Royal Commission into Abuse in State Care launched and draft terms of reference released

Thu 15 Feb 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin officially launched the Royal Commission into Abuse in State Care ...

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin officially launched the Royal Commission into Abuse in State Care on 1 February 2018. The draft terms of reference have also been released.

The Royal Commission will cover the time period from 1950 to 1999 and include physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect. The Beehive press release states:

"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."

The draft terms of reference do not include abuse in religious or other non-government organisations unless people were placed in those institutions by the state. The draft terms of reference state "An individual is in state care if the State has responsibility, whether directly or indirectly, for their care."

The Inquiry will cover people whether they were children, young people or adults at the time. According to the draft terms of reference, the Royal Commission will have "particular consideration for Maori and any groups where differential impact is evident, e.g. by gender, LGBTQI people, Pacific people and people who have experienced mental health issues."

The Inquiry is also directed to "establish a survivor advisory group to provide independent assistance to Inquiry members, and to ensure the Inquiry remains victim and survivor-focused and responsive to victim and survivor needs." The group will not have a decision-making function and its feedback will not bind the Inquiry but is to assist the Inquiry at its request.

The Inquiry does not have a mandate to provide compensation or redress, but will examine these processes. The existing claims process will continue through the Ministry of Social Development, but improvements may be made based on the Inquiry.

The Ministry of Social Development has published a press release providing information for people who have already filed or plan to file a claim for abuse while in state care, stating:

"The announcement of the Inquiry will not affect people working with the Ministry on existing claims or stop people making new ones, as this work will carry on. The Ministry will continue to look at ways to improve how we work with people through the claims process, particularly around being more efficient and strengthening our focus on Tikanga Māori."

Former Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand will chair the Royal Commission. His first task is to consult with the public on the draft terms of reference for the Royal Commission. After the consultation period, Cabinet will make a final decision on the terms, additional Inquiry members and the budget for the Inquiry.

More information including the draft terms of reference, question and answer documents, and cabinet and scoping documents are available from the official Royal Commission webpage. The full recording of the announcement is available from the NZ Labour Party.

The Inquiry is to issue its final report, containing findings and recommendations, in writing within the current parliamentary term (with the possibility of an extension).

There have previously been calls for the Inquiry to cover faith-based institutions.

There have also been calls for the inquiry to extend to present day, include compensation and set standards for appropriate compensation and reparation revisiting former compensation claims.

Additional responses and commentary are including in the media below.

Related information

A two-day symposium was held on 14-15 February 2018 in Wellington to discuss and make recommendations on the Government’s draft terms of reference.

Prior to the launch of the Royal Commission, a team of academic and legal experts released findings from a survey of survivors and a proposed framework for the inquiry.

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its final report and recommendations in December 2017.

A new report has been published as part of the UK Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. The report examines Child Migration Programmes which removed children from their families and government care and sent them overseas, including New Zealand.

Selected media

New Zealand’s problem with Māori boys, The Spinoff, 27.03.2018

Anglicans ask for abuse inquiry scope to be broadened, Press Release: Anglican Church in Aotearoa, Scoop, 26.03.2018

Churches push for inclusion in Royal Commission into abuse, Radio NZ, 26.03.2018

Catholic Church wants to be included in state abuse inquiry, NZ Herald, 26.03.2018

Churches seek inclusion in Royal Commission on state care abuse, NZ Herald, 26.03.2018

Sorry means you don’t do it again, The Spinoff, 19.03.2018

Abuse survivors speak out, accuse govt of backtracking, Radio NZ, 27.02.2018

PM faces claims over exclusion of churches from abuse inquiry, Radio NZ, 27.02.2018

PM says Crown Law handling of abuse claims will be reviewed, Newshub, 27.02.2018

New Zealand's state abuse shame: Survivor's struggle for justice, Newshub, 26.02.2018

Excluding Church from inquiry would be an 'abject failure', Radio NZ, 22.02.2018

A perpetrator can’t be a saviour: the state abuse historic claims system must go, Opinion, The Spinoff, 22.02.2018

Australian abuse survivors criticise NZ inquiry, Radio NZ, 22.02.2018

Marama Fox: We need to lift the scab on child abuse and investigate failure of the state, Newshub, 20.02.2018

State abuse claims not best resolved by Royal Commission - Sir Michael Cullen, Newshub, 20.02.2018

Māori survivors key focus of Royal Commission, Waatea News, 09.02.2018

Accountability must be part of state care review, Waatea News, 05.02.2018

ANZASW statement on inquiry into abuse in state care, Press Release: Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW), Scoop, 03.02.2018

NZ abuse inquiry likely to include churches, NZ Catholic, 02.02.2018

What a Royal Commission could mean for the system, Newsroom, 02.02.2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unveils inquiry into state care abuse, NZ Herald, 01.02.2018

Government announces inquiry into historical state care abuse, Stuff, 01.02.2018

Time to learn from the past: Children’s Commissioner, Press Release: Office of the Children's Commissioner, Scoop, 01.02.2018

Abuse inquiry: 'The government has got it right', Opinion, Radio NZ, 01.02.2018

Church schools face Royal Commission scrutiny, Newsroom, 01.02.2018

Related media

Complaint laid after Oranga Tamariki bungles child's report, Radio NZ, 20.02.2018

Child abuse hotline overwhelmed by calls, Radio NZ, 13.02.2018

Review reveals failures in care of teen who died in CYF custody, NZ Herald, 10.02.2018

Police bungle meant child abuse victims waited 20 years for justice, Stuff, 02.02.2018

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