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

Terms of Reference changes

The Government has made some changes to our Terms of Reference (ToR). Here are some questions and answers that will give you more clarity on what these changes mean.

What are the changes made to the Terms of Reference?

The five key changes are:

  1. To change our final reporting date from 3 January 2023 to 30 June 2023.
  2. To remove the mandate to examine current frameworks to prevent and respond to abuse in care, including current legislation, policy, rules, standards and practices.
  3. To continue the ability to make recommendations on redress and to ensure that the factors that allowed abuse to occur in care pre-1999 do not persist.
  4. To continue our ability to hear from survivors about issues and experiences after 1999 for the purposes of making the above recommendations.
  5. To include more specific requirements about how the Royal Commission must report on its progress to the Minister.

What do these changes mean for my personal situation?

This does not change how survivors can engage with us. Every account is valuable to us. We are committed to hearing survivors who come forward and telling the stories of survivors, to reveal the extent of the abuse they suffered and the reasons why. The Royal Commission engaged with the Government over the changes, in particular to preserve our ability to make recommendations to avoid future abuse based on the lessons of the past. Every experience shared will inform the recommendations that the Inquiry will make to the Government in its reports.

I have already had a Private Session, but will you use my account now?

Yes. Every experience shared with us is valuable and will help inform the recommendations that the Inquiry makes to the Government in our reports.

Am I still in scope?

Yes. We are looking into what happened to children, young people and vulnerable adults in State and faith-based care in NZ between the years 1950-99 but we also have discretion to listen to survivor experiences before and after these dates. We are able to consider issues outside these dates for the purposes of making recommendations on redress, or to ensure that factors that allowed abuse to occur in care do not persist.

What exactly is now in and out of scope?

We are looking into what happened to children, young people and vulnerable adults in State and faith-based care in NZ between the years 1950-99 but we also have discretion to listen to survivor experiences before and after these dates. We are also able to consider issues outside these dates for the purposes of making recommendations on redress, or to ensure that factors that allowed abuse to occur in care do not persist.

What does it mean for survivors who have not yet registered or had a private session or given a witness statement?

Survivors who have not yet registered or shared their experience with us can still do so. The Inquiry is committed to listening to survivors. Their experience will inform the recommendations we make to the Government in our reports.

I am registered but is it even worth having a Private Session now?

Yes. Every survivor account is valuable to us. Our Commissioners are committed to listening to our survivors via private sessions and your experience will inform the recommendations we make to Government.

I am currently registered, and my abuse occurred between 2009 -2018 while I was in care. What does that mean for me now?

We are looking into what happened to children, young people and vulnerable adults in State and faith-based care in NZ between the years 1950-99 but we also have discretion to listen to survivor experiences before and after these dates. We are able to consider issues outside these dates for the purposes of making recommendations on redress, or to ensure that factors that allowed abuse to occur in care do not persist.

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?

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.

https://www.abuseincare.org.nz/survivors/legal-assistance/

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: https://www.orangatamariki.govt.nz/about-us/contact-us/feedback/

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 contact@ot.govt.nz 

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

How to get involved

How can I be involved in the Inquiry?

There are many ways in which you can share your experience. 

  • Providing a formal witness statement to our investigation team
  • Attending a private session with a Commissioner
  • Submitting a written account
  • Attending a hui, fono or meeting in your local community
  • Participating in a wānanga or roundtable

On occasion, the Inquiry may put out a call for people to come forward to participate in a particular investigation or to share their knowledge and expertise on a particular issue. If you believe you have information or expertise that is relevant to the Inquiry, we encourage you to get in touch.

Before registering with the commission to share your experiences as a survivor it is a good idea to check the types of abuse the Inquiry will investigate, and read the short version of the Terms of Reference. We will investigate abuse in care provided by the State (social welfare, education, law enforcement and health) and faith-based institutions.

Registering with us starts the process of sharing your experiences with the Inquiry. You can register with us by phone or by email.

Public hearings

Public hearings provide an opportunity to publicly examine how and why abuse occurred in State and faith-based care.

It will not be possible for the thousands of survivors who will contact the Royal Commission over the next few years to feature as witnesses at public hearings. Only some survivors and witnesses of abuse will be invited to give formal evidence as witnesses at a public hearing.

