PM's refusal to meet to discuss the abuse of New Zealanders held in state care deeply disappointing

PM's refusal to meet to discuss the abuse of New Zealanders held in state care deeply disappointing

February 24, 2017

The Human Rights Commission says the Prime Minister’s refusal to meet commissioners to discuss the abuse of New Zealanders held in state run institutions is deeply disappointing.  Last week the Commission wrote to the Prime Minister inviting him to meet to discuss the campaign for an inquiry into historical state abuse.

“One of the Prime Minister’s staff members responded to tell us he was too busy to talk to us about our concerns, with no invitation to engage any further. This is deeply disappointing,” said Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.

“We are talking about shocking human rights abuses suffered by New Zealanders, many of them children: We do not know how many people because no Government has ever bothered to investigate. It is disturbing that our concerns can be shrugged off so easily. We urge our Prime Minister to show leadership and consider meeting with us and other human rights advocates.”

Last week the Human Rights Commission and other prominent New Zealanders called for an inquiry into the abuse of New Zealanders while they were in state care. More than 100,000 children and vulnerable adults were taken from their whanau and put into state institutions where many suffered serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect over several years.

“On Waitangi Day our Prime Minister talked about leadership and in referring to New Zealand said there was “almost nowhere in the world that can demonstrate the ability to find justice and see it done”,” said Dame Susan.

“We urge the Prime Minister to do the right thing and to help find justice for thousands of New Zealanders whose childhoods were forever scarred by their own Government. He has the power to make this happen.”

“We know the overwhelming majority of children in homes and borstals were tamariki Maori. Many were taken for little or no reason at all and we need to know why and how this was allowed to happen,” said Dame Susan. 

“Judge Henwood’s Confidential Listening Service estimated that at least and probably 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 allowed to happen again.”

Human Rights Commission

The Commission works for a free, fair, safe and just New Zealand, where diversity is valued and human dignity and rights are respected.