The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry Contextual hearing returns today at 10.00am at the Rydges hotel in Auckland. Commissioners will hear from four witnesses. Witness evidence summaries are outlined below.

After witness speak, their full evidence, along with footage of them speaking, will available for download here.(external link)

The hearing is being live-streamed at: www.abuseincare.org.nz/public-hearings/live-stream/(external link)

The Contextual hearing is open to media and the public.

Beverley Wardle-Jackson

Ms Wardle-Jackson will give evidence about the abuse and neglect she suffered as a child in State care. She will describe being placed under the preventive supervision of the Superintendent at age 7 years, and being sent with her sisters to the Florence Booth Salvation Army Home, where she remained for about a year and suffered severe beatings. Ms Wardle-Jackson will describe being sent to Miramar Girls’ Home as a State Ward, and then being moved to Strathmore Girls’ Receiving Home and the Riccarton Family Home in Christchurch, followed by Fareham House in Featherston. In all of these placements she suffered serious physical abuse and was locked in rooms and an attic for long periods as punishment. She was also sexually abused while under the notice of Child Welfare.

Ms Wardle-Jackson was admitted as a minor patient to psychiatric hospitals about four different times between 1967 and 1973 and was just 14 years old at her first admission. While in psychiatric hospital care she suffered physical assaults, was administered ECT and given Paraldehyde as punishment, and she was secluded as a punishment. She was discharged from the care of the Superintendent in about February 1971.

Ms Wardle-Jackson will discuss her experience in settling claims against the Salvation Army, Ministry of Social Development and Ministry of Health between 2004 and 2017.

Anna Sophia Calman

Ms Calman suffered physical and sexual abuse and neglect early on in life while growing up in her family home. While she first came to State notice in approximately May 1961, it took six years before complaint action was finally taken because of the detrimental home environment, but she remained in the family home under supervision. In 1969 complaint action was taken again and Ms Calman became a State Ward. She was placed in Nazareth House in Christchurch from 1969 to 1972 where she suffered physical and psychological abuse. In 1972 Ms Calman was placed with the first of several foster families and was sexually and physically abused in these placements until she was discharged from State care. 

Ms Calman has been diagnosed with depression and PTSD. In recent years she has written a book about her experiences. She will discuss her claim for redress - her claim documents were sent to the Ministry of Social Development on 4 August 2015. She is still waiting for a response.

Rosslyn Noonan

Ms Noonan is the Director of the New Zealand Centre for Human Rights Law, Policy and Practice. She also works with national human rights institutions across Asia and the Pacific and advises governments on the establishment and strengthening of national human rights institutions. She was New Zealand’s Chief Human Rights Commissioner from 2001 to 2011. During that time, she chaired the global body of national human rights institutions for two years (2010-2012). In 2018 she was appointed as the chairperson of the Independent Panel reviewing the family justice services as they relate to the Care of Children Act 2004.

Ms Noonan has played a considerable role in paving the way to the establishment of the Royal Commission, including while she was Chief Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission. She will reflect on the efforts that were made while she was Chief Commissioner to bring the issue of abuse in care to the attention of the wider New Zealand public and the Government, and since. Ms Noonan will outline why she became convinced that a Royal Commission, an independent inquiry of the highest status, was essential to identify and acknowledge the extent of damage done to many children and vulnerable adults who were taken into State care and the impact of their experiences of care on them, their families and their communities. She will explain the need for a Royal Commission to ensure redress for the survivors and to hold accountable those responsible for failing to ensure protection for children and vulnerable adults in the State’s care and failing to take appropriate action when knowledge of the abuse became known. She will also explain the relevance and importance of the international and New Zealand human rights standards to the issue of abuse in care.

Judge Andrew Becroft

The Children’s Commissioner will cover the following topics on behalf of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.

Overview of the Functions of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner

  • The Children’s Commissioner has a statutory role as the independent monitor of policies and practices provided under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
  • We are also a designated National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) responsible for monitoring New Zealand’s compliance with the United Nations (UN) Convention against Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in relation to Oranga Tamariki residences. This gives the Commissioner for Children the mandate to monitor all care and protection and youth justice residences as well as other places of child and youth detention across Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • As the independent monitor of Oranga Tamariki since 1989, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner could also be subject to review for inadequate discharge of the monitoring function within the scope of the Royal Commission inquiry.

The Role of an Effective Independent Monitor

  • Oranga Tamariki provides services to approximately 30,000 children and young people daily. Approximately 6,400 are currently in the care or custody of Oranga Tamariki.
  • The Government announced changes to the oversight of the State care system, including the roles of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and the Ombudsman, in April this year. The role and functions of the future Independent Monitor (which may or may not remain within the Office of the Children’s Commissioner) are currently being designed by Government.
  • Current resourcing requires the Office of the Children’s Commissioner to be very selective about what we monitor and how. The independent monitor, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, has never been resourced to fully discharge its monitoring functions. An effective independent monitor is necessary to help prevent, address and eliminate abuse of children and young people in State care.

There is an Obligation to Get It Right This Time

  • A number of previous reports and inquiries have investigated the abuse of children in State care and made recommendations to safeguard children now and into the future. Previous reports include a particular focus on Māori children in Puao-Te-Ata-Tu in 1988, and disabled children and adults in a Human Rights Commission Report in 2017.
  • The Children, Young Persons, and their Families Act 1989 had the potential to achieve the vision outlined in Puao-Te-Ata-Tu. This vision has still not been realised.
  • Section 7AA was introduced to the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 on 1 July 2019. There is now a statutory obligation that makes explicit what has always been implicit, that the Crown honour its Te Tiriti obligations for children in State care.

A Child-Centred Complaints Mechanism is Necessary in the Current System

  • Complaints mechanisms that children and young people in care trust and can readily access need to be developed as soon as possible.
  • It should be noted that due to the coercive nature of State care any complaints mechanism can never be truly accessible for children and young people.
  • The Scope of the Royal Commission Should be Interpreted Broadly to Extend to Today
  • Recent figures released by Oranga Tamariki show a continuing picture of abuse of children and young people in State care. The Royal Commission needs to use its discretion to inquire into both historical and current abuse of children and young people in State care.
  • Recommendations from this inquiry should be forward-focused to ensure the protection from abuse of children and young people now and into the future.

Media enquiries: Hannah Grant, Hannah.grant@abuseincare.org.nz; 027 298 2094

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