Please note: this blog deals with sexual abuse and might be triggering for some readers.
Auckland’s Dilworth School has announced it will pay financial compensation to those who have come forward as having suffered abuse by their staff.
This is an unprecedented move for a New Zealand school, after over a hundred former students have filed criminal complaints alleging that they were sexually abused by staff whilst under Dilworth’s care.
What the Dilworth School abuse investigation uncovered
In 2019 NZ Police began Operation Beverly to investigate historic Dilworth abuse claims. The Police found that in the 1970s-2000s at least 120 students were sexually assaulted by teachers, tutors, housemasters, Scout leaders and chaplains.
Many of the students reported the abuse, but their concerns were ignored and they were even punished for speaking up. NZ Police has since made multiple arrests of former Dilworth staff.
The Dilworth Independent Inquiry and its board has been working with abuse compensation experts and taking recommendations from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care and Faith Based Organisation. In September 2023, the report was released, detailing the recommendations to ensure the factors that allowed for the historical abuse aren’t repeated in the future.
How do I make a claim for abuse compensation?
At Shine Lawyers, we understand that dealing with emotional, physical, or sexual abuse can be an incredibly difficult process. We have a select team of abuse law experts who have experience in this area to guide you with the utmost care and sensitivity.
In our confidential, no-obligation consultation, we will discuss options including:
- Making a criminal complaint to NZ Police
- Seeking an apology
- Making a claim for financial compensation
What can I claim for?
If you have suffered abuse at an institution such as Dilworth School, you may be entitled to an apology and financial compensation. Shine Lawyers have seen firsthand the positive impact that an apology and compensation can have for survivors.
What is the legal process for abuse compensation?
In New Zealand, there are various avenues available depending on the circumstances of your claim and can be through written correspondence, or using the resources available to us by the Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Review Tribunal, or filing proceedings in the District or High Courts.
Do time limits apply for abuse claims?
In New Zealand, generally speaking, the time period to bring a civil action to court is six years. However, in the area of abuse law, this restriction is extremely problematic and is being rightfully challenged.
There is an ongoing Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and Faith-based Organisations, with recommendations due to be issued by 2023. In line with what has recently happened in Australia, it is possible that time limits for abuse cases may be abolished in New Zealand.
The Australian Royal Commission Enquiry into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that the average time for a survivor to disclose child sexual abuse is at least 22 years. This is largely due to survivors of sexual abuse repressing their memories of the abuse, which mental health professionals have confirmed in hundreds of cases.
In Australia, Shine Lawyers has successfully advocated for legislative change on this issue. Australia abolished limitation laws applying to historic child sexual abuse following its Royal Commission. This has allowed survivors to successfully bring claims for compensation for historic abuse.
Why trust Shine Lawyers with my claim?
We understand that dealing with emotional, physical, or sexual abuse can be an incredibly difficult process. Our lawyers are caring, compassionate, and dedicated to helping you pursue your rights.
Our abuse law team is actively involved in pursuing compensation claims for survivors of abuse involving churches, schools, and government organisations and has taken a ‘No Win No Fee’ approach on select abuse cases.
While abuse law is a relatively new area in New Zealand, Shine has the resources of a team of abuse law experts from our Australian offices, where abuse law is a significant area of the law. Our Australian team is some of the most experienced abuse lawyers in Australasia, and we can call on their expertise to help and support you through this time.
Our abuse lawyer in our Christchurch office, Mobeena Hills, has several years of experience in abuse law in Australia. She has made submissions to New Zealand’s Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care, calling for the removal of time limitations on abuse claims.
Shine’s earlier submissions successfully called for the Royal Commission’s scope to be widened to include faith-based organisations. She has seen firsthand the positive impact that an apology and compensation can have for survivors.
Legal service and support from Shine Lawyers New Zealand
With a strong understanding of the fragile state many abuse survivors are in, our lawyers recognise the importance of ensuring all claims are run in a respectful and empathetic manner. Contact Shine Lawyers for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about how we can support you to make a compensation claim.
If this blog brings up any issues for you, or you feel like you need to speak to someone, please contact one of these New Zealand services:
- Male Survivors Aotearoa Helplines across NZ, click to find out more.
- Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00, click link for local helplines.
- Victim Support 0800 842 846, text 4334, webchat safetotalk.nz or email [email protected].
- The Harbour Online support and information for people affected by sexual abuse.