Interim Report

The delivery of an Interim Report to the Government by 28 December 2020 is specified in the Royal Commission’s terms of reference.

Tawharautuai: Purongo o te Wā - Interim Report. The name Tāwharautia is a word that implies providing shelter or care whether physical, emotional or spiritual.

Volume One outlines the Royal Commission’s work to date and how we have approached it and analyses the key themes and common issues from the experiences shared with us by survivors and witnesses

Volume Two is devoted to the voices of survivors. It shares the authentic stories and experiences of survivors from their hearts and minds.

The reports can be read here. We have published Tāwharautia in several formats including pdf, html and large text. A version in New Zealand Sign Language, Easy Read and te reo Māori will be available in the next few weeks. 

The Report has made several findings across a range of areas. These include:

  • The number of people who have been abused could have been 250,000 out of a total of approximately 655,000 who went through the care settings of the 655,000 covered by the terms of reference.
  • The range of people who have been abused is wide and includes those from many backgrounds and situations. Other findings include:
    • A wide and disturbing range of abuse and physical, emotional, psychological , medical , educational, spiritual and cultural neglect has occurred.
    • Common factors in abuse cases including a lack of training and vetting and poor complaints and response processes and at the worst further abuse, harassment or punishment for reporting abuse.
    • Discrimination and racism played a role from authorities and the public
    • Economic cost:  We know from the Economic Cost of Abuse report the cost of abuse in care to individuals and society – between 1950 and 2019 is up to $217 billion.
    • Redress processes have not worked for many survivors; instead tending to focus on the financial implications to the State rather than providing wellbeing and compensation to survivors.

The Report is now in the public arena and anyone can access and read it. It is for the Government to determine how they respond to the Report.

Cohort study and Economic report

The inquiry faces the complex and difficult task of estimating the numbers of people who have been in care in the numerous settings in the terms of reference. The relevant time period spans a broad swathe of the country’s history from 1950s post-War New Zealand through to 1999 and beyond. The settings where people received care are equally diverse. They range from places such as police cells, normally experienced for short periods of time, through to institutional and community-based care where some people have spent their entire lives. As well as the more well-known categories of direct State care, our settings include indirect State care that may have been contracted out to non-government entities, and faith-based care, which extends beyond organised religion to any group connected by a spiritual belief system.

There has never been a comprehensive census or count of people in these numerous settings. In some cases, records were not kept at all or have been lost, and even where there are records it is often difficult or impossible to trace an individual’s path through multiple care settings over time. Records of the demographic status (particularly ethnicity) of those in care are equally variable, sometimes non-existent and frequently poor for most of the time period under review. Records of disability status are no better and often worse, despite the very significant numbers of disabled people in care throughout the period. Given what we know about the under-reporting of abuse, it is likely that only a small proportion of such abuse and neglect has been reported over the time-period; let alone collated and properly recorded. The records of reported abuse and neglect are also patchy.

This is the best estimate of the number of people who went through care and how many of those that were abused from the available records and other national and international date about abuse.

The report's primary methodology uses the top-down approach. This shows that from 1950 to 2019 there were between 114,000 and 256,000 people who may have been abused while in State and faith-based care, or between 17 and 39 percent of the cohort. The top-down estimates cover a range of the types of abuse suffered by the survivors, from sexual and physical abuse to maltreatment and neglect.

An estimate of the rate of abuse has been calculated, based mainly on international evidence, and this rate has been assumed to be constant over time.

However, because it is likely that the number of people we have counted across the settings are likely to be understated – the number of people abused will also be understated.

The bottom-up approach is drawn from actual claims of abuse. The report indicates that from data provided to date by State agencies and faith-based institutions, a total of around 6,500 people who are known to have made claims of abuse while in State and faith-based care. Using unreported-crime multipliers developed from New Zealand and international crime surveys, we estimate that between 5.6 and 10 times this number may have been abused in care, or about 36,000 to 65,000 people between 1950 and 2019. This is between 5.5 and 9.9 percent of the total cohort in care, after adjusting for the overlap between settings.

As of today, we have 2411 number of people registered with the Inquiry, of which just over 2000 are survivors. While this is low compared to the estimated cohort of those abused in care, we expect these numbers to substantially increase over time with our targeted community engagement and outreach, and the increased publicity and resulting public awareness at the times of our public hearings.

Poor historical records mean the Royal Commission is working to address these key gaps. We are undertaking more detailed research on the abuse of Māori, Pacific and disabled people. Our investigations will be a vehicle to better understand the experiences and prevalence of abuse for these populations.

Given the collection of data has been poor for specific communities, it is more important than ever that that we hear from as many survivors as possible to fill in those gaps.

We encourage all those who were abused in care to share their experiences with the Royal Commission so we can understand what happened to them to prevent it happening to others in the future.