Inquiry into abuse in state care

A Royal Commission of Inquiry into historical abuse in state care has been announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin today.

“We have a huge responsibility to look after everyone, particularly our children in state care. Any abuse of children is a tragedy, and for those most vulnerable children in state care, it is unconscionable.

“Today we are sending the strongest possible signal about how seriously we see this issue by setting up a Royal Commission of Inquiry,” says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“This is a chance to confront our history and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again. It is a significant step towards acknowledging and learning from the experiences of those who have been abused in state care,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

A Royal Commission is a form of public inquiry. It has the same legal powers as other public inquiries, but is generally reserved for the most serious issues of public importance.

Former Governor-General, Rt Hon Sir Anand Satyanand, will chair the Royal Commission.

“The independence and integrity of the inquiry and the process it follows are critical and Sir Anand has the mana, skills and experience necessary to lead this work. The process will be responsive to the needs of victims and survivors and support them to tell their stories,” says Jacinda Ardern.

Minister Martin said that the draft terms of reference approved by Cabinet task the Royal Commission with looking into what abuse happened in state care, why it happened and what the impacts were, particularly for Māori. They also ask the Commission to identify lessons that can be learned from this abuse today.

“We have set a wide scope. The time period covered is the 50 years from 1950 to the end of 1999 and, unlike some similar overseas inquiries, the Royal Commission will take a broad view of abuse and consider physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect,” says Minister Martin.

The ‘state care’ definition covers circumstances where the state directly ran institutions such as child welfare institutions, borstals or psychiatric hospitals, and where the government contracted services out to other institutions.

“We know this is an issue that has affected not only people who were abused in state care, but their families, whānau and wider communities too. It is therefore crucial that members of the public, including victims and survivors, have a chance to have their say,” Minister Martin says.

The Minister said that Sir Anand’s first task was to consult on the draft terms of reference for the Royal Commission. “We want people to have their say before we even start.”

The draft terms of reference provide for the Inquiry to provide its final report within the current Parliamentary term and a process for agreeing to any extensions to reporting deadlines if needed. They also authorise the Inquiry to make interim findings or recommendations and consider ways of working that will ensure public understanding of its work.

Following the consultation period, Cabinet will make a final decision on the terms of reference, the additional Inquiry members and the final budget for the Inquiry.

The Inquiry, which is formally established today, will start considering evidence once the terms of reference are finalised and published.

The Prime Minister said that establishing the Royal Commission delivered the final commitment from the Government’s 100-Day Plan.

For the Inquiry: royalcommission.statecare@dia.govt.nz

More information can be found at: http://www.dia.govt.nz/Royal-Commission-into-Historical-Abuse-in-State-Care

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The Royal Commission Chair

Sir Anand Satyanand will chair New Zealand’s Royal Commission into Abuse in State Care. Befyore his role as Governor-General, Sir Anand was a lawyer, a judge, and a parliamentary ombudsman. He also has experience in a wide range of government appointments, such as leading the Confidential Forum for Former In-Patients of Psychiatric Hospitals. He has maintained many community connections in sporting and cultural fields.

Most recently, Sir Anand led the Commonwealth Group, which observed the 2017 national elections in Papua New Guinea. Before that, he completed two terms as Chair of the Commonwealth Foundation, the counterpart of the Commonwealth Secretariat. Alongside his formal roles, Sir Anand has taken on additional challenges. For example as a judge and later as an ombudsman, he was involved in developing education programmes for people new in those roles. He also worked as a Prison Board Chairman and as a member of the National Parole Board.

Sir Anand’s ability to impartially assess evidence, weigh arguments and articulate issues have been recognised throughout this varied career. He has a thorough knowledge of the machinery of government and is known for being both independent and determined.