The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry Contextual hearing returns on 4 November at 10.00am at the Rydges hotel in Auckland. Commissioners will hear from four witnesses. Witness evidence summaries are outlined below.

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

The hearing is being live-streamed at:

The Contextual hearing is open to media and the public.

Sonja Cooper and Amanda Hill

Cooper Legal has represented more than 1100 survivors of abuse in care. Evidence from Sonja Cooper and Amanda Hill on behalf of Cooper Legal will address:

  • The beginnings of the civil claims against the State for abuse in psychiatric hospitals and Social Welfare care;
  • How the claims grew, and how the State responded – with a mixture of ‘listening’ forums and fierce, uncompromising defence in the Court;
  • How State mechanisms such as the Courts and Legal Aid played a role in the claims process;
  • The role of our human rights law – both national and international – in progressing the civil claims;
  • Settlement processes both past and current, and why they are not fit for purpose; and
  • The disadvantages experienced by many survivors, including: less access to information; fewer resources to obtain help; often poor literacy or mental health and economic circumstances which pressure them to accept amounts of compensation which do not reflect their experiences; and
  • What they see as the way forward for the claims process as part of a larger truth and reconciliation process.

Associate Professor Elizabeth Stanley

Associate Professor Stanley will give evidence about the nature of abuse in State care based on her extensive research for the published book The Road to Hell: State Violence against Children in Postwar New Zealand. The book tells the story of 105 New Zealanders who experienced abuse and neglect in care as children.

Associate Professor Stanley will cover:

  • An overview of abuse, including the daily degradations children experienced in institutions
  • The structural framework that enabled institutional impunity: the ways adults and institutions were able to carry out and cover up abuse for many years
  • The care to custody pipelines and the factors which increase the chances of those in care ending up in prison. This will also touch on some of the issues in the current landscape, particularly in terms of risk
  • Legacies of abuse in care including long terms impacts for individuals, families and communities.

Fa’afete Taito

Mr Taito will give evidence about his experience as a Samoan New Zealander being removed from his family as a child following intervention by the State. He was made a state ward and sent to Owairaka Boys’ Home in the 1970s and his account of abuse and neglect in care set him up on a pathway to becoming a fully patched gang member at the age of 17. Mr Taito spent many years in the gang and criminal lifestyle before leaving that behind to embark on study in 2009. He now holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Auckland with a double major in Sociology and Māori. Mr Taito’s evidence will explore some of the broader experience of Pacific communities in New Zealand in the 1970s and 1980s, and he will also draw on his own experience to explain the long-lasting impacts of his time in care as a ward of the state.

Media enquiries: Hannah Grant,; 027 298 2094