The Human Rights Commission has welcomed a United Nations human rights committee’s recommendation that the New Zealand Government hold an independent inquiry into the systemic abuse of children and disabled adults held in state institutions.
“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," said Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy.
“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.”
This month Dame Susan appeared before the Committee which is charged with monitoring New Zealand’s performance as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. At least 100,000 New Zealand children and disabled adults were taken off their families and held in state institutions between the 1960s and 1990s. In February, a group of prominent New Zealanders demanded an independent inquiry into historical state abuse and 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 last month.
“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,” said Dame Susan.
“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.