Abuse in Care Inquiry Chair Coral Shaw has urged Iwi Chairs to assist the Royal Commission to reach Māori survivors and find Māori solutions.

At the Iwi Chairs Forum in Waitangi today Shaw said that “we know there is a pipeline – from state care, into the justice system and on to prison – where Māori continue to be over represented.”

“Of the Māori survivors of abuse in care we have spoken with so far, we hear of hideous abuse and neglect, a loss of identification and personal connections to their iwi and hapu.”

Māori are 15-16% of the New Zealand population and yet, at any given time, have made up more than 60% of children in care.

“This is the context this Inquiry is working in” Shaw said. “If we are to stop the abuse and neglect of our Māori babies and young people in care, we have to find Māori solutions. The Commission cannot and should not do that on its own.”

Through its Treaty Engagement programme, the Abuse in Care Inquiry is engaging, consulting and partnering with a wide range of Māori stakeholders.

“We must fully understand the specific burden for Māori who have been in care, including the impacts on their whānau through the generations.

“This is the only way our recommendations to the Governor General will be meaningful and hard to ignore,” said Shaw.

About the Abuse in Care Inquiry

The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry is looking into what happened to children, young people and vulnerable adults in state care and in the care of faith-based institutions between the years 1950-99.

Through hearing from survivors, evidence and research, it will make recommendations to the Governor General on how New Zealand can better care for children, young people and vulnerable adults.


E ngā mana, e ngā reo kei ngā karangatanga maha puta noa i te motu, tēnei te mihi.

E tika ana me mihi ki ngā hunga rangatira kua huihui mai I tēnei rā.

Tēna rawa atu koutou katoa.

Thank you for making me feel so very welcome. This is one my first formal speaking opportunities as the Chair of the Royal Commission, and it is appropriate, and timely to be speaking at this hui.

So why should you listen to me here today? What is this Royal Commission? Is it another political attempt to plaster over the cracks?

Let’s get the name right because that tells it all.

Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in state care and in the care of Faith-based institutions.

The historical part covers the years 1950 to1999. But the inquiry may also hear from people who were or still are in care since 1999.

The first important point I want to emphasise is that this Royal Commission is completely independent of Government. Apart from providing the funding the government is not involved in this at all.

The Commissioners take their role as independent investigators and reporters extremely seriously. Our recommendations will be fearless and nonpartisan.

The Terms of Reference are extensive but compelling. They acknowledge that historical abuse and neglect has happened. This is not a white wash. We are required to identify, examine, and report on the extent and reasons for that abuse and neglect.

Engari, me titiro whakamuri, whakamua hoki.  We must look back at the nature and extent of abuse in care and we must look forward to review current systems to test if they are fit for purpose and identify the changes needed to ensure that this does not happen again.

Throughout this process it is essential that the Maori perspective is kept to the fore.

Section 6 of our Terms of Reference says so:

The inquiry will give appropriate recognition to Māori interests, acknowledging the disproportionate representation of Māori, particularly in care. The inquiry will be underpinned by Te Tiriti o Waitangi/the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles and will partner with Māori throughout the inquiry process.

Quite simply, the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry will not succeed without the support and buy in from essential Maori stakeholders.  The Iwi Chairs Forum and its networks both formal and informal are among the most important of these stakeholders.

We know there is a pipeline – from state care, into the justice system and on to prison – where Māori continue to be over represented.

Where children, young people and vulnerable adults often suffer neglect and hideous abuse, a loss of identification and personal connections to their iwi and hapu.

Some particularly harrowing stories are emerging of abuse in care. At our recent contextual hearing a witness said:

“I will never actually forget being locked in a room in one of the wings and the boy in the next room being raped by a staff member and me wondering when was going to be my turn.”

And another

“From my own experience, I know that institutions were a place of neglect and abuse.  People were denied their human rights and basically denied a proper life.”

This is why the work we are doing is so critical. All of Aotearoa/ New Zealand needs to hear what happened, understand how it has impacted on our society as well as the individuals and make proper acknowledgement of this dark part of our history.

It goes back decades, and it continues to this day.

The recent Māori Council survey of more than seven hundred Māori about “what was keeping them awake at night?” revealed that 27% listed Oranga Tamariki and Māori children in the care of the State as the number one issue.

The Terms of Reference acknowledge that a significant number of those removed from their families and placed in care were from Māori families.

Indeed, Māori are 15-16% of the New Zealand population and yet, at any given time, have made up more than 60% of children in care.

So that is the context we are working within.

The exposure of this has been vividly but correctly described as “like pulling a band aid off an already festering wound.”

But although exposure is essential it is pointless unless we come up with solutions.

The Royal Commission needs your help first to expose, and second to find the solutions 

In this work we must take into account the numerous reviews and working groups, including the Waitangi Tribunal, that are reviewing the way we care for our babies in care. The Whanau Ora report is just one important report of the many that we will consider.

We will not replicate the current work or that done by previous inquires and reviews, but we will engage with the leaders of those reviews that are relevant, so that we can learn from their work.

Our obligation and indeed commitment is to work in true partnership with Maori to seek solutions that are, in the words of the Whanau Ora Report: By Maori, for Maori, with Maori.

How will we judge and assess what has happened in the past?

The answer is that we are guided by the HR standards that New Zealand has adopted since the 1950’s. NZ has international legal obligations to take all appropriate legislative, administrative, judicial, and other measures to protect individuals from abuse.

