Inquiry into abuse in state care

For a long time abuses of children in state care has been a serious and unresolved problem.

As promised by Labour (Taking action in our first 100 days), the Government has launched an overdue inquiry into these abuses.

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”.

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.

For the Inquiry:

More information can be found at


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  3. Ray

     /  2nd February 2018

    I do hope that while they listen to the abuse that these children endured they have a really hard look at why these children had to be cared for by the the State.
    Anything else is fiddling with the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff!

  4. Pickled Possum

     /  2nd February 2018

    Morena Ray
    Having a” really hard Look” at WHY the children were in state care is NOT the reason for the inquiry. Inability to care for children before state care, is not the reason for the inquiry,
    Lobby for your own inquiry, as to WHY.

    Reasons why we are having a really hard look at abuses while under state care is;
    Closure for raped and tortured children who are now broken adults.
    Give children a strong voice! now! today.
    Send a clear strong message to people who are looking after children
    ie foster parents, residential home care givers, parents etc,
    that NZ will protect their children and do something about this sorry state of affairs,
    at long last.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  2nd February 2018

      I don’t follow your logic, Possum. I would have thought having to be put into state care is abuse in itself. I would be surprised if all those who experienced that did not have significant psychological damage. Identifying and distinguishing that from additional harm and ill-treatment seems important to me.

      • Pickled Possum

         /  2nd February 2018

        A woman has 3 children born one after another her husband can not cope with the children or the mother and work as well, so he leaves and goes single flatting.
        The mother falls into extreme depression the father has to work and isn’t really that interested in the family as he is having a great time, . So the dept of Social welfare take all children for 1 month to give the mother a break and get some rest.While they are there the boys are abused physically and the girl is frightened beyond belief by bullying of the house care givers children. That is where my logic falls.
        So you and Ray want to talk about the Bad people who abuse their children who are removed from from the family home for’safety’ only to be abused even more. Well this isn’t the inquiry for that that’s all I’m saying. What abuse is the inquiry actually investigating is what I’m having an opinion about.
        To Hot outside now and the watermelon is refreshing.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  2nd February 2018

          Actually the terms of the inquiry have yet to be set, Possum. When they are we will know what it is about. Seems to me abuse occurs in private homes, in designated carer homes and in state institutions. Children can be under state care in all of those locations. I don’t see why you want to impose artificial boundaries. One case should not define the limits.

  5. NOEL

     /  2nd February 2018

    No indication of possible budget? Across the ditch the last Royal Commission budgeted at around 43 million dollars.

  6. namron

     /  2nd February 2018

    Most evidence given in this Royal Commission with be remembered “oral history” and there are likely to be a number of interpretations and versions of most of the stories and little true factual evidence.


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