Kaikōura District Council simply doesn’t have a sustainable future.


The Manukau Court system is struggling with delays caused by a lack of available interpreters, reports Stuff’s Donna-Lee Biddle. The Manukau District Court is the busiest in the country, and delays in the justice system can have a particularly unfair impact in less wealthy areas. Currently interpreters are provided free to courts through a government run pool system, and there are calls to increase the number available so that capacity can be met.


In media news, UK-based liberal leviathan the Guardian is stepping up a push into New Zealand, reports The Spinoff. The website has seen significant traffic success to date from their NZ coverage, particularly stories by Dunedin-based Eleanor Ainge-Roy. They have also started targeted calls to action for readers in NZ to give them money, and media commentator Gavin Ellis says this could squeeze the available pool of money for locally based operations.


Transport minister Phil Twyford has been copping it recently, so here’s a robust balancing view. Writing in the NZ Herald, Pattrick Smellie argues that he’s been blamed for the mistakes of others, and in the case of Auckland light rail appears to be more a victim of politicking than an agent of it. In particular, the argument goes that Twyford was being stonewalled by the previous board of NZTA. “The fact that he effectively sacked the old board speaks volumes about his dissatisfaction with their performance.”


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Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz

Look at all these streaming services hovering in the cloud! But what are they, and which one is right for you?

Right now on The Spinoff: There’s a brand new episode of On the Rag to sink your teeth into. Tara Ward has a definitive guide to every video streaming platform in the country. Privacy commissioner John Edwards writes about the asymmetric battle between NZ regulators and global internet giants. And historian Ann Beaglehole reflects on our history of settling refugees, on the 75th anniversary of the arrival of Polish children fleeing World War Two.


For a feature today, a look into a complex debate in the fiction world. Vulture has sought out a range of perspectives on writing ‘outside the author’s identity’ – in other words, creating and speaking for characters with very different lives to the author. It’s something for journalists to think about too, given that profession is also about telling other people’s stories. Here’s an excerpt:

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The course was founded by the speculative-fiction writers Nisi Shawl, who is black, and Cynthia Ward, who is white, nearly twenty years ago. They’d met a decade or so earlier, at a fantasy and science-fiction workshop, and were inspired to design their own writing class after a conversation with another classmate, a white friend who’d declared that she’d never write a character who didn’t share her background or identity because she’d be sure to get it wrong. “My immediate thought was, ‘well that’s taking the easy way out!’” recalled Shawl.

While imagining the lives of people who are different from you is virtually a prerequisite of most successful fiction writing, the consequences of doing it poorly have grown more serious since the pre-Twitter, pre-woke ’90s, as the conversation about who gets to tell whose stories has moved from the fringes of publishing into the mainstream. J.K. Rowling, Lionel Shriver, and Kathryn Stockett have all caught heat for botching the job.


There’s a game of rugby on tonight. You probably don’t want to watch the All Blacks take on Wales in the World Cup third place playoff, but think about it this way: it’s almost certainly the last time the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty, Kieran Read and Matt Todd will be seen in the black jersey. So if you’ve enjoyed watching them play rugby over the last few years, make the most of this weird, unfortunate tacked-on fixture.


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