Royal Commission of Inquiry announced to investigate abuse in state care

by RNZ / 01 February, 2018
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Thousands petitioned the government to set up an inquiry into abuse in state care and delivered it to Parliament last July. Photo / Getty Images

Details of the Royal Commission of Inquiry have been released today by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

A former governor-general will chair a Royal Commission of Inquiry into historical abuse in state care, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced.

Ms Ardern and Minister for Children Tracey Martin are giving details of the inquiry which is formally established today.

"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," said Ms Ardern.

The Royal Commission will cover 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. Groups of survivors have said they want an inquiry to cover places like religious institutions and sports clubs.

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

The Royal Commission will be chaired by former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand and will start considering evidence once the terms of reference are finalised and published.

Sir Anand has the "experience, mana and integrity" for the role, the Prime Minister said. The inquiry is expected to take three years and the hope is to have a report back by the end of this parliamentary term, she said.

"At any given time there are 5000 children in state care and to all intents and purposes we are the parent," Ms Ardern said. If there was an abuse of those children the government had to take responsibility no matter where it happened.

Minister for Children Tracy Martin said 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

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

 

This article was originally published by RNZ.

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