Preliminary hearing for Royal Commission of Inquiry into historical state abuse

By Heta Gardiner

The Royal Commission held a preliminary hearing in the Auckland Environmental Court today, the first public hearing of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-based Institutions.

The five commissioners were present today, they are chairman Sir Anand Satyanand, Judge Coral Shaw, Ali’imuamua Sandra Alofivae, Dr Andrew Erueti and Paul Gibson.

Satyanand was the first commissioner to address the court, speaking of the efforts made by various groups, including Māori, to shine a light on the issues identified in the inquiry.

“Survivors, community leaders, academics, human rights campaigners and many others have long lobbied for a light to be shone on this shameful period of our history.

“The Human Rights Commission, iwi and Māori have also paved the way for this issue to gain the traction that it now has.” 

He also acknowledged the disproportionate rate in which Māori were put into state care, “We know that a large number of children taken into care were Māori and we recognise the importance of keeping our commitment to this engagement front of mind in all that we do.

“Another important part of our role is to determine: why people were taken into care, what abuse occurred and why, and the effects on survivors and families.  Fundamentally we need to learn the lessons to apply now and in the future to ensure abuse does not occur again."

At present Māori children make up over 60 percent of children in care.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the Royal Commission of Inquiry in February 2018, saying, “We are sending the strongest possible signal about how seriously we see this issue by setting up a Royal Commission of Inquiry.”

The inquiry will focus on historical abuse from 1950 – 1999 but also has discretion to consider abuse and neglect that happened before 1950, or after 1999, including people who are still in care now.  The commission is unable to find anyone guilty of any crime.

The first interim report is due by the end of 2020 and the final report to the Governor-General is to be delivered before January 2023.

Te Ao Māori News will have more at 6:30pm on Māori Television.