A Christchurch park and road have been renamed to remove the reminder of the dark past of Marylands School.

From Thursday, the former Marylands Reserve and Marylands Place will be known as Validation Park and Validation Place, in honour of the survivors of abuse at the school which used to sit on the site.

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

The residential facility for boys – many with disabilities, learning or behavioural needs – was run by the Brothers of St John of God from 1955 until 1984.

About 540 boys attended during that time.

Following the school’s relocation to a site in Halswell, the park and road kept the name Marylands – an ugly reminder it bore for decades.

Peter Wall said survivors were finally being heard.

“For far too long we have sought acknowledgement and validation for the trauma we suffered. Today we take back control and reclaim this space here with our strength and resilience – survivors.”

The trauma would never fully heal, but Thursday was an important milestone for all survivors, he said.

“It’s been a long time coming, we made history here today. It’s a small step, but a large leap for all survivors, not just from the Hebron Trust and Marylands, but all survivors of childhood sexual abuse.”

More than one in five students of the school reported abuse and of the 37 brothers who ministered in Christchurch, 21 had allegations made against them – with 19 specifically accused of child sexual abuse.

The Hebron Trust operated between 1986 and 1993 as a residential facility for youth in need of safety, shelter and support.

Hanz Freller still struggled with the memories of his time there as a teenager.

He choked back tears as he spoke of the trauma the trust had inflicted on his life.

Erasing Marylands from the name of the park and the road was a huge relief, he said.

“It’s a weight off the shoulders. It’s a small step in a long journey and for all of us survivors, as we work towards these little steps, it’s extremely important.”

He was stoked to see the unveiling of Validation Park.

Judge Coral Shaw, who chaired the Abuse in Care – Royal Commission of Inquiry, said it was important for her to attend today’s ceremony to pay tribute to the survivors.

“I wouldn’t have missed this occasion for anything today because of them,” she said.

“They have been tenacious in coming forward, they had to learn to trust the Royal Commission, and then they had to have the courage to tell what actually happened and it’s still deeply painful decades later.”

Judge Shaw and Male Survivors Aotearoa national advocate Ken Clearwater lifted a shroud from the sign reading Validation Park to official mark the beginning of a new history.

Survivor Darryl Smith said it was a huge moment.

“Marylands is a place of terror for all of us. To me, validation means we are finally being validated by our country, by our city, saying they believe us.”

Eddie Marriott said the Christchurch City Council had set an example to others by renaming the park and road.

“To have names of abusers is not right. So to change, like we have, is a big step.”

By Tim Brown
Published in Radio NZ