Before I embark on my next points, I would like each of you to reflect for a moment on the following places and settings where abuse occurred. I would not be surprised if each and every one of you knows someone one close to you who has suffered in these places. It is by no means a complete list.

Institutions run by Churches such as the Catholic and Anglican Church, the Church of the Latter Day Saints, Jehova Witness, Salvation Army, Gloriavale.

The Old DSW, MOE and Department of Health institutions, boys and girls homes such as Epuni, Owairaka, kohitere, Weymouth, Kingslea, Elliot Sr Dunedin and Dey St Hamilton, those placed in foster care, family homes, Institutions where children and young people  and vulnerable adults were held for residential care and treatment, psychiatric hospitals such as Lake Alice, Porirua, Kingseat, Kimberley Home, Cherry Farm ,  Health camps and in education especially boarding schools.

We are hearing from survivors of abuse and neglect from all of these and more.  But we need to hear from many more so a full account can finally be given. That is where engagement is so vital to the success of the Inquiry.

I do not have time to give you a full update on the work of the commission.  But I will explain our Māori engagement approach, led by Donna Matahaere-Atariki and her team and will outline our direction moving forward so that you members of of the Iwi Chairs Forum are up to date on our work and can start to include the Commission in your thinking and planning. Then we can embark on the engagement that is essential to our work if we are to be true to the terms of reference, particularly in relation to te ao Maori  

We Commissioners are going about our work by speaking kanohi ki te kanohi with individuals and groups of survivors; we are holding public hearings -up to 22 over the next 3 years- as well as conducting investigations and research. Critical to all of these is our engagement with key stakeholders and survivors. We need you to encourage people to come forward to share their accounts privately, publicly or in writing. You know who these people are or at least how to reach them.  We also need your insights and expertise to feed into our research program.

Māori engagement

At the Abuse in Care, Royal Commission of Inquiry we are seeing, on a daily basis, the impacts on a disproportionate number of Maori

children, young people and vulnerable adults - of being taken into care, and the abuse often received there.

Central to the success of the Inquiry is how we engage with Māori.

To date, rough statistics show that approximately 31% of survivors are Māori. To make sure we are properly recording the experiences of these survivors we need to do better in finding ways to encourage Māori to engage as survivors and as Māori.

Everything we do needs to be reflective of a Māori voice. Me whakarongo mai matou.

Long after we have delivered our reports to the Government and closed our doors, this will be our legacy. 

The principles of partnership, protection and participation is central to our work and a core focus of the Treaty Engagement team led by Donna Matahaere-Atariki.

Her team is leading and implementing approaches and mixed methods for engaging, consulting and partnering with a range of Māori stakeholders so that we fully understand the specific burden for Māori who have been in care including the impacts on their whanau through the generations.

Externally this means working in partnership with iwi and national entities, Government and NGOs especially to reach socially isolated Whānau and communities. We have a particular focus on wahine Maori survivors because they are among the least heard voices.  

Internally we are building our own Maori capability and aim to express our own rangatiratanga as a Royal Commission.

We will shortly be announcing the Commission’s Taumata which will provide a measure of gravitas that enhances the existing mana of Commissioners and their work. The members of the Taumata will be reflective of mana whenua, the location of our offices and national Māori organisations. We are however, also open to dialogue with all in Te Ao Maori.

Donna will continue this kōrero with Iwi Leaders at an operational level about this ongoing work.

One way of engagement is through specialist navigators who will work within the communities in which they reside. Their primary focus is to champion the role of the Commission and to work closely with kaupapa Māori entities and individuals for the duration of the inquiry.

They will be required to meet specific outcomes and outputs.

In addition, we have the ability to call on from time to time, an advisory group or groups comprising of survivors of abuse in State and faith-based care. We are seeking their advice, to make sure that the voices of survivors are heard and recognised in all aspects of our work.


We all know there have been countless reviews, investigations and inquiries in the past that have sought to get to the bottom of many of the issues we are now dealing with. Te Puao te Atatu is one of the more important ones that we are mindful of.

But New Zealand’s record in this space remains shameful.

I interviewed one very sad woman who had been taken into state care as a young girl. She was abused in care at the hands of pakeha foster parents. But, most painfully, she said to me, 'I began my life looking at the river, the waka, and at Tūrangawaewae, and I lost it all.' Aue."

As you sit there you will be thinking of people you know who have suffered this fate. You will know the impact of the harm caused to not just the abused individual but also the inter-generational effect as one generation after the other  plays out the historical trauma.

We cannot and must not tolerate this. We must do all we can to prevent it. That is my personal commitment to you.

I strongly urge the Iwi Chairs, to engage with the Royal Commission and for those of you with other networks and links in te ao Maori to encourage all of those to do so as well.

If we are to stop the abuse and neglect of our Maori babies and young people, we have to find Maori solutions. The Commission cannot and should not do that on its own. We need all the help and ideas that we can get.

This is a last resort, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us as an independent Royal Commission to gather evidence and provide meaningful advice and recommendations to the Government.

It is our responsibility not to leave any stone un-turned as we focus on the task ahead.

You should expect to hear from Donna – if you have not already – about how the Iwi Chairs Forum can support our work. Today in the room with me are Maania Farrar formerly of Whanau Ora and Tu Chapman, my advisor and assistant. Feel free to approach them for more information.

I look forward to returning to this forum in the future – if you will have me - to provide an overview of how we are progressing and to hear from the Iwi Chairs on how you can add value to this Inquiry.

“Ko te pae tawhiti whaia kia tata, ko te pae tata whakamaua kia tina”!

Tena koutou katoa.