This report is about the struggle of many survivors of abuse in care to restore their lives, regain their mana and hold previous and current government of the day, State and faith-based institutions to account for the abuse survivors suffered. It’s about the failures of those institutions to respond to the needs of survivors. This report also looks to the future, to what ‘redress’ should be available to survivors of abuse in care – that is, what is needed to put right the deep harm that has been done to individuals, their whānau and communities through abuse in care. We recognise the term ‘redress’ is unfamiliar to many survivors, and some consider it does not capture what is needed. Some have said the term reminds them of the abuse they suffered. In our report, we have chosen to use the reo Māori terms ‘puretumu torowhānui’ , or holistic redress, as it refers to a wider range of things that redress should include – things that can restore the lives, oranga or wellbeing and mana of survivors.
Despite harrowing accounts and often obvious signs of physical, emotional or psychological damage, many survivors found their efforts to obtain redress from State and faith-based institutions rejected time and again. For many survivors, their experiences were downplayed, disbelieved or dismissed. Their claims sat in in-trays for months or years. They struggled to get their personal records, and when they did, some were so heavily redacted they could barely make sense of them. A determined few continued their struggle in the courts, only to run into legal brick walls, the most overwhelming being accident compensation legislation and limitation defences.
Eventually, the Crown opted for a two-pronged approach: on the one hand, offering modest monetary payments and qualified apologies through separate, inconsistent claims processes run by the same departments and ministries responsible for the abuse; and on the other, strongly defending any claims taken to court. The Crown’s goal was not only to win these individual cases, but also to discourage other claimants, and limit its liability for abuse in care. We found in some cases; the Crown did not behave at all like the model litigant it said it would be. It lost sight of the people behind the claims who had been abused while in the State’s care. Even when it knew the substance of a claim to be true, it used aggressive tactics or hid behind technical defences, and after a series of losses by survivors, the reality became clear: survivors’ only real option lay in a one-sided offer from a government agency that they could either take or leave.
Faith-based institutions also gave their own responses to reports of abuse and requests for redress, while relying on many of the same legal defences. Like government agencies, they generally offered – after many delays or much questioning of survivors’ accounts – a modest payment and a qualified apology and looked no further into the matter. Processes were intimidating and often relied on legal representation or determined survivors for access to entitlements. Some perpetrators, already known or convicted abusers, were moved elsewhere, sometimes in secret, only to go on to abuse others. Support to rebuild broken lives was limited or non-existent. Few attempts were made to find survivors from known abusive environments.
Neither State nor faith-based institutions were willing to accept the widespread abuse that could have easily been uncovered. The scale of the abuse was simply too horrific to acknowledge, the financial ramifications too huge to contemplate. So they told themselves these cases were not symptomatic of any wider problem.
Society was also in denial, despite calls over the decades for an inquiry into abuse in care – abuse that was going on in hospitals, boarding schools, orphanages, foster and other care homes, homes for unmarried mothers and churches. The denial was fostered by the common and negative social attitudes of the time about race, gender, disability, mental health and the place of children, Deaf and disabled people. Many of those in care came from already disadvantaged or marginalised parts of the community.
A disproportionate number were Māori, the legacy of generations of monocultural and racist government policies, poverty and the harsh sentencing of children’s courts, before which Māori appeared in large numbers. The children of Pacific migrants, socially and economically disadvantaged and targeted by racial profiling, were also amongst those in care. Deaf and disabled survivors and those with mental illness were systematically separated from society and placed out of sight in institutions or other full-time care settings, a result of ableist policies and beliefs.
These underlying attitudes and cultural factors are dealt with in the opening section of this report.
