11 Nov 2017

Govt should apologise to state care abuse victims - minister

1:08 pm on 11 November 2017

The new Minister for Children says she believes the government should make a formal apology to the victims of abuse in state care.

Tracey Martin

Tracey Martin said an official apology to the victims of abuse in state care would have to be considered by Cabinet. Photo: NZ FIRST

The government is promising to launch an inquiry into the abuse of children in state care, within its first 100 days in office.

The Minister, Tracey Martin, said she was still talking to officials about the shape of the inquiry.

But she told Newshub an important part of it would be an official recognition of the damage done to many children.

"If we stand in our truth and we bravely say this is the reality that happened to these New Zealanders under the care of the state, then the state has a responsibility to acknowledge that, to own it and therefore there should be an apology. But I don't speak on behalf of the full government."

Ms Martin said an official apology would have to be considered by the Cabinet.

A report from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination released in August called for an independent inquiry into the abuse of children and adults with disabilities in state care from 1950 to 1990.

A state apology, rehabilitation and reparations for abuse victims were at the centre of the report.

At the time, then opposition leader Jacinda Ardern, said there did need to be an inquest into history abuse in the state care system.

"We're in the middle of reforming our state care system and how can we make sure that we have a robust system unless we have learnt from the past from that historic abuse - it's the least we can do."

Between 1950 and 1990, more than 100,000 children were taken into state care, most of them Māori.

Former state wards who were victims of abuse presented a petition signed about 5000 people and an open letter signed by more than 10,000 to Parliament in July, calling for a public apology and a full inquiry.

The Social Development Minister at the time, Anne Tolley, ruled out a universal apology, saying there was no evidence of a systemic problem and would not agree to an independent inquiry.

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