3 Mar 2020

Mongrel Mob member Harry Tam leaves role in Royal Commission into abuse in care

6:07 pm on 3 March 2020

Harry Tam, the controversial Mongrel Mob member who was a senior official at the Royal Commission into historical abuse in care, has quietly left the inquiry.

12072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Harry Tam has worked in for the Government in a number of roles, he's also a member of the Mongrel Mob. His reaction to Judith Collins standing down a Black Power member, Ngapari Nui.

Harry Tam. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Tam was stood down as the Royal Commission's head of policy and research in June last year, after RNZ revealed a female state abuse survivor contacted the inquiry with safety fears. Other female survivors had also expressed concerns because of gang involvement in the inquiry's process.

An independent inquiry was ordered into the allegations but its scope and subsequent findings have never been made public.

The Royal Commission has confirmed to RNZ that Tam no longer works for the inquiry but the circumstances surrounding the end of his employment remain a mystery.

It would not say when he officially left the inquiry, if he resigned or was asked to leave and if he received a pay-out.

It has also repeatedly refused to release the scope of its inquiry into the allegations made against Tam and would not confirm if it its own response to the allegations was investigated.

Abuse survivors have previously told RNZ that Commissioners had known about the claims made by female abuse survivors for months, and had failed to act to provide a safe environment for survivors coming forward.

The Royal Commission is refusing to release the probe's findings publicly too. A spokesperson said this was because it was an employment matter.

RNZ contacted Tam, but he declined to comment.

Toni Jarvis is a member of the Royal Commission's survivor advisory group. He encouraged Tam to apply for the job several years ago and was disappointed to see him go.

"We need a voice that is recognised within the Mongrel Mob that can bring the subject out which is a most sensitive subject, particularly for survivors... and particularly maybe for gang members."

Tam played a pivotal role at the Royal Commission, Jarvis said.

"Harry was involved predominantly in the Mongrel Mob, but remember that he liaised and he worked with other fractions, other groups, and no doubt other gangs trying to bring about change.

"He was a very prominent figure in my mind, when you looked at representing gangs or outreaching and making that connection to the gangs or whānau iwi."

At its first public hearing, the Royal Commission heard from many survivors who said the abuse they experienced as children in care led them to join gangs later in life.

It was important gangs were represented at the inquiry, Jarvis said.

"Regardless of the flack and what the public might say about gang members being involved in it, if we want to get to the truth and have an in-depth report, we need to involve them."

Jarvis said the survivor advisory group had not been told anything about Tam's departure.

The Minister responsible for the high level inquiry, Tracey Martin, was not briefed on the investigation and its outcome.

A spokesperson said the Commission was independent and the minister was not involved in or responsible for operational or employment matters.

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