The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry Contextual hearing commences today at 10am at the Rydges hotel in Auckland. Commissioners will hear from three witnesses. Their evidence summaries are outlined below.

After witness speak, their full evidence, along with footage of them speaking, will available for download here.

Judge Carolyn Henwood

Her Honour Judge Henwood was the Chair of the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (CLAS) which ran from 2008 to 2015. CLAS provided a confidential panel, facilitating counselling and assistance for people who experienced abuse or neglect during their time in State care in residential special education, health and welfare sectors before 1992.

Judge Henwood will reflect on the major common themes that came through from the over 1100 survivors that she heard from, the legacy of the effects that they suffered, concerns around systemic failures within State care, the processes and policies which contributed to poor outcomes, and the barriers to positive outcomes for survivors. Judge Henwood will discuss the final report of the Service, Some Memories Never Fade, and the Government’s response at the time, and give recommendations for the Royal Commission’s work moving forward.

Keith Wiffin

Keith Wiffin went into state care at the age of 10 after the death of his father.  He was sexually abused while at Epuni Boys’ home in the 1970s and describes the many other forms of abuse he witnessed at Epuni.  His police complaint led to the criminal conviction of his abuser, but his initial attempts to obtain redress from the Ministry of Social Development were rebuffed.  The Ministry later made an ex gratia settlement, but Mr Wiffin describes his dissatisfaction with the Crown’s redress process.  He advances a number of ideas for reform of Crown processes.

Arthur Taylor

Mr Taylor has spent 40 of his 63 years in prison. He will give evidence about being removed from his family by child welfare officers and taken into State care at only 11 years for being “NUPC” – not under proper control – because he had been wagging school. He will describe his three stints in Epuni Boys’ Home and the abuse he endured and witnessed there, his incarceration in a psychiatric facility as a teenager, and the road he took from State care to prison. Mr Taylor considers just as Australia had its “Stolen Generation”, so did New Zealand. Thousands of children, the vast majority Māori and Pasifika, were taken from their families, placed with strangers, and had their lives irrevocably blighted. Many ended up in the criminal justice system, and in jail. He considers this was not only to the detriment of the children and their whānau, but to the community who suffered from crime and the enormous expenditure of public funds that would not have happened but for the abuse perpetrated against these children. Mr Taylor will address the lessons to be learned from this so that the mistakes of the past are never repeated, and the need for recognition and acknowledgment of the harm that was caused and the opportunities that were lost.

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