Pressure on the Government to hold an independent inquiry into the systemic abuse of children and disabled adults held in state institutions has continued to grow, with a UN Human Rights Committee joining the calls for the true story to be told.
Late last month, the Commission welcomed the recommendations made by the United Nation Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, which included that the Government hold an independent inquiry into the systemic abuse of children and disabled adults held in state institutions.
In August, Dame Susan appeared before the Committee in Geneva to raise the issue and see justice for the many thousands who were held state care, something which has been an important area of focus for the Commission.
“We suspect that Māori children were taken for little or no reason at all and were more likely to be taken from their whanau than other children: but until we have an inquiry we will never know for sure,” she said.
“One man who survived horrific abuse in psychiatric institutions said he did not feel like a New Zealand citizen until he was able to live in his community with his family. Our call for justice is about basic human rights and we urge our Government to do the right thing and act on these recommendations.”
The Committee made a number of other recommendations to the New Zealand Government about steps that should be taken to ensure compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The full list of recommendations can be found here.
The recommendations follow continued campaigning by the Commission and others for a public apology and independent inquiry into the historic abuse of at least 100,000 children and disabled adults who were taken from their families and held in state institutions between the 1960s and 1990s.
In February, a group of prominent New Zealanders led an open letter petition, with support from the Human Rights Commission, that garnered almost 12,000 signatures. The open letter, an independent petition and the stories of hundreds of survivors of state abuse – many taken and abused while children – were presented by survivors to MPs on the steps of parliament in July.
“We need to shine a light on the abuse that took place in our state institutions. Those who were responsible should be held accountable, we must learn from the past so we can ensure that this can never happen again,” says Dame Susan Devoy.
“The truth needs to be told and we welcome these recommendations from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination."