Calls for royal commission into child abuse
A child-sex abuse survivor travelling New Zealand on a crusade to force a top-level inquiry into the issue has stopped in Palmerston North to gather support.
Grant West visited the city on Wednesday collecting signatures for a petition demanding a royal commission into institutional responses to sexual abuse of children.
West says something has to change, as the country is a "haven for paedophiles". He says he was a victim of such predators nearly five decades ago and in seeking retribution, ended up in an institution.
More than 200 people added their names to the petition when West, on behalf of his fledgling advocacy group Silence No More NZ, collected support in front of the Plaza Shopping Centre in Palmerston North on Wednesday.
The petition will be presented to Labour MPs Kris Faafoi, Kelvin Davis and Stuart Nash on the steps of Parliament on September 15.
New Zealand is the only Commonwealth country that hasn't held a royal commission on this matter, West said.
West said he was a survivor of institutional sexual abuse himself.
Now living in Australia, Kiwi-born West said it was time New Zealand gave survivors of historic abuse some sense of justice and to seriously address the country's shameful child-abuse statistics.
UN figures ranked New Zealand as the 5th worst country in the OECD for child abuse. Meanwhile, alarming figures from the Ministry of Social Development show one in five girls and one in 10 boys are sexually abused.
"We have to change that. What we've got now is a haven for pedophiles."
West said he was first abused by a priest in Wellington, so in March 1971, he tried to burn the church down.
"It didn't burn down completely, so I went back a second time. That's when I got caught."
He became a ward of the state and bounced a boys' home and psychiatric hospital for years, where, he says, he was abused by staff.
West said the petition was only the beginning and he planned to set Silence No More up as a non-profit organisation to continue the campaign.
"This is ongoing. I know we're not going to get a royal commission right away. It's going to take a couple of years at least."