This Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of one of New Zealand’s most infamous child abuse cases.
Twin brothers, Chris and Cru Kahui, died in Starship Hospital on 18 June 2006.
They were just 11 weeks old and died of severe head injuries from blunt force trauma. Little Chris also had a broken femur.
The family initially refused to co-operate with the police and the homicide investigation was protracted.
Family statements to media were often confusing in the midst of the ensuing public outrage over what had happened and who was responsible.
The twins’ father, Chris Kahui, was eventually charged with murder. He was acquitted after a six week trial and no one else has ever been charged.
In 2012, a coroner’s report concluded the babies’ injuries occurred while they were solely in the care of Chris Kahui.
The twins are buried in a family plot at Mangere Lawn Cemetery. Toy cars and trucks left at the graveside are now weathered and faded.
Despite a national outcry of 'never again' in the weeks that followed, child abuse statistics reveal little has changed in the past decade.
On average, there are 9 child homicides a year. And more than 50 under 16-year-olds are hospitalised each year due to an assault from a family member.
“We've learned nothing in the last ten years,” says Child Protection Advocate, Christine Rankin. “We haven’t improved in any way, shape or form and abuse has escalated, the deaths of children has escalated, nothing’s changed.”
There is also concern that rates of abuse will increase as a burgeoning youth demographic fast approaches child bearing age.
“Unless we get more positive, progressive and interventionist, child abuse rates will get worse,” says Waipareira Trust CEO, John Tamihere. “Based soley on increasing youth demographics heading north, dysfunctional youth will procreate - with what skills?”
Mr Tamihere is calling for support and education programmes that specifically target families at risk. He says high profile child abuse cases are usually a symptom of dysfunctional family life that has become intergenerational.
He says a tough approach is needed to break an entrenched cycle of violence is some communities.
Mr Tamihere says: “We’ve got to have members of their own community who stand up and say, 'No, no, we say you're unfit to be a caregiver or a parent in the space you're in.' They need to say ‘these babies must be seized’ and it’s not the government that says that, it's the community.”
The leader of Starship Hospital’s Child Protection Team says health professionals also have an important role to play.
Dr Patrick Kelly says physicians need better support in order to be able to ask difficult questions when abuse is suspected.
“Most health professionals are still too embarrassed to ask for example, ‘Has anyone hit you in the last 12 months or has anyone ever made you do something sexually you didn't want to do?’" Dr Kelly says.
“And yet those questions about what's going on are probably more important for the health of women and children than most of the routine questions we ask.”
Dr Kelly says hard political decisions also need to be made around the availability of alcohol as he sees "a lot of rape and sexual assault and abuse that's influenced by the free availability of alcohol”.
“I've seen many children over the years,” Patrick Kelly says, “where the fact that one child was fatally or severely injured was the only thing that changed the life trajectory for the other four or five children living in the house.”
The government recently announced a child focussed overhaul of the Ministry of Social Development and is promising better care and protection of young New Zealanders.
Child protections advocates say it’s a start but the new approach will have to be ‘brave and bold’ to stop our child abuse statistics getting any worse.
* Nicole Bremner has more on this story on ONE News at 6pm.