Questions from Survivors

These are questions received directly from survivors and the answers are shared for everyone.

How are we going to approach the hearings from an information gathering point of view?

We anticipate engaging over several thousand survivors  through the life of the Inquiry and conducting over 2,800 private sessions.  Private sessions assist with healing and in the development of our findings and recommendations.

When survivors register with the Royal Commission, part of the registration process is discussing with them how they wish to participate in the inquiry:

  • from a private session with a Commissioner
  • giving a witness statement that can be considered for a specific investigation,
  • a written account, or
  • simply registering now so that they can decide in the future if and when they may want to be involved. 

For survivors wanting to progress with a private session, they receive a pack that includes how the information may be used, and what wellbeing and legal support is available.  This is followed up by discussions between a member of our Survivor Accounts team and the survivor.

We analyse themes from private sessions which influences our investigations and therefore public hearing topics. 

How many investigations are we running?

We anticipate conducting up to 20 investigations during the Inquiry although not simultaneously. Each investigation is effectively an Inquiry in its own right, although we understand where survivor experiences intersect and aim to reflect this across all investigations. We are currently running eight concurrent investigations, the details of which are published on our website.

Why is it that many survivors who provide an account of abuse to the Commission are not called as witnesses at our hearings? Will we be calling senior Church figures of our choice to question them?

A public hearing is only a small part of a wider investigation examining a theme or particular institution. We only engage a small number of survivors, in the form of witnesses, to share their experience at a public hearing. You will no doubt appreciate it will not be possible to have the thousands of survivors who will engage with the Royal Commission over the next few years feature as witnesses in our hearings.

If I am not chosen to appear in a public hearing, why should I bother? Does it lessen the sharing of my experience through a private session?

All accounts of abuse provided are valuable and contribute to the picture we’re building up. The experiences of all survivors who participate in the Inquiry (through private sessions, providing written accounts, sharing important information with Commissioners and others), are, and will continue to be, analysed to identify themes and systemic issues that are relevant to our findings and recommendations. 

Will the Inquiry follow the model of the Australian Royal Commission by calling witnesses of our choice to be questioned - to get to the truth - rather than leaving the State or church to choose their own witnesses?

Yes, the Royal Commission is following the same approach as the Australian inquiry.  In the State Redress hearing we are requiring representatives from the relevant state agencies to appear for questioning and in one case we have insisted on one particular state witness attending to answer the Commission’s questions. We will continue with this approach with faith-based institutions to ensure the right people can be called to account.

How do we manage the potential trauma to those not called as witnesses?

We acknowledge that survivors may suffer a level of trauma and anxiety around the hearings, especially if they are unsure if they will be participating. This may include survivors who have not yet interacted with us. For this reason, we are ensuring our wellbeing teams have extra capacity during hearings, so anyone can contact us, or their existing wellbeing support networks, and receive support.

What wellbeing preparation has the Commission in place to prepare survivors for the vicarious trauma they might experience as a result of the hearings?

Wellbeing support, including counselling, is offered to all survivors and participants who engage with the Royal Commission. For those survivors undertaking a private session with Commissioners, support is offered before, during and after the session. We have heard from survivors that this wellbeing is effective and valuable to their healing process. We work with survivors to put together a ‘package of care’ to suit their needs and values. This could include paying for support already in place or arranging additional support.

Can the Royal Commission assist survivors with legal representation to prosecute cases?

In short, no. If you want or need legal help to prepare a written statement or submission, lawyers provided by the Royal Commission can help with this.  They can also assist if you are asked by the Commission to be a witness and give oral evidence at a public hearing. Further information is available on our website.

However, lawyers provided by the Inquiry are not able to help you with a civil claim or a criminal case.

Is the Royal Commission investigating Gloriavale?

Allegations of abuse and neglect at Gloriavale are within our scope and we are beginning to gather evidence about what has happened there. We have met with representatives of the Gloriavale Leavers’ Support Trust.

Gloriavale does not come within the investigations into faith-based institutions that have been established to date (Catholic Church and Anglican Church).  However, other investigations into faith-based institutions may be set up, as the Inquiry progresses.

How can I make a complaint through Oranga Tamariki?

Oranga Tamariki has a complaints process (and online form) on their website:

If you prefer not to use the online form, you can phone 0508 326 459

If you are worried about the safety and wellbeing of a child or young person, please use the phone number above or email 

If after talking to Oranga Tamariki you feel your concern is still unresolved, staff will talk to you about what else can be done.

Find out more about the Abuse in Care Inquiry in these Frequently Asked Questions.

About the Inquiry

Why was the Inquiry set up?

The Inquiry was set up in response to calls from survivors, community leaders, iwi and Māori as well as the Human Rights Commission and the United Nations to investigate the abuse that occurred to children and young people in care.

When was the Inquiry set up?

The New Zealand Government asked Sir Anand Satyanand to gather feedback from New Zealanders on draft Terms of Reference for the Inquiry on 1 February 2018.  Sir Anand heard from over 400 groups and individuals. Their feedback was incorporated into the final Terms of Reference setting out eight pou (strategic pillars) released by the Government on 12 November 2018. The Inquiry is guided by these pou.

What are the pou?

They are:

  • Te Tiriti o Waitangi
  • Survivor voice
  • Circumstances of going into care
  • Nature and extent of abuse
  • Impact of abuse
  • Systemic factors
  • Redress and rehabilitation
  • Transforming how we care

What is the Inquiry investigating?

