The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry Contextual hearing returns 5 November at 10.00am at the Rydges hotel in Auckland. Commissioners will hear from three witnesses. Witness evidence summaries are outlined below.
The Contextual hearing is open to media and the public.
Robert Martin MNZM
Mr Martin is a disability rights activist. In 2016 he was the first person with a learning disability to be elected onto a United Nations Treaty Body, the Committee for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He suffered a brain injury at birth and as a baby was sent to the Kimberley Centre. He had some brief periods of time with his family and in foster homes, otherwise he spent his entire childhood and early teenage years in institutions including, Lake Alice, Kimberley and Campbell Park School, as a ward of the State. Mr Martin will give evidence about all the forms of abuse and neglect he experienced while living in State care, how this has impacted his life, and his hopes for the future.
Dr Anne Else MNZM
Dr Else is a writer, researcher and editor, and wrote the first comprehensive history of post-war adoption in New Zealand from 1944-1974. Dr Else will give evidence about the growth of adoption and the State’s involvement in closed stranger adoption since the 1955 Adoption Act. She will discuss the practice of “matching for marginality”, where the ‘best’ children were placed with the ‘best’ couples and hard-to-place children were placed with couples that social workers perceived as marginal.
Dr Else will also discuss how ex-nuptial children could enter State care. In the 1960s, the number of babies available for adoption outnumbered those wanting to adopt. It became more difficult to find homes for babies who were ‘different’ from the norm in some way, such as being of ‘mixed race’. If no adopters could be found or an adoption placement broke down, the baby was not returned to the birth mother but was placed in the care of the State.
Dallas is a survivor of abuse in State care. At birth, Dallas was placed for adoption. Dallas’s birth father was Māori and he was not told of her existence. Under the Adoption Act 1955, the State put Dallas into a closed stranger adoption placement with a white middle class Pākeha family. In her adoptive family Dallas was neglected, ill-treated, malnourished and abused. Social workers then placed Dallas in a foster home. During her childhood Dallas was shifted to multiple foster homes, family group homes, and despite the social workers knowing about the abuse, she was still returned to her adoptive family home a number of times during this period. Dallas suffered physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect in these various homes. She has since managed to gain qualifications and has worked in the area of social work for a number of years. Dallas wants to share her experiences with the Royal Commission, with the hope that the children of New Zealand do not have the childhood that she did.
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