Royal Commission of Inquiry scope expanded

  • Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister

Cabinet has today agreed to expand the scope of a proposed inquiry into the abuse of children in state care, to include the abuse of children in the care of faith-based institutions.

The Inquiry will be called the Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-Based Institutions, to reflect its expanded scope. Its terms of reference were released this afternoon.

“Today paves the way for us to confront a dark chapter of our national history by acknowledging what happened to people in state care, and in the care of faith-based institutions, and to learn the lessons for the future,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“It was critical we got the Royal Commission right and the scope and purpose of this Inquiry has been carefully considered. 

The Royal Commission received over 400 submissions on the draft Terms of Reference.

“Extending the scope so the Inquiry could look into both state care and in the care of faith-based institutions was one of the most strongly argued issues in the consultation process,” Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin said.

“In broadening the scope we nevertheless remain committed to fulfilling the expectations of those who sought an inquiry into state care.

“We must learn from the mistakes of the past, and take responsibility for them. That’s why we have asked that the first interim report of the inquiry be focussed on state care. That will be reported back by the end of 2020. A separate report will be focussed on the abuse of children in faith based institutions.

“We recognise the seriousness of abuse and confirm our commitment to considering future measures to help protect all children, young people, and vulnerable adults.

Cabinet also confirmed the four other members of the Inquiry to serve with the chair Rt Hon Sir Anand Satyanand: Ali’imuamua Sandra Alofivae, MNZM; Dr Andrew Erueti; Paul Gibson; and Judge Coral Shaw.

“I am confident that the Royal Commission has the right mix of integrity, mana and credibility to carry out the difficult job of hearing the survivors’ stories and identifying issues, including future issues, that we need to address,” Tracey Martin said.

“The Royal Commission’s approach and findings will be informed by victim and survivor experiences through a combination of confidential listening sessions, formal hearings, and engagement in other settings.”  

The Inquiry has a budget of $78.85 million over four years, which includes more than $15 million to help participants by providing counselling and related support. The Historic Claims Unit, which processes compensation claims, has been asked to cooperate with, and support any requests made by, the Commission.

The Inquiry will be able to begin hearing evidence from January 2019.A final report containing the Royal Commission’s findings and recommendations will be submitted to the Governor-General in January 2023.

Contact for the Inquiry:


Public consultation resulted in a number of other changes to the terms of reference. As well as being able to look into physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse, and neglect, the Inquiry will also be able to look into inadequate care or improper treatment that resulted in serious physical or mental harm to the person.  The discretion to consider abuse before 1950 and after 1999 has also been clarified and expanded.  The duration of the Royal Commission has also been extended to four years to reflect the wider scope. 

Consistent with the Government’s original intention to establish an Inquiry that is victim/survivor focused and informed by human rights, the Terms of Reference confirm that the Inquiry will be underpinned by the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles and reaffirms the standards that should apply to protect people in care.

The four new Commission members are:

  • Ali’imuamua Sandra Alofivae, MNZM, a barrister from South Auckland, who specialises in child and family law, adoption, youth justice, domestic violence and protection orders.
  • Dr Andrew Erueti, senior lecturer at Auckland University School of Law, who specialises in the human rights of the child, indigenous rights, international human rights law and Ngā Tikanga Māori, and who has also been involved in the calls for an Inquiry into abuse in State care.
  • Paul Gibson, former Disability Rights Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission from 2011-17, where he was involved in the Never Again / E Kore Anō campaign and has a strong and impressive record as a disability advocate.
  • Judge Coral Shaw, who has recently undertaken reviews in the public sector, brings knowledge and expertise on educational settings, and has served as a District Court and Employment Court Judge, and Judge of the United Nations Disputes Tribunal.