The Flaxmere community in Hastings gathered last tonight for a karakia for a four-year-old child who was seriously injured in a beating at unknown hands two weeks ago.
The boy, who is in Starship Hospital with brain damage and other injuries, had recently returned to the care of his immediate family.
Fighting back the tears, community worker Lynsey Abbott said the community was shocked and devastated.
She organised the karakia last night for people to gather.
"It really, really is breaking my heart.
"So we as a whānau, One Voice community services and Paharakeke [the Māori name for Flaxmere] wide, Hawke's Bay-wide, Aotearoa-wide, we are all coming together tonight at the Flaxmere Park at 7 o'clock tonight for a karakia for this boy and for all our babies who are silently suffering at the hands of those who are meant to love and protect them.
"We need to have higher intervention."
Nanny Moewaka, who has lived in Pā Harakeke for more than 50 years, was distraught by the news and called on Oranga Tamariki to step up, as well as whānau to speak out if they are struggling.
"How devastating it is for the whole lot of us here in Pā Harakeke.
"Look at it, stop doing what you're doing, come and talk to us, come and seek help if you can't handle the baby.
"Please, that little baby has no voice."
The Ministry for Children said the boy's injuries were extremely disturbing.
Oranga Tamariki said it could not comment on the case due to the ongoing police investigation, but said it is continuing to work with the whānau to offer support and are working with other professionals in Hawke's Bay.
Detective Inspector Mike Foster who is heading the inquiry told Morning Report that it was one of the most appalling cases of child abuse he has seen in his three decades in the force.
He said the boy suffered a sustained beating - possibly over days.
Up to four or five family members were with him that day - including his parents and other children at different points.
Foster said anyone who has had contact with the boy in recent weeks should come forward.
He said the child's family needed to front up and tell the police what happened.
Foster said police worked with Oranga Tamaraki to remove the other children from the home and they are now in the care of other whānau.
Anyone with information should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or call Hawke's Bay police.