State Inquiry is no witch hunt

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

On the final day of the Government's 100 days of action, the Prime Minister has announced a Royal Commission of Inquiry which will look into the historic abuse of children in State care. It's the highest government inquiry which will be chaired and led by former Governor-General, Rt Hon Sir Anand Satyanand.

The inquiry will look into instances of abuse between 1950 to the end of 1999. The Prime Minister admitted that they have left one of the most significant issues until last.

The Minister for Children Tracey Martin said the Royal Commission will take a broad view of abuse and consider physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect. Sir Anand’s first job will be to consult on the draft terms of reference for the Royal Commission.

Ardern says the survivors and victims are at the forefront of the inquiry.

“The fact it is a Royal Commission, the highest level of commission of inquiry that this government is able to establish, acknowledges two things;” she said,

“The independence that the survivors and victims’ asked us to provide this inquiry and just the level of impact it's had on individuals’ lives and their views of the State.”

It's estimated the first year of the Royal Commission will cost $12mil.  The Minister of Children says it’s not about pointing blame.

“This inquiry is not a witch hunt,” said Martin.  “This inquiry, the purpose of it is to validate and finally believe the survivors that tried to tell the state that this was happening to them. And to use their stories to find the systematic failures and ensure we have fixed them.”

“If they experienced abuse and we as the caregiver of that child didn't know, didn't act, didn't make sure that we had checks in place to ensure the child was safe,” said Ardern.

“We have to take responsibility regardless of who the perpetrator was.”

Over 100,000 children were placed in state care between the 1950s and 1990s. Many suffered sexual, physical and psychological abuse, who were mostly Māori. Sir Anand is expected to begin talks with victims mid this year.

“This will make for grim reading and that the state will feel a real duty to share that state-wide apology,” said Ardern.

Sir Anand will work with Internal Affairs and have access to past records. Support will also be given for those who want to place a criminal complaint with the police.