Many survivors suffered horrific physical and sexual violence, such as rape and violent treatment of children. There was psychological and emotional abuse, discrimination because of race or disability, isolation, improper use of medical procedures as punishment. Much of this was criminal, and some of it was torture. Women and girls endured rape, forced examinations for sexually transmitted diseases and removal of their babies, and there are reports that some were sterilised without consent. Most suffered neglect of their basic need for stability, warmth and affection. Māori and Pacific children were deprived of knowledge of their whakapapa, connection to whānau and cultural identity. All of this took place in the institutions that held ultimate power over them. Survivors had also sustained serious neglect, including medical, educational and spiritual neglect. Deaf, disabled and mentally ill people were particularly likely to have suffered such neglect.
It is incomprehensible that human beings could behave like this towards another. What is just as baffling is how those in authority failed in their responses to survivors’ requests for redress. It was clear survivors had been deeply harmed by their time in the institutions that were entrusted to care for them. How, in the face of this, could anyone not be shocked and stirred into action?
At the heart of our recommendations is the intention to provide a process by which survivors can address the tūkino, or abuse, harm and trauma, that has occurred to them, restore their mana and heal and grow in ways that allow them to achieve “utua kia ea” or restoration and balance. To do this we have proposed the establishment of a new puretumu, or holistic redress, scheme.
We have closely examined the current redress processes of the Ministry of Social Development, Oranga Tamariki, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Anglican Church, Catholic Church and The Salvation Army. We found them to be completely inadequate in many ways. Findings about the different processes are detailed in Volume One Part Two of this report and in the case studies of individual experiences in Volume Two.
Overall, we found that in most cases, the agencies and institutions:
- have developed processes without regard to te Tiriti o Waitangi and its principles, and in isolation from survivors
- do not recognise the mana of survivors or offer genuine support for survivors to heal their lives, or restore their mana and oranga
- do not include tikanga Māori or reflect te ao Māori concepts and values, including te mana tangata, whanaungatanga, or manaakitanga, in their processes
- designed processes to suit the institutions’ own needs, not those of survivors, and as a result have added to survivors’ harm and trauma
- take no account of Pacific peoples’ values, or the importance of cultural restoration to many Pacific survivors, in their processes
- fail to consider the impact of abuse on survivors’ whānau, hapū, iwi and hapori or communities
- are narrowly focused on settling individual claims and do not investigate or hold to account the individuals or organisations concerned or take measures to prevent further abuse
- offer only the most basic forms of wellbeing support
- take far too long, sometimes years, to come up with a settlement offer
- fail to offer meaningful financial payments
- fail to meaningfully acknowledge and apologise for the abuse, harm and trauma inflicted and suffered
- typically offer no more than a limited apology and some money, inadequate as each of these invariably is
- lack independence because the organisations tend to investigate themselves and control every part of the process and outcome
- require evidence of abuse, often disbelieve survivors, and do not adequately support survivors through their processes
- offer redress that is inconsistent with other offers they have made, and also with offers other institutions have made
- rarely provide survivors with adequate information on how to make a claim or how they arrive at their decisions
- have processes that do not meet the needs of many Deaf and disabled survivors for information and support that enable them to seek redress.
By contrast, we recommend a new puretumu torowhānui scheme be established that:
- is founded on a series of principles, values and concepts founded in te ao Māori
- provides for a process with an independent, government-funded inclusive Māori Collective leading the design of the puretumu scheme, working together with survivors, a government-funded group representing survivors described as the Purapura Ora Collective and with others
- is designed and run in a way that gives effect to te Tiriti o Waitangi
- is established by an Act of Parliament and funded by the Crown, but with contributions from participating institutions
- is independent of the institutions where the abuse took place
- requires the wind down of current State claims processes and for all government agencies to join and encourages faith-based institutions to join within a reasonable time, although the latter will, if necessary, be required to join
- provides for financial payments that give a meaningful recognition of the harm and trauma suffered
- facilitates oranga services tailored to individual survivors’ needs (and, where appropriate, those of their whānau), including help with health, education, employment, secure housing, building and maintaining healthy relationships, counselling and social and cultural connections
- facilitates meaningful apologies
- provides a safe, supportive environment for survