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Commissioner calls for inquiry into state care abuse

02 December 2016

The Human Rights Commission says an independent inquiry into abuse of children while in state care could prevent such abuse from happening again.

Judge Carolyn Henwood, who chaired the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service panel that heard from more than 1100 abuse survivors, has called for such an inquiry.

Judge Henwood has made several recommendations, including that an independent body be set to investigate the extent of the abuse, to monitor the Ministry of Social Development’s care of children and to look into complaints.  

RNZ News reports that more than 100,000 children were taken from their families between the 1950s and '80s and put into state care.

Judge Henwood said survivors had nowhere to go and no further support.

The Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson is backing her call for an inquiry.

“We must ensure the abuse of children and vulnerable adults in state care never happens again.  We need to learn from the past to make sure we never repeat it,” he said.

“If we do not know what happened in the past then how can we guarantee it is not happening now?

“I have heard many of the heart-wrenching and appalling stories of disabled people in state care and their stories need to be heard, and we need to learn from them,” said Mr Gibson.

“We challenge the Government’s assertion that there is no disability perspective involved.”

Mr Gibson said New Zealanders deserve to know the extent of the abuse suffered over many years.

“We have lessons to learn from our past. As long as the public does not have the full picture about what happened they cannot fully understand the extent of the abuse that took place or the systemic issues that allowed it to occur.”

“We are talking about a tragedy here. Survivors and their families need an acknowledgement of their suffering as well as a high-level Government apology.”

The Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has ruled out an independent inquiry, telling RNZ News it would only re-traumatise victims.

She also says there is no evidence the abuse was systemic.

Last updated on the 16th September 2019