Nearly 500 people have now registered to engage with the Royal Commission of Inquiry into State Care, says Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin.

The Royal Commission, led by Sir Anand Satyanand, has been preparing so that it is best-placed to do its substantive work as soon as its final terms of reference and membership are confirmed by Cabinet.

“The Government established this Royal Commission in recognition of the fact that the abuse of people in care is one of the most serious issues of public importance and we have to get it right,” Minister Martin said.

“We know from experience, both here and overseas, that inquiries of this size and scope are complex and take a lot of planning to ensure they can listen to victims and successfully deliver for the community. That is important for the country and especially the people who need to be heard.”

While not yet fully established, the Royal Commission has 15 staff who are involved in planning and preparatory work, much of which is focussed on looking at how best to conduct the process, hear evidence and support the survivors who will be talking to the Commission.

The Royal Commission has established a contact centre as well as a website and through these, 497 people have so far registered to participate. Once the Commission is operating it is expected that this number will grow.

The Minister said that this Royal Commission was the first to be established under the 2013 Inquiries Act and the first to have been asked to undertake public consultation on the draft terms of reference, which has added to the set-up timeline.

“The Government has been giving serious consideration to Sir Anand’s recommendation following that consultation and to the inquiry’s final shape.

“There is substantial work in establishing a Royal Commission, and finalising things such as scope, cost, operational set-up and membership. The largest is determining the final terms of reference, which involves looking at a range of technical and legal matters.”

There are also a number of budget issues to work through, which includes understanding how the Royal Commission plans to undertake the inquiry, the structure of the secretariat and other functions such as IT and property that will support it.

“Establishing an inquiry of this magnitude is similar to setting up a small government agency,” the Minister said.

The Ministerial working group is expected to meet in the next month to consider a range of matters before they go to cabinet for final decisions.