Dr Stace will give a disability perspective on the road to the Royal Commission. A Government inquiry in 1953 recommended that the existing psychopaedic institutions be extended into large ‘mental deficiency colonies’ with parents encouraged to send their disabled children to them by the age of five. In 1964 it was estimated that one in a thousand children had an impairment requiring such incarceration. By the early 1970s, when another Inquiry proposed the closure of such institutions, hundreds of children and adults who had managed to survive lived in such places. Abuse in many forms thrived in such environments. The last institution, Kimberley, finally closed in 2006.
Why were these young people locked away from families and communities for who they were, rather than anything they had done? Why were children taken off mothers who were told to forget about them? Dr Stace will discuss how these policies can be traced back to the Social Darwinism of the previous century and the false science of eugenics which was promoted by influential politicians, public servants, academics and doctors as a way to create an ideal ‘fit’ society. ‘Deviance', ‘defect' and ‘delinquency' threatened this vision and those people assumed to be the cause - including those with certain impairments – were segregated in order to prevent their breeding.
Dr Stace’s evidence will address the intersection of colonisation, racism and eugenics that helped create a toxic mix of surveillance and oppression which led to the institutionalisation of thousands of children, young people and adults in a network of sites across New Zealand. Māori were disproportionately affected. Remnants of eugenic discrimination remain today in ongoing reports of abuse of disabled people.