The inquiry faces the complex and difficult task of estimating the numbers of people who have been in care in the numerous settings in the terms of reference. The relevant time period spans a broad swathe of the country’s history from 1950s post-War New Zealand through to 1999 and beyond, during which there have been big changes in institutions, laws and professional practices, as well as social, cultural and political changes. The settings where people received care are equally diverse. They range from places such as police cells, normally experienced for short periods of time, through to institutional and community-based care where some people have spent their entire lives. As well as the more well-known categories of direct State care, our settings include indirect State care that may have been contracted out to nongovernment entities, and faith-based care, which extends beyond organised religion to any group connected by a spiritual belief system. There has never been a comprehensive census or count of people in these numerous settings. In some cases records were not kept at all or have been lost, and even where there are records it is often difficult or impossible to trace an individual’s path through multiple care settings over time. Records of the demographic status (particularly ethnicity) of those in care are equally variable, sometimes non-existent and frequently poor for most of the time period under review.
Records have been particularly poor for obtaining specific information about Māori, Pacific and disabled people in care. But even with the poor data available, it is clear that more people have passed through state and faith-based care than was previously known. And even on the most conservative estimates, there has been more abuse in care than previously thought.
This cohort study provides high-level estimates of the people who have passed through the care settings outlined in our Terms of Reference between 1950-2019, and estimates of the number of children likely to have been abused in care.