November 30, 2023

Wallabies legend Sekope Kepu on the ‘military style’ abuse he suffered in New Zealand

Wallabies legend Sekope Kepu on the 'military style' abuse he suffered in New Zealand

Wallabies legend Sekope Kepu has detailed abuse he suffered at an Auckland boarding school as part of New Zealand’s Royal Commission into abuse in care.

Kepu was born in Sydney to Tongan parents before moving to New Zealand as a child, where he attended Wesley College in Auckland’s south.

The school is well-known for producing sporting legends including Jonah Lomu and Kepu, but the Royal Commission is also unmasking its legacy of bullying and violence.

Kepu, now 37, said abuse and “military-style brutal beatings” were rife when he attended two decades ago.

“My parents didn’t really know about the whole ordeal I was going through,” he told TVNZ.

Kepu described regular hazings, including being told by a “nightwatchman” to stay awake through nights in boarding rooms or face beatings.

“It happened night after night … Sundays was the biggest dread for me, coming back (to school),” he said.

The 110-cap Australian Test rugby forward said he was motivated to appear before the Royal Commission after reading other testimonies.

He’s agreed to be a face of an anti-bullying campaign at the school to try and eliminate bullying for young people today.

“I stand with him. I experienced the same thing,” he said.

“My heart goes out to them. I’ve got young ones now and to see my three boys especially and their vulnerabilities, seeing the fear that they have in their faces sometimes, I never want to see them go through what I experienced.”

The Royal Commission, established by Jacinda Ardern’s government in 2018, has grown to be New Zealand’s largest.

More than 2600 survivors have shared their experience at 117 public hearings to date.

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