However, all ​information we receive about abuse ​in care given to us by survivors ​is important. The experiences of all survivors who participate in the Inquiry (through witness statements, written accounts, sharing important information with Commissioners and others), are, and will continue to be analysed and the themes and issues that are relevant, will be included in our findings and any recommendations to Government.

 

 

Why should I get involved with the Inquiry?

If you share your experience in a private session or written account with the Inquiry it will inform our research, findings and recommendations. It will help us establish the nature and extent of abuse in care in State and faith-based institutions, and identify themes or issues that will be examined by the Inquiry in its investigations and case studies. The information we receive from private sessions and written accounts will be kept secure, and access is strictly limited to Inquiry staff who need it for a specific purpose.

If you provide a formal witness statement, your experience will be used as evidence and considered alongside other evidence that the Commission gathers. In some instances, if you give a formal witness statement you may also be asked to give evidence at a public hearing.

However you share your experience, you will contribute to the Inquiry’s work to fully understand what has happened to those who have been abused in care and why, and to make meaningful recommendations for change.

What if I want to appear as a witness at a public hearing?

Most survivors and others who wish to participate in the Inquiry will choose to share their experiences and views about how things should change by providing a formal witness statement or written account, or attending a private session.

Some will also want to participate as a witness in one of the public hearings that will be held over the course of the Inquiry.

It will not be possible for the thousands of survivors and other participants who contact the Royal Commission over the next few years to be witnesses at public hearings. To participate, a witness must first give a formal witness statement. Then, the Inquiry will ask some of the witnesses who have given a witness statement to also give their evidence about their experiences to the Commissioners in a public hearing.

Tāwharautia: Purongo o te Wā - Interim Report

These questions relate to the Interim report.

Where can I read the reports?

The reports are available online in various formats at the Royal Commission website. A limited number of printed copies of the Interim Report are available.

Why is there an Interim report and why now?

The delivery of an Interim Report to the Government by 28 December 2020 is specified in the Royal Commission’s terms of reference.

Why are there two volumes?

Volume One outlines the Royal Commission’s work to date and how we have approached it and analyses the key themes and common issues from the experiences shared with us by survivors and witnesses

Volume Two is devoted to the voices of survivors. It shares the authentic stories and experiences of survivors from their hearts and minds.

What are the key findings of the Report?

The Report has made several findings across a range of areas. These include:

  • The number of people who have been abused could have been 250,000 out of a total of approximately 655,000 who went through the care settings of the 655,000 covered by the terms of reference.
  • The range of people who have been abused is wide and includes those from many backgrounds and situations. Other findings include:
    • A wide and disturbing range of abuse and physical, emotional, psychological , medical , educational, spiritual and cultural neglect has occurred.
    • Common factors in abuse cases including a lack of training and vetting and poor complaints and response processes and at the worst further abuse, harassment or punishment for reporting abuse.
    • Discrimination and racism played a role from authorities and the public
    • Economic cost:  We know from the Economic Cost of Abuse report the cost of abuse in care to individuals and society – between 1950 and 2019 is up to $217 billion.
    • Redress processes have not worked for many survivors; instead tending to focus on the financial implications to the State rather than providing wellbeing and compensation to survivors.

What happens with the Report now it has been presented and published?

The Report is now in the public arena and anyone can access and read it. It is for the Government to determine how they respond to the Report.

Why are there no recommendations in the Report?

The Interim Report describes the key themes and common issues from the experiences shared with us by survivors and witnesses. A final report will be delivered at the end of the Inquiry and it can be expected to contain recommendations based on the evidence heard from witnesses, information gathered, and themes identified over the whole period of the Inquiry.

I feel triggered by the report. What can I do?

Support is available. Our Contact Centre 0800 222 727 (weekdays 8am-6pm) is prepared and staffed to answer questions and direct survivors to appropriate support as needed.

Dedicated survivor wellbeing support, including counselling and psychological support, etc is available from our Survivor Wellbeing team for survivors who need it.

Why is the available data so poor?

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. 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 non-government 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 of disability status are no better and often worse, despite the very significant numbers of disabled people in care throughout the period. Given what we know about the under-reporting of abuse, it is likely that only a small proportion of such abuse and neglect has been reported over the time-period; let alone collated and properly recorded. The records of reported abuse and neglect are also patchy.

This is the best estimate of the number of people who went through care and how many of those that were abused from the available records and other national and international date about abuse.

What is a bottom up and top down approach?

