The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry Contextual hearing returns on 6 November at 10.00am at the Rydges hotel in Auckland. Commissioners will hear from three 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.

Professor Michael Tarren-Sweeney

Professor Michael Tarren-Sweeney is a Professor of Child and Family Psychology at the University of Canterbury. He is a clinical child psychologist, psychiatric epidemiologist and child developmental theorist. His life’s work has been to increase our understanding of the psychological development and well-being of children in care, those adopted from care, and other children who have ongoing need for care, with a view to improving lives. Important contributions in this field include: the Children in Care study and the Assessment Checklist for Children which have helped improved understanding of adopted and ‘in care’ children. He has advised government departments in Ireland, Scotland, England and Australia (Federal as well as NSW and SA State Ministries) on how to improve the lives of children in State care.

Professor Tarren-Sweeney will draw on his expertise in order to provide context to:

  • the impact of maltreatment, neglect, trauma on the psychological development of children (before entering, and whilst in) State care
  • what is required from a clinical perspective to meet the needs of children with such profiles once in State care, as well as from a growth and wellbeing perspective (including attachment theory)
  • Common systemic factors that can compromise the quality of care delivered (including the impact of multiple placements on attachments)

Dr Charlene Rapsey

Dr Charlene Rapsey is a clinical psychologist and lecturer in the Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago. Dr Rapsey’s research interests include mental disorder, childhood adversity, sexual health and sexual difficulties. She uses quantitative and mixed methods and has a particular interest in applied research. Whilst in practice, Dr Rapsey has worked as an ACC approved clinical psychologist with incarcerated men who were victims of sexual abuse. This work also included working with those where the abuse occurred in state care and she brings an understanding of the issues faced by survivors of abuse in care.

Her current research projects include:

  • Psychiatric epidemiology - The WHO World Mental Health Surveys project is a unique international collaboration with over 30 countries focused on epidemiology and the prevention of mental disorder.
  • Childhood aversity - The Otago Women’s Health Study, a 25-year longitudinal study investigating associations between childhood abuse and outcomes across the life course.
  • The Foster the Whanau project - investigates the costs, benefits, and long-term outcomes for children when the mother participates in an intensive, residential intervention as an alternative to foster care.

Dr Rapsey will draw on her areas of expertise to provide local context on:

  • The effects, individualised and wider, of all forms of maltreatment of children, and all forms of abuse;
  • Effects and risks where maltreatment occurs in State care;
  • Foster care outcomes and alternatives to foster care within the New Zealand context.

Professor Tracey McIntosh

Ngāi Tūhoe

Professor Tracey McIntosh is a sociologist and Professor of Indigenous Studies and Co-Director of Wānaga o Waipapa at the University of Auckland. She was previously the Co-Director of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga (NPM), New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence hosted by the University of Auckland. She was recently a member of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group and Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora - The Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group. She is presently the Co-Chair of the Cannabis Expert Panel. Professor McIntosh’s personal research programme focusses on crime and marginalisation, social harm reduction, Māori and incarceration, State institutions and Māori, Māori women and incarceration; gang associated whanau, indigenous peoples and the criminal justice system and family violence prevention.  

Professor McIntosh will draw on her areas of research and writing alongside extensive work within the criminal justice community, which includes working with prisoners, whānau of prisoners, gang members, and gang associated whānau in order to contextualise the role of  State care, and abuse in care in respect of the lives of the marginalised, relating to: male and female prisoners, Māori hyper-incarceration and gangs, as well as discussing criminal justice impacts in respect of those affected and on society in as a whole in Aotearoa New Zealand.  ​

Media enquiries: Hannah Grant,; 027 298 2094