16 Dec 2021

Abuse survivors says devil will be in the detail when it comes to redress

8:07 am on 16 December 2021

People abused while in care are welcoming recommendations for the establishment of an independent redress system for survivors, but say the devil will be in the detail.

Royal Commission Abuse in Care inquiry.

File image. Photo: RNZ / Patrice Allen

The Royal Commission into Abuse in State and Faith-based care report on redress was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.

It has received support from the government and a commitment to act on it.

The commission has made 95 recommendations calling for urgent action to restore mana to survivors and lay out a clear path to help put right the deep harm done to them.

It is estimated that up to a 250,000 children, young people and vulnerable adults were abused in state and church care between 1950 and 2019.

Many trying to seek compensation and an apology have have to battle the same institutions that oversaw their abuse.

Jacinda Thompson was abused by her Anglican minister and she knew only too well the difficulties in getting help.

''When I first complained it was ignored, you get victim-blamed, you often get kicked out of the institution that was your faith, your church home," Thompson said.

She was encouraged by the report and believed survivors had been heard.

''The line that stuck out for me was, 'How in the face of this can anyone not be shocked and stirred into action'. And for me what is key for now is that the government actually acts on it.''

Frances Tagaloa was abused by a Marist Brother at the age of five.

''The current system of survivors of abuse in care seeking redress from institutions that have failed to keep us safe is just re-traumatising and results in further harm,'' he said.

Tagaloa said it was a milestone just having the report finally released.

''We have urgently needed this independent body to be set up for a long time.''

Royal Commission chairperson Judge Coral Shaw said every attempt in the past to provide some form of redress to abuse survivors had failed.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - December 06: Abuse in Care, Royal Commission of Inquiry appointment of new chair Coral Shaw December 06, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Tantrum/ http://marktantrum.com)

Coral Shaw Photo: Supplied / Mark Tantrum

''There is a great need for a new, independent scheme that survivors can trust and obtain real restoration and everything we have found and recommended has been based on the voices of survivors.''

The recommendation was that the redress scheme, Puretumu Torowhānui, be formed by the government, Shaw said.

''It is so important that the voices of survivors is heard loud and clear and contributes in a meaningful way to this design."

She described it as a huge ask.

''But it's required, it's essential. All of the elements of inclusiveness, a sense of justice, trauma informed, survivor focused, al of that is lacking in any regress scheme that has been created to date.''

The Network of Survivors in Faith-based institutions believed the Royal Commission has taken note of what survivors wanted.

Spokesperson Liz Tonks said the key to any redress system was its independence from any state or church institution.

However, change would not be easy, she said.

''I think it will take some time but it is urgent and I think as long as the government insures that they consult widely with survivors, survivor groups and all of the stake-holders, there is an impetus from these people to work quickly to have it achieved as soon as possible.''

Survivors who had been fighting for justice for a long time needed to be helped straight away as time may be running out for some of them, Tonks said.

The government had indicated it would prioritise advance payments for older or terminally ill survivors before a new system is in place.

''We would hope it would be more than just compensation and that it would be a whole package of support urgently put round them that they need. They absolutely need funds but they also need all of the other services that they are entitled to.''

SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said while the report said a lot, it was short on detail about any new redress system.

Spokesperson Christopher Longhurst said survivors were treating the report with caution.

''Survivors are fearful of reports and documents that can never be any better than the people behind them who have to implement them.''

Wonderfully crafted documents and reports by churches had been a sore point up until now, he said.

''Therefore presenting an image to the public that they are actually doing something about it, when they are not.''

Steve Goodlass is a survivor of abuse at the hands of a Marist Brother in the late 1980s.

He wanted the government to act quickly now it had the commission's recommendations.

''This is the point where survivors can begin to heal from, but if the government dilly-dally or if they meddle in interesting and unusual ways when the trauma is ongoing for survivors, so there is this ray of hope, but now we need to get to the nitty gritty and we need to get there reasonably quickly.''

He needed more detail so he could better assess the independence of a new body.

''This really is the beginning of the next phase. It is certainly not done and dusted. It's important that the government acts quickly.''

For Keith Wiffen, the inquiry's report was the first time survivors like him had seen something meaningful put in place for them.

Survivors currently had to battle every step of the way in seeking redress.

''Resistance and obstruction and they have been about protecting the images of the institution and the reputation of the institution and have never had the victim and survivor as its first point of consideration.''

''I am over the moon by what has been produced. I think it's a very comprehensive document and like me I think all survivors should be excited about this.''

Judge Shaw said that in writing the report and crafting the recommendations survivors had been top of mind.

She said everything in the report was based on the voice of survivors.