A former Social Welfare boys' home resident told the High Court at Wellington yesterday that while he was in care in the 1970s he lived in a culture of violence and learned about crime.
The man, who has name suppression, was giving evidence at the hearing for two brothers who claim they were sexually, physically and psychologically abused while in the care of Social Welfare in the 1960s and 1970s.
The brothers, whose names are also suppressed, allege they were abused by their parents and while staying at the Epuni Boys Home in Lower Hutt and Hokio Beach Training School in Levin.
They are suing the Attorney-General, acting on behalf of the Department of Social Development, for damages totalling about $1 million each.
The hearing before Justice Forrest Miller is expected to continue until August.
It is the first of more than 100 similar cases awaiting hearing.
The witness said that when he stayed at Epuni Boys Home in the 1970s he learned about crime and when he left the home he committed several burglaries and other offences before he went to stay at Hokio boys home.
There was a culture of violence at Epuni which he did not tell his family about as he feared he would get a "hiding" and because of the "no narking" culture.
He said the main problem at the home was violence.
He admitted he was also guilty of treating other boys badly but that was just the culture of the homes.
The man, who is bringing his own claim against the Ministry of Social Development, said the legal action was not about money.
"It's about exposing truth - bad parenting."
Another man, whose name is also suppressed, told the court that when he arrived at Epuni Boys Home in the 1970s he underwent an "initiation".
This involved a group of older boys taking him to a toilet block and punching and kicking him.
I was "sort of like just left for dead after they had done their thing," he said.
There were often fights at the home and sometimes when the teachers caught the boys they would make them "fight it out" at the school gymnasium, he said.
He had to fight other boys physically about once a week just to be left alone.
The second witness said he was also beaten by staff members, who punched, kicked and slapped him as well as subjecting him to verbal abuse.
One staff member on several occasions called him a "no hoper" and said he had no future and would end up in a maximum-security prison.
He did not learn much in the way of life skills or education at Epuni, but instead learned about crime, which was the main topic of discussion among the boys.