Apology to the survivors of Lake Alice

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists offers our deepest apology to the survivors, their whānau, and all those impacted by the abuses perpetrated at Lake Alice Child and Adolescent Unit by Dr Selwyn Leeks and staff. 

It is a shameful chapter in our nation’s history.  

The impact of the abuse was severe, and for many survivors, the harm is still felt deeply today. It’s been felt and passed down over generations with severe lifelong consequences for many survivors’ mental and physical health.   

As a nation and as a community, we owe it to survivors to face the impact of this head on.   

The RANZCP supports the development of the independent trauma-informed redress system, Puretumu Torowhānui. This is a critical step towards healing, and we urge the New Zealand Government to implement this as a priority. 

This apology was delivered in person at Wharerata at Massey University, Palmerston North. Guided by survivor groups the RANZCP would like to share the words of our apology publicly.   

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Apology in full:  

To all those impacted by the horrific abuses conducted at the Lake Alice Child and Adolescent Unit, specifically the torturous actions carried out and directed by psychiatrist Selwyn Leeks: we are sorry.  

To survivors, to their whānau, and to those who are descendants of those who suffered and who did not survive, the RANZCP offers a full and sincere apology.   

You were failed.

We know the courageous attempts to raise concerns by young, vulnerable people detained at Lake Alice were ignored. We know that the Ngā Wairiki and Ngāti Apa peoples suffered and that their uri continue to feel the impact.  

We know many agencies repeatedly failed you. We know our part in this and acknowledge the actions and inactions of previous members that allowed Leeks to escape proper investigation and punishment.   

Your trust was broken.   

We are committed to people receiving the best mental health care, guided by evidence and expertise.  

The barbaric abuse conducted by Leeks at Lake Alice was not psychiatry of any form. It is not and never will be condoned. That this harm occurred at all, under the guise of treatment, is a travesty.  

We know there was denial. That included denying that the abuse was taking place and that contributed to the subsequent chain of decisions.   

Since the 1990s, RANZCP has been vocal in calling for the investigation of the many allegations of Leeks’ abuse. In the absence of any finding or action against Leeks, the RANZCP was unable to act. The delivery of the Beautiful Children report in December 2022 formally condemned Leeks’ egregious actions for the first time.   

The RANZCP rescinded Leeks’ fellowship immediately.   

We acknowledge that for many, these steps came too late. For our organisation’s part in this failure to bring Leeks to justice at the earliest opportunity, we again offer our unconditional apology.   

There must never be a repeat of Lake Alice.   

The shroud of secrecy around Leeks and his abuses was aided by working in isolation. Now, psychiatrists work transparently and collaboratively, in teams, with supervision, and ongoing training and development.    

Our peers, teams and communities hold us to account in our practice. There are robust, safe channels for external reporting.    

Complaints are not lost or ignored. We embrace our partnership with community members with lived experience and have a strategy to embed lived-experience knowledge and expertise across our College.    

Together we will continue to evolve to deliver care in the best possible way. 

This apology, as with the apologies given over many years, does not change what has gone before. It is given to convey our acknowledgement of mistakes made, and the impact of these for so many, over such a prolonged period.   

We are committed to listening to the recommendations of the Royal Commission with you when they are released, so that our next steps are meaningful and appropriate, and importantly, designed together.   

Once again, we are sorry.  

The Apology is also available in the Easy Read format.


ENQUIRIES: For more information, please contact Dishi Gahlowt on (61) 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org

SUPPORT: We encourage survivors, whānau and family to continue to access the services provided through the Abuse in Care Royal Commission while available.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments and other groups on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.

In Australia: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au.

In New Zealand: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or www.lifeline.org.nz or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or www.lifeline.org.nz/suicide-prevention


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