Recently, the Commission launched the #NeverAgain campaign, asking New Zealanders to join our call for a comprehensive inquiry into the abuse of thousands of people, many of them children, while they were under the care of the Government.
The campaign for the inquiry was kicked-off with an open letter to the Prime Minister calling on New Zealanders to sign a public petition urging the Government to take action and was signed by iwi leaders, child advocates and disability sector representatives.
It has since been supported by the Maori Party, Labour, the Green Party.
“This is a chapter in our nation’s living history where the human rights of thousands of people were abused by their own Government,” said Disability Rights Commissioner, Paul Gibson.
“More than 100,000 New Zealanders were taken from their families and put into state institutions from the 1950s to the 1990s where many suffered serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect over several years. People with disabilities had no rights and were removed from their homes to spend the rest of their lives in institutions far from families and loved ones.
“Our message is simple: we must never let this abuse happen again. We need to start by hearing the stories of those people whose childhoods and lives were forever scarred. Their stories need to be told.
“Once we understand the full extent of what went on, then we can ensure our policies in 2017 reflect our shared past: at the moment, this is not the case.
“New Zealanders deserve to know more about their history and learn from it. If we do not openly talk about the mistakes we made, then we cannot ensure they are never repeated. Never Again. E Kore Ano.”
Maori children were more likely to end up in state homes and institutions than non-Maori children. Some were there for minor transgressions such as wagging school, others found themselves in care after a family tragedy.
“The pain and shame of their shattered childhoods and lives continue to this day, there is no mana in the way the state has treated its own vulnerable people,” said Indigenous Rights Commissioner Karen Johansen.
“Tamariki Maori were more likely to be taken from their families than other children, with some institutions reporting 80 to 100% of all youngsters coming from Maori homes. We know more than 40% of prison inmates spent their childhood in state care: this is a dark chapter in New Zealand history that must be opened up, understood and never repeated. Never again. E Kore Ano.”
If you would like to sign the petition, or share your own experience, please visit: www.neveragain.co.nz