Tēna koutou katoa

In preparing this blog, one week on from the start of Alert Level 4, I am aware of the extraordinary and unprecedented times we are living through. In considering, what I could write about I’m very conscious that whatever I say might be overtaken by events. Certainly, things are changing daily and sometimes more frequently!

I’m particularly aware of the impact of this situation on survivors of care seeking to engage with the Inquiry. Having their private sessions and the scheduled public hearing on redress delayed will add to the trauma and stress of their personal situations. I would encourage survivors who are feeling vulnerable to get in touch with our Contact Centre by calling 0800 222 727 or call 1800 875 745 (if calling from Australia). They can put survivors or advocates in touch with our Health and Wellbeing team who will offer support. We’re still encouraging registrations, which can be handled through our Contact Centre as can general questions or inquiries.

For the Royal Commission, there have certainly been some major adjustments as we’ve grappled with the impacts of Corona-19 on our activities. The Inquiry had commenced private sessions and scheduled more for April and May. However, these sessions have had to be postponed. The public hearing on redress for survivors of care was scheduled for 23 March-3 April and 12-22 May. These hearings are now expected to take place in the next few months with the actual dates and venue to be confirmed soon. We want to express our regret to those survivors who were unable to meet with us in private sessions and to our survivors who were ready to give evidence in the redress public hearing. Private sessions are currently suspended – Royal Commission staff are working directly with survivors who have scheduled private sessions

It is essential that the Royal Commission’s mahi continue and that we quickly adapt to these new times. We are are all becoming experts with different technologies and challenges as we work remotely in our “bubbles,” while caring for whānau.

We are exploring alternative ways to continue our private sessions, including written submissions or through video link. These measures cannot replace the power of the face to face private sessions. The commissioners have had 320 sessions to date, and they have a real impact on how we work and informed our investigations and research work. In these times, however, we need to be agile and creative, while ensuring we meet our obligations to survivors – especially their right to speak truth to power in a safe and secure environment. We will provide more information about these new steps as soon as possible through updates on our website and Facebook page and other means. We are hopeful though, that we can resume our face-to-face contact in the not too distant future.

In the meantime, commissioners are using this time to focus on the long-term planning of our public hearings and the research needed to support our mahi. We continue to prepare for our redress public hearing, and other investigations and hearings. We are looking beyond these hearings to what we must investigate for the rest of 2020, and indeed into 2021 and 2022 as we prepare for our final report.

It’s also a time to reflect on what we have learned from our private sessions, and the evidence and witness statements made at our contextual hearing. As well as thinking about how to respond to Covid-19, we are talking about how we restore our operations when we move out of the current situation.

It’s a challenging time for everyone as we strive to care for ourselves, our tamariki, our elderly and koroua, our communities, and for those living on their own with limited social contact. Whatever your situation, the thoughts and aroha of Commissioners and Inquiry staff are with you.

Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui

Dr Andrew Erueti