1 Dec 2016

Finding family after decades in state care

7:54 am on 1 December 2016

Ray Durie was missing for most of his life. Taken as a small child by Social Welfare he spent decades locked away in homes.

More than 10 years ago, when he was 71, his niece Gloria Graham found him and brought him home.

Rongo, Ray and Tilly Durie

Rongo, Ray and Tilly Durie Photo: Supplied

Ray Durie was the last of three uncles Ms Graham searched for and eventually brought home. His brothers, like him, had lived most of their lives in foster care or homes for the disabled or mentally-impaired.

None had children or wives, Ms Graham said.

"Not having their own lives I reckon that's what they took away from them, was for them to be able to participate in this world. So they could meet other people and have a family, you know things like that. That's part of life. Having that connection with another partner and getting your own kids."

When he returned home more than a decade years ago he was reunited with two brothers and a sister, June.

June Durie

June Durie Photo: Supplied

In the late 1940s, like many other Māori children Ray, Tilly and Rongo Durie were taken by the State as small children.

Their records show they all had stays at Lake Alice Psychiatric Facility. Gloria Graham isn't certain of all their movements but in the early 90s she began to look for them after her mother and their sister, Eliza, passed away.

Over the next decade she found the three uncles, and an aunt too, who had been cared for in Hamilton.

Yesterday she learned Social Development Minister Anne Tolley would not be making a universal apology for the abuse of her uncles or other children in state care.

"What the government did to them, they do need a full apology for what's happened to them. She doesn't know, how the hell would she know?," she said.

Mrs Tolley also said there was no evidence the abuse was systemic and there would be no inquiry.

Ms Graham said, "I'm just glad I had that time with all of them, you know. I brought four of them back home. For them to be ill-treated like that ... I actually have no words to say about it. If I did they would be ugly words, if I had to say something it would be so ugly"

Judge Carolyn Henwood was the chair of the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS) panel that heard from more than 1100 people who were abused in state care between the 1950s and 1980s, predominantly under the Department of Social Welfare.

She is furious at the government's response.

Rongo, June and Ray Durie

Rongo, June and Ray Durie Photo: Supplied

Rongo and Tilly have since passed away. They are buried in the family urupa alongside Ms Graham's mother, their sister and the wider Durie whānau.

Since looking into the trio's removal by the government Ms Graham found out an extended family member had called Social Welfare after the children's father passed away.

She said that person would never have called the authorities had he known the family would be torn apart.

Having four elderly living with her took a lot of time and energy, but she said it was the right thing to do to bring them all home.

She has just one uncle living with her now. He came to her from Porirua Mental Hospital and he brought with him some of traits that keeps her on her toes, she said.

"Still today he sees things. You could leave your purse next to him and he'd pinch it and you'd never know. You could take him into a shop and he'd fill his pockets up and no one would know."