Northland woman tells of abuse in orphanage

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Beverley Lind lived in hell at an orphanage. She holds a photograph of herself, aged 10, and her father Stanley Redway. PHOTO/Michael Cunningham.
Beverley Lind lived in hell at an orphanage. She holds a photograph of herself, aged 10, and her father Stanley Redway. PHOTO/Michael Cunningham.

Beverley Lind arrived at the Orphans' Home Papatoetoe as a blonde, brown-eyed, 2-year-old. She left a broken and angry 15-year-old girl, after an abusive experience that has haunted her for decades. Now, aged 70, she finally feels free of the shame and guilt she has carried. She tells reporter Kristin Edge why.


She called it the dungeon.

It was a dangerous goods storage room under the stairs in the main hall.

The huge metal door made a thud as it slammed shut and it was completely dark inside.

Beverley Lind (nee Redway) remembers being locked in darkness for hours without food, water or a toilet, crying quietly.

"Sometimes there was cleaning equipment or tins of things in there and sometimes nothing.

I would pass the time trying to figure out what things were with my hands.

"Once another girl tried to let me out and got caught and was thrown in with me. I was so grateful of the company."

It was one of the punishments handed out to young, vulnerable charges at the Orphans' Home Papatoetoe, in Auckland.

"Even now I find going into little places claustrophobic. I just want to scream," Beverley says.

Then there were the beatings.

"I can still hear the whistle of the cane through the air. Often the welts turned septic and there was no treatment offered."

And the verbal abuse cut to the heart of young Bev, who yearned for affection and craved the reassuring words of an adult in the loveless environment.

"We were told our parents did not want us or love us. We were told we could never leave.

"I was constantly put down by staff, I think because I was quite stroppy and would try and stand up for myself."

Eating cakes of soap and scrubbing bathroom floors with a small brush were punishments meted out to Beverley for perceived misdemeanours.

There was the "fondling" by an adult -- who is now deceased -- in exchange for money and special treats.

And then she was raped.

She was 11 years old, and it happened on a property she was taken to during the school holidays, on two separate occasions. Beverley was returned to the orphanage where she relayed what had happened.

She was branded a liar and beaten by a matron so severely Beverley collapsed.

The second time, when she returned to the orphanage, she was caned.

"The next day I was put in the dungeon for the whole day -- no food or water and I had to pee on the floor."

Good times were few and far between. Annual picnics were a highlight.

"I remember being very young sitting with my sister on the bus on the way to an outing, so happy because I was with my sister and she would teach me songs.

"I particularly remember her teaching me 'I'm a little teapot' which I sometimes climbed onto a little stage in the dining hall to sing."

Until her sister's death two years ago, Beverley kept her horrific childhood experiences tightly guarded. She never spoke of having to take clothes from a communal wardrobe or being named with a number -- her's was 69 -- like in a Nazi concentration camp.

But as her adored older sister Maureen lay dying of cancer, Beverley learned about how they came to be in the orphanage.

"She [Maureen] shared a scrapbook of clippings collected throughout her life and among them was a group photo of us at the orphanage. A wave of sickness came over me. I started asking questions."

Beverley learned she and her siblings were not state wards, but their father had made private arrangements for their care.

She was 2 years old when her mother left the family for another man. Her father, suffering the effects of a head injury, could not look after four children on his own.

Beverley, a pretty little girl with blonde curly hair, big brown eyes and a delightful smile, went with older siblings Maureen, Harry and Barry to the Orphans' Home Papatoetoe in 1947.

In the daunting environment the support of siblings could have made it more tolerable but they were kept separated, only coming together for their father's weekend visits.

Waiting by the gates every Saturday, Beverley treasured her father's precious visits.

"Because I longed to to see my brothers and sister too. The orphanage wouldn't let us see each other except when Dad was there or on special occasions like the Christmas picnic."