The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry is investigating what happened to children, young people and vulnerable adults in State and faith-based care in Aotearoa New Zealand between 1950 and 1999. We can also listen to people who suffered abuse in care outside of those years.

We are looking into why people were taken into care, what abuse people suffered in care and why, and the effects of the abuse on them and their whanau. We know a disproportionate number of Māori, Pasefika and disabled people were taken into care, so those groups are our main, but not only, focus.

What does being in care mean?

Being “in care” means the State or a faith-based institution had responsibility for your care. This could include being in foster care, care and protection residences, youth justice residences, children’s homes, psychiatric hospitals, health camps, disability institutions, schools and early childhood institutions, and faith-based care, but it is not necessarily limited to these types of care institutions. The focus of the Inquiry on abuse “in care” means that it is not able to look into abuse that happened in your own whānau / family home, unless you were in care at the time.

Who is leading the Inquiry?

The Inquiry is led by our Chair Judge Coral Shaw, three commissioners, Counsel Assist and an Executive Chair. They are supported by staff in Wellington and Auckland. The Commissioners are Ali’imuamua Sandra Alofivae, Dr Andrew Erueti and Paul Gibson.  

Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission is Simon Mount QC and Executive Director is Mervin Singham.

What will you do with the information I give the Inquiry?

The information we gather through our hearings, from survivors in private sessions, through written accounts and general submissions and through our research will be analysed and used to inform our reports to the Government. We will also use the information gathered in private sessions to understand themes that may later lead to a public hearing. We may also use the information we gather in private sessions in our reports. We will not use names or other identifying details of survivors.

When are you reporting to the Government?

We will be writing two reports to the Governor General. The first is an interim report which will be delivered during 2020.  That will detail what we have found so far in our Inquiry. The second will be our final report in 2023.  That will contain our findings and recommendations on how Aotearoa New Zealand should care for children, young people and vulnerable adults in the future.

For survivors

How can I be part of the Inquiry?

There are many ways in which you can share your experience. At a private session, in person or by video call, as a witness in a public hearing, by providing a written account or witness statement, or attending a roundtable or hui in your local community.

I was abused while in care. Can I tell you my story?

Absolutely. We want to hear from as many people as possible who were abused in State or faith-based care between 1950 and 1999, or outside these dates. The abuse that survivors suffered can be physical, sexual, emotional or psychological. Neglect is also abuse under our Terms of Reference.  Abuse and neglect may have occurred in many different care settings, including:

  • In a children's home
  • Fostered or adopted out
  • In a youth justice placement
  • In psychiatric care
  • In any disability care or facility
  • At a health camp
  • At any school or special school
  • At any early childhood centre
  • In police cells, court cells or police custody
  • In transport between different care facilities
  • In a church or with a religious group (can be any religion or faith)

How do I tell the Inquiry what happened to me?

The most common way for survivors to tell their story is through a private session with a Commissioner. To have a private session you must first register with the Inquiry. You can do this by:

  • calling our contact centre on 0800 222 727 or
  • emailing us at Our contact centre staff will take some details from you during registration.  They will come back to you at a later date to arrange your private session.

Can I tell you about a family member who was abused in care, but has since passed away?

Yes you can do this in a private session.  Please contact us on 0800 222 727 to register with the Inquiry.

How else can I tell you about the abuse I suffered?

You can write to us telling us what happened to you. We will soon have guidance and a form on our website which will help you to do this. If you wish to write to us before the guidance is available, please do so.  You can write to us at PO Box 10071, The Terrace, Wellington 6143.

I am not a survivor, but I work with them and want to be involved in the Inquiry. How can I do this?

We will soon be taking general submissions from interested parties. In the meantime please call us on 0800 222 727 or email us at to discuss.

Will I need a lawyer to be involved in the Inquiry?

You do not need a lawyer to participate in the Inquiry.  You can participate in a private session or write about your experience without a lawyer. It is entirely up to you. Legal assistance is available to people in some in specific situations. If you wish to discuss your eligibility for legal assistance please email

Private sessions

When will I have a private session?

Firstly our contact centre staff will determine where you live and what is most convenient for you.  Our commissioners travel all over the country to listen to survivors. When they are near to where you live we may contact you to arrange a suitable time for your session. Once it is confirmed we will send you an information pack with the time, date and venue of your private session.  We can also help arrange transport if needed.

Can I get support or counselling from the Inquiry?

Yes. You can ask for support at any stage of your engagement with us.  We can provide support before, during and after a private session or any other time you engage with us. We will work with you to put together support and counselling that meets your needs and values. Support is provided by registered mental health professionals or approved providers. Speak to our staff about your needs. 

I am in prison, can I get a private session?

Yes you can. Survivors in prison can contact the Inquiry on 0800 222 727. This number has been approved by Corrections as an unmonitored number and calls to the Inquiry will not be recorded.  You can also write to us or a family member can contact the Inquiry on your behalf. Our Commissioners can visit you in prison to conduct your private session.

I’m in Australia, can I have a private session?

Wherever possible and appropriate, we also use modern technology to communicate with survivors and others based overseas. We may also hold private sessions in Australia in the future. Please call our contact centre to discuss this. In Australia you can call us on 1 800 875 745.

Public hearings

Can I appear at a public hearing?

You may be invited to appear at a public hearing to share your story.

Can I attend a public hearing?

Yes.  Our hearings are open to the public. They are also livestreamed on our website.

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