The hearing will focus on three main themes:
racism in care
- intergenerational trauma
- contemporary experiences of abuse in care.
The hearing will investigate:
- How Māori in care were abused by the institutions meant to protect them. This included physical, sexual, psychological and racist abuse. Māori who were Deaf, disabled, LGBTQIA+ or of Pacific descent were disproportionately affected by care systems that failed them
- Why Māori survivors who were abused in State and faith-based care are more likely to be in contact with the care and justice systems as adults, and the links between survivors and gangs.
- Why tamariki Māori were and continue to be over-represented in care and the ongoing impacts Māori experience as a result of being abused.
All five Commissioners will sit on the hearing panel.
Some will sit in-person and some will sit by remote video. We have made this decision to manage the potential impacts of COVID-19.
Sadly, we will probably never know how many Māori were abused. Historical care and abuse data is very poor and the data that the State and faith-based institutions collected needs to be considered carefully, as they were responsible for the abuse. Survivors faced many barriers to reporting abuse.
While estimates suggest up to 250,000 children, young people and at-risk adults were abused in State and faith-based care between 1950-2019, we don’t know how many of these would have been Māori. However, we do know that Māori were and are over-represented in care at very high rates, and Māori were abused more often than any other group.
The hearing was originally planned to be held last September, but we had to delay it because of COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown restrictions in Tāmaki Makaurau. Survivors have told us they don’t want us to delay any further, and we can’t do so if we are to meet our requirement to present a final report to the Governor General in March 2024.
The Māori public hearing will include evidence from disabled Māori survivors. The Disability and Mental Health public hearing will be held in July. It will include a large focus on survivors who are tāngata whaikaha.
Some of the witnesses in the Māori public hearing have been abused in faith-based care. Others will focus on the abuse they received while in State care institutions. We are continuing to listen to the experiences of Māori who were abused in faith-based care through hui with survivors and other Māori groups.
Survivor health and wellbeing is at the heart of our decisions. The COVID-19 red traffic light setting restricts us to 100 attendees, including kaimahi. Together with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, who is hosting the hearing, we have decided not to open to the general public to ensure the health, safety and peace of mind of witnesses.
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei have gifted the hearing with the name “Tō muri te pō roa, tērā a Pokopoko Whiti-te-rā”. It refers to hope and healing for survivors of abuse in care, after years of darkness.
All New Zealanders need to understand that Māori survivors were disproportionately placed in care, only to be abused by the State and faith-based institutions that were supposed to protect them. This abuse continues to impact throughout Māoridom and our entire country.
While many Māori are familiar with the experiences of their own people being abused by State and faith-based care institutions, the hearing can help all New Zealanders understand and empathise with the abuse Māori experienced and the ongoing, lifelong and intergenerational impacts it is having on survivors and their whānau. As New Zealanders, all of us have a part to play in addressing the systemic abuse and failure of our State and faith-based care systems.
If you miss the livestream, you can watch witnesses’ evidence on our website. We will upload this regularly in video and audio formats.
Māori were and continue to be placed and abused in State care at a much higher rate than non-Māori. This was due to intentional State decisions and actions that were built on colonisation, institutional racism and assimilationist policies. These focused on dismantling Māori communities and undermining their whānau, hapū and iwi structures. For many Māori survivors and their whānau, this resulted in a loss of connection to their culture, language and whakapapa.
It is likely that Māori over-representation in care and the abuse and, in some cases, torture they experienced has led to Māori being over-represented in homelessness, addiction, domestic violence and the creation of gangs. It has contributed to Māori being over-represented in prisons and the criminal justice system.
According to research prepared for the Waitangi Tribunal, 80 per cent of current prisoners have spent time in State care. The Waitangi Tribunal has acknowledged the connection between State care and gangs, noting that an estimated 80 to 90 per cent of Mongrel Mob and Black Power gang members had been State wards.
Our two interim reports (Tāwharautia: Pūrongo o te Wā – Interim Report and He Purapura Ora, he Māra Tipu – From Redress to Puretumu Torowhānui) show Māori have been over-represented in care for generations and are impacted by abuse in care more than any other group, both individually and collectively.
An independent report released last November, Hāhā-uri, Hāhā-tea: Māori involvement in State Care 1950-1999, found that colonisation, institutional racism, and assimilationist policies led directly to the over-representation of Māori in State care. Government policies, over successive governments, focused on intentionally dismantling Māori communities and undermining whānau, hapū and iwi structures.
The Māori investigation is conducting kaupapa investigations about Māori experiences of abuse in care. It is collecting information through the Māori public hearing, hui and wānanga with Māori groups, in-person meetings with survivors, community engagement, research and policy analysis.