New Zealand Law Society - Report finds abuse of disabled in state care

Report finds abuse of disabled in state care

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Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson says the release of a report on state abuse between the 1950s and 1990s of New Zealanders with intellectual disabilities highlights systemic failures and a system that enabled abuse to continue unchecked for years.

The Human Rights Commission called on the Government earlier this year to initiate an independent inquiry into the abuse of people held in state care.

In furtherance of this, the Commission asked the Donald Beasley Institute to find out more about the abuse of people with learning and other disabilities in state care. The Dunedin-based Institute is an independent non profit organisation which aims to develop the health and wellbeing of people with intellectual disability.

The report, "Institutions are places of abuse": The experiences of disabled children and adults in State care, was prepared by Brigit Mirfin-Veitch and Jenny Conder. It captures the stories of 17 individuals who spent most of their lives in institutions across the country.

“The Human Rights Commission’s role includes to protect the rights of all New Zealanders and I would like to give assurances to disabled people and their families that we have learnt the lessons of the past and that systemic abuse is not ongoing and will never happen again: But without a thorough inquiry I cannot give that assurance,” Mr Gibson says.

“This report and the lives it represents highlights the need for a formal inquiry so we can learn from our past and our present to guide our future.  Only once we have shone a light on the abuse fellow New Zealanders have suffered can we say sorry with any kind of mana.”

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