The report's primary methodology uses the top-down approach. This shows that from 1950 to 2019 there were between 114,000 and 256,000 people who may have been abused while in State and faith-based care, or between 17 and 39 percent of the cohort. The top-down estimates cover a range of the types of abuse suffered by the survivors, from sexual and physical abuse to maltreatment and neglect.

 

An estimate of the rate of abuse has been calculated, based mainly on international evidence, and this rate has been assumed to be constant over time.

 

However, because it is likely that the number of people we have counted across the settings are likely to be understated – the number of people abused will also be understated.

The bottom-up approach is drawn from actual claims of abuse. The report indicates that from data provided to date by State agencies and faith-based institutions, a total of around 6,500 people who are known to have made claims of abuse while in State and faith-based care. Using unreported-crime multipliers developed from New Zealand and international crime surveys, we estimate that between 5.6 and 10 times this number may have been abused in care, or about 36,000 to 65,000 people between 1950 and 2019. This is between 5.5 and 9.9 percent of the total cohort in care, after adjusting for the overlap between settings.

Why does the Royal Commission have so few registrations compared to estimated number of abused people in care?

As of today, we have 2411 number of people registered with the Inquiry, of which just over 2000 are survivors. While this is low compared to the estimated cohort of those abused in care, we expect these numbers to substantially increase over time with our targeted community engagement and outreach, and the increased publicity and resulting public awareness at the times of our public hearings.

How can the Royal Commission’s ToR suggest that Māori/Pacific/Disabled people were over-represented in care when the data is vague about this?

Poor historical records mean the Royal Commission is working to address these key gaps. We are undertaking more detailed research on the abuse of Māori, Pacific and disabled people. Our investigations will be a vehicle to better understand the experiences and prevalence of abuse for these populations.

Given the collection of data has been poor for specific communities, it is more important than ever that that we hear from as many survivors as possible to fill in those gaps.

We encourage all those who were abused in care to share their experiences with the Royal Commission so we can understand what happened to them to prevent it happening to others 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 contact@abuseincare.org.nz. 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 contact@abuseincare.org.nz 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 legalassistance@abuseincare.org.nz.

Does the Royal Commission pay compensation?

The Royal Commission does not pay compensation. We will make recommendations to the Governor General about what compensation may look like in the future and we encourage you to come forward and share your story.

 

Further information about historical abuse claims can be found on the Ministry of Social Development’s website

 

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.

Group sessions

What are group sessions?

Group sessions provide an opportunity for a group of participants to meet with a Commissioner in a face to face setting and share their collective experience, usually after the individual participants have had a private session. 

How do I participate in a group session?

Each group session participant must be registered with the Royal Commission. If you would like to discuss a group session, please call our Contact Centre.

Who can join a group session?

Groups may include, but are not limited to, whānau, groups of survivors and groups of witnesses.  The number of participants will be discussed on a case by case basis with consideration given to the wellbeing requirements of the participants.

Public hearings

What if I want to appear as a witness at a public hearing?

Most survivors and others who wish to participate in the Inquiry will choose to share their experiences and views about how things should change by providing a formal witness statement or written account, or attending a private session.

Some will also want to participate as a witness in one of the public hearings that will be held over the course of the Inquiry.

It will not be possible for the thousands of survivors and other participants who contact the Royal Commission over the next few years to be witnesses at public hearings. To participate, a witness must first give a formal witness statement. Then, the Inquiry will ask some of the witnesses who have given a witness statement to also give their evidence about their experiences to the Commissioners in a public hearing.

Can I attend a public hearing?

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

Survivor compensation

Does the Royal Commission pay compensation or deal with claims for compensation?

The Royal Commission cannot provide compensation for historical abuse or neglect, and it cannot receive or decide on claims for compensation or other forms of redress.

Why does the Royal Commission not pay compensation?

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care is looking into what happened to children, young people and vulnerable adults in care and why. We are an inquiry that is independent of the Government and faith-based institutions, and we are not funded to make payments of compensation.

Under our Terms of Reference, we are required to identify, examine, and report on the abuse of children, young persons and vulnerable adults in State and faith-based care. When we report, we will make recommendations about how New Zealand can better care for children, young persons and vulnerable adults. It is not stated as part of our terms of reference that we can receive claims for compensation or pay compensation.

Where can I go/who can I talk to about making a claim for compensation?

Several government agencies and faith-based institutions do accept and decide claims for compensation. There are contact details for these agencies here.

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