13 Feb 2017

Never Again - call for state abuse inquiry and apology

From Morning Report, 7:08 am on 13 February 2017

The Human Rights Commission has sent an open letter to the Prime Minister calling on the government to hold an inquiry and apologise for historical abuse and neglect in state institutions.

Kohitere Boy's Training Centre in Levin.

Kohitere Boy's Training Centre in Levin has been the subject of complaints regarding state abuse. Photo: RNZ / Aaron Smale

The letter has been co-signed by the Race Relations Commissioner, The EEO Commissioner, the Iwi Leaders Forum and the Disability Rights Commissioner as well as others.

Read the full letter here.

It has been endorsed by members of the Iwi Leaders Forum, including Naida Glavish. She said the state welfare institutions had a horrific impact on Māori and produced individuals like William Bell, the RSA murderer.

"That boy Bell, who grew up to become the RSA murderer at Panmure, was raised by CYFs (Child Youth and Family)," Ms Glavish said.

"Have they (the government) taken any responsibility for that? While throwing stones at iwi and Māori and whanau. I haven't heard any ownership of that."

Social justice advocate Kim Workman, who worked for nearly 20 years as a policeman and was once head of Corrections, has also signed the letter.

Mr Workman said the government needed to face up to its responsibilities.

The letter has also been signed by a number of others including disability advocates and UNICEF.

The Prime Minister, Bill English, told Morning Report he had not yet read the letter or spoken to the relevant minister about it.

He questioned whether an inquiry into abuse and neglect in state institutions would achieve anything more than had already been done.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley gave a statement about the letter.

"Any kind of abuse against kids in state care is abhorrent," the statement said. It went on to say the now-defunct listening service had already provided more help than an inquiry would.

The statement said Ms Tolley had led an overhaul of the state care system which will result in a completely new child-centred operating model led by the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, to keep children and young people safe and give them better long-term life outcomes.

The Human Rights Commission says it wants to meet with Mr English to discuss its inquiry.

Its Disability Rights commissioner, Paul Gibson, says the government would not need to start an inquiry from scratch, as a lot of the work had already been done.

He said the inquiry would be an investment, and cost should not get in the way of justice.