There was a story which continued to come up in my news feed recently, which I continued to avoid. Moko. A little boy with a bright smiling face kept appearing in my news feed. As a kiwi living in Australia, one of the ways I keep in touch with New Zealand news is through good ol’ Facebook and by liking Stuff.co.nz, which will feed you news and soft stories from all over New Zealand. But the headlines accompanying the bright beautiful face of Moko weren’t as beautiful as his face, they inferred terror, a terrible act, so I avoided them knowing it would hurt too much. Then finally, another headline captured my attention, and I had noticed a friend saying that they were “Marching for Moko”. It mentioned that he wasn’t alone when he died, I felt trusting enough to read this one. But alas, this story, Moko’s story and fate was indeed deeply disturbing and seriously wrong. I couldn’t bring myself to listen to the interview with Moko’s mother, her tear soaked face was enough.
Then, for days later I sat with this news, mothering my own 3 1/2 year old boy, trying to get through a work day without considering the brutality of a couple that beat and tortured a wee 3 year old boy, which eventually resulted in his death. Our tributes to his soul and passage from this earth are but a sad and horrible mortal consideration of what happens to us after we die. And no, I disagree, he was alone when he died.
The only way I could continue to function was to impart the knowledge that I had gained, to somewhat unsuspecting family members and friends. Nicola Dally-Paki, Moko’s mum stayed with her eldest son who was in the intensive care unit at Starship Hospital and had entrusted her children with people she thought were her friends. My husband said “Why did she leave her kids with such horrible people.” My immediate response was “Broken families, they obviously didn’t have any contact with grandparents or aunties and uncles did they?”
And this, is where this story intersects with my life, our lives as parents. In 2014 I gave birth to a baby boy. He only lived 8 days and over that time my family flew from New Zealand, Queensland and Tom’s family in Australia all came in to see him and meet him. During that time, our then 2 year old son, was cared for by all of his extended family as well as his Dad, whilst I stayed at the Royal Children’s Hospital in the accommodation for new mothers and Ronald McDonald house accommodation, so that I could be closer to my baby. The intensive care ward for babies, as I’m sure it is anywhere, is a place of uncertainty, of lives on tenterhooks, a precarious balance between life and death, and loving for all that you have, for as long as you have it. For my husband and I to know that our 2 year old son was being cared for, was heightened by the fact that we knew our baby was going to die. As we scraped together precious moments, our 2 year old was being loved by all of his aunties and uncles and grandparents.
During that week our eyes were opened. On one particular day, my sister got into a lift with 2 police officers who had also been in the Butterfly wing, the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. She remarked that they had the sternest looks on their faces, like something terrible had just happened. It sparked our imaginations, we had to admit that some of the babies on that ward were not there because of a birth defect or random fate, they were there quite possibly, because of an act of their parents and care givers.
I have no idea what the statistics are in Australia, but in New Zealand a Stuff data investigation has found at least 204 children, aged 0-14, have died as a result of neglect, abuse, or maltreatment in New Zealand since 1992. “New Zealand remains one of the most dangerous countries in the developed world in which to grow up, despite efforts from successive governments.”
My heart hurts for this mother. My mind remembers the halls of the intensive care unit and the hospital accommodation. I wish her children had gone with her. I wish that there was more whanau, more family support. I wish that this beautiful boy did not die in vain. But how do we stop this ship from sinking? What will make people stop? Would stronger sentences stop people? What is the answer? How could they do this?
Members of the public march down Queen Street during a march to bring awareness to child abuse and family violence on May 22, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand. The March for Moko was in memory of a three-year-old boy who was killed by his caregivers.
(May 21, 2016 – Source: Hannah Peters/Getty Images AsiaPac)