From Helen Potiki — Acting Executive Director, Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry
The purpose of our work at the Abuse in Care Royal Commission has always been certain. Survivors and the power of their voices — individually and collectively — are at the heart of what we do. This purpose will always remain, as we continue to unearth the country’s dark past regarding historical abuse and neglect in State and faith-based institutions.
We’re providing this update as we start finalising the re-planning of our Inquiry, around the recent Terms of Reference changes and Budget 2021 allocation. The re-planning is timely as we pass the halfway mark, to ensure survivors’ experiences remain front and centre. It’s important we adapt as our work evolves.
We know the work at hand is immense. The scale of historical abuse is far greater than first thought, with around 250,000 possible victims within our scope — a figure we think could be a considerable underestimation.
This is the largest and most complex Royal Commission of Inquiry ever established in New Zealand. We expect to receive around a million evidential documents over the course of the Inquiry. By comparison, the Pike River Inquiry considered about 67,500 documents and the terror attack on Christchurch Mosques Royal Commission considered approximately 73,500 documents.
Internationally, when compared to similar inquiries, our scope is wider, our timeframes are equal to or shorter, and our budget is smaller. For example, the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse — which had a narrower scope — cost $403 million.
The Abuse in Care Royal Commission wasn’t fully funded when it was launched, and the Government has provided additional funding as the nature of the work has changed. Re-planning has been crucial as the sizeable scale of our work has become clearer. An Administration Report we provided to the Government in late 2020 highlighted our ongoing workload and the estimated costs required to meet the Terms of Reference.
The planning we’ve undertaken in recent months follows a Budget 2021 commitment of $90 million over two years and confirmation our final report is due by 30 June 2023. The Government has also confirmed we can hear from survivors about experiences up to the present day, so we can make recommendations to help avoid future abuse. Budget 2021 funding provided to us by the Government reflects what it has cost us to operate for the past two years.
It is the right time to reassess and adapt our operational functions to identify better and more efficient ways of working. We must talk to and learn from our survivor advisory groups and other survivors. We must continue to ensure our work is underpinned by Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
This planning has helped us to deliver a new way of working and is changing the way we operate, and it will have an impact on some roles at the Inquiry.
We need to rebalance our resources to ensure we deliver on time and within budget. Inquiry staff learnt last week about proposed changes to some roles, which will eventually align to our new way of working. The rebalancing proposed may see some roles disestablished, while new and focused roles are proposed to deliver the plan. The proposals are currently out for consultation with staff before any final decisions are made on staffing levels and the Inquiry’s operating model.
The mahi that lies ahead is significant. It will reveal the extent of the abuse, neglect and injustices suffered by survivors.
This planning is an essential step to ensure this vision can be realised. It will enable us all to have a clear direction and plan around how this will be delivered. We must be able to change to an adapting environment while still putting survivors first.
We acknowledge that learning about these changes may be distressing for survivors and we encourage them and/or their whānau to contact us on 0800 222 727 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will continue to provide updates over the coming weeks as the planning is finalised.