14 Nov 2018

Fears Māori voice will be lost as abuse inquiry widens scope

1:31 pm on 14 November 2018

Some Māori abused in state care say they will be silenced in the government inquiry now that it includes those abused in faith-based institutions.

Paora Crawford Moyle.

Paora Crawford Moyle. Photo: YouTube/Diva Productions

News that the Royal Commission will include victims of faith-based abuse has left survivor Paora Crawford Moyle disappointed.

She said she spoke for many survivors when she said widening the scope of the inquiry would water it down.

"When you add a whole lot more - one, it eats into the pūtea and it takes the focus away," she said.

"I am not saying that we should not have an inquiry into children that were abused in faith-based care, but I say when you lump it all together you are going to get a watered down version of what we originally believed what was going to be about children who were failed by the state."

Māori have been put into state care at a disproportionate rate than non-Māori. Historically Māori made up more than half of all state wards.

"We are the ones who have been targeted, who are over-represented," Ms Crawford Moyle said.

"This is a case of absolute institutional racism and we are not addressing the most key underpinning issue of why our children are separated from their whakapapa."

She said abuse at the hands of the state needed to be handled on its own to be able to get to the heart of the issue.

State abuse survivor Patricia Walsh agreed.

Her father was abused in a school run by Catholics. She said those types of stories needed to come out as well, but not in the Royal Commission inquiry.

"We are talking about how the state has abused us here... I think they should be completely separate," she said.

"Our voices will become minimised and again we will become little voices in a bigger kaupapa."

Head shot of young Marori woman with moko kauae

Patricia Walsh Photo: RNZ Insight/ Leigh-Marama McLachlan

Journalist Aaron Smale, who has written extensively about state abuse, said the state and the church were completely different institutions.

He had spoken with more than 100 victims of state abuse.

"The survivors that I have spoken to have been resistant to the idea that the church be included."

Mr Smale did not think the Royal Commission would be able to go deep enough into both issues within the timeframes suggested.

He said Māori men were a large cohort of people abused by the state, and they would be reluctant to participate if the inquiry doesn't appear to be for them.

However, state abuse survivor Eugene Ryder was pleased that the inquiry would include victims of abuse by religious institutions. He said that won't silence Māori.

"That would happen if Māori remain silent. If they do not participate in this process then they will not be heard," he said.

"This won't dilute Māori in state care abuse, this just adds to it."

Mr Ryder is urging the Royal Commission to engage people from Māori communities to encourage Māori to participate in the inquiry.

Murray Heasley of Ngāti Raukawa, spokesperson for The Network of Survivors of Abuse in Faith-based Institutions, said extending the inquiry scope would strengthen voices not diminish them.

"There seems to be this view that "state-based" is primarily a Māori issue and "faith-based" is primarily a Pākehā issue - nothing could be further from the truth," he said.

"A good number of our victim survivors are Māori and Pasifika and these are voices that have never had an opportunity to be heard."

One of the four members of the inquiry that will support its chair Sir Anand Satyanand, is Māori law specialist Andrew Erueti from Auckland University.

Paora Crawford Moyle said with only one Māori on the panel - the inquiry is less likely to understand the extent of the toll state abuse has taken on Māori.

"I am disappointed, I do not have any faith, because they completely ignored the needs of Māori state abuse survivors.

The Royal Commission would deliver three reports, the first on state abuse, the second on religious abuse, and a final overall view.

The inquiry will start hearing evidence at the beginning of next year.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs