Truth and reconciliation for state abuse survivors is the right thing to do

Truth and reconciliation for state abuse survivors is the right thing to do

July 11, 2017

The Human Rights Commission has welcomed Prime Minister Bill English’s announcement that he wants to do the right thing and has not ruled out an inquiry into historical state abuse. Last week Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett acknowledged for the first time that abuse in state care had been systemic. 

“Truth and reconciliation is the right thing to do for New Zealanders who were robbed of childhoods and lives by abusers who were paid to care for them,” said Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.

“This is about seeking the truth about crimes and human rights abuses carried out against our children and disabled loved ones. This is about our nation’s historical record. Whether we stand on the right side of history will depend upon what we do right now. An inquiry is the only way we can know for sure that abusers are no longer working within the system.”

Last Thursday survivors of state abuse and supporters delivered an open letter and petition to parliament calling for a public inquiry and a state apology. Over there decades more than 100,000 children and vulnerable adults were taken from their families and placed in state care. While there many suffered sexual, physical and psychological abuse over many years, however the full extent is unknown as an inquiry has never taken place.

“We pay tribute to our survivors of state abuse and thank them for their courage, humility and mana. The abuse they suffered was systemic so we need to investigate the very system that abused them,” said Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson.

“Survivors, advocates and experts are clear that an inquiry is crucial: New Zealanders deserve to know the truth about what has happened to vulnerable people out of sight and out of mind.  Without an inquiry we will never learn all we can to keep our loved ones safe in the future, as children, in disability support, in mental health care, or in aged care.” 

Dame Susan and Mr Gibson welcomed the opportunity to facilitate a meeting between the Commission, survivors, other advocates and the Prime Minister.