At times, as punishment, the children were not allowed to see their father and sometimes it was because they were covered in bruises and welts from beatings. Sometimes their father was ordered by the matron to dish out punishment and beat the children for their wrongdoings, real or perceived. He was handed the cane, taking the staff's word that punishment was justified.

Gifts such as pieces of fruit were confiscated once he had gone and put in the staff dining room.

"Before she died, Maureen made me promise that I would go all the way in forcing the church to acknowledge what they had done to us.

"The orphanage ruined my life. They ruined my brothers' and my sister's lives too. They ruined our family. My father trusted them to look after us all and they betrayed his trust in the worst way."

Beverley says the impact on her life has been huge.

Leaving the orphanage was just the beginning of a journey filled with shame, depression, mistrust and turmoil.

"I had years of degradation and abuse and torture suffered under the strict supervision of the staff, who broke the will of children through sadistic punishments. I'm haunted to this day with memories and flashbacks of torture I experienced and witnessed.

"I saw my brother being viciously punished, I saw his welts and cuts. It's a nightmare that never goes away. It felt like a concentration camp. We had poor food, shaved heads and were doused with kerosene to kill head lice."

After her sister died, Beverley contacted the family lawyer and found she could report the abuse to the police.

Time was running out. Beverley's health was deteriorating fast. She previously had a double mastectomy, had major bowel surgery, suffered hypertension and had borderline diabetes. Husband Mike was also poorly, having several heart bypasses.

"I wanted to see things put right for him, for loving me. He has stood by me without question."

In March 2015, she took her case to Whangarei-based law firm Henderson Reeves.

Beverley glows as she speaks about the help she received from the dedicated team -- Emily Henderson, Stuart Henderson, Gemma Coutts and Jeremy Browne -- who gave her the confidence and trust to proceed with private mediation.

"I couldn't have done it with out them. I never felt ashamed to tell my story to them and they treated me with the utmost respect."

Dr Emily Henderson says it was a privilege to help Beverley put ghosts to rest and honour her family.

"This is why we get into law.

"The opportunity to help Bev with what is a difficult process, personally and with legal road blocks, has been an honour and a privilege.

"Bev is an immensely brave woman and has come out of this with such greatened strength."

The mediation in May lasted 12 hours and stretched into the night before there was a result; an apology letter written by the Anglican Church, and an agreed resolution.

Beverley emphasises says it was about being heard, believed and being freed from the lifetime of shame.

"For them to believe me, I could not put it into words."

Beverley says criminal charges have not been pursued, as the perpetrators of the abuse are dead.

She has had 60 counselling sessions over the past few years and feels she has talked enough now. It's time for others to come forward.

"I want people to know they don't have to carry this burden or carry the shame.

"There is help out there. I want to reassure them they haven't done anything wrong.

"More than anything I have done it for my sister and brothers.

"That means so much to me, even though they have all passed away.

"I never ever thought I would be at peace with myself, ever.

"Now it's like a whole new different world.

"I get up every morning and I can't wait to do things."

There's a smile on her face, a sense of calm. Beverley Lind can now move on.

"Now for the first time in my life, I feel free."

Church says sorry

Following mediation the Right Reverend Ross Bay, Bishop of Auckland, formally apologised in a letter for the pain and suffering experienced by Beverley Lind at the Orphans' Home Papatoetoe.

"This has had ongoing adverse consequences for Mrs Lind, and her health and wellbeing," he said.

"Mrs Lind and her brothers and sister were entrusted to the care of the orphanage by their father. They were entitled to be treated with respect and care. There were failures in meeting those obligations."

Mr Bay acknowledged the courage it had taken Mrs Lind to make her claim and tell her story.

Mr Bay, in a written statement to the Northern Advocate, said the Diocese and the Anglican Trust for Women and Children recognised the need to respond sensitively and fairly to complaints of this nature.

"Each case is dealt with on a personal and confidential basis," he said.

The complaint had been resolved without admissions of individual allegations, he said.

The Orphans' Home Papatoetoe was run by a trust - the name is unknown - established by the Anglican church. It opened in April 1909 and closed in 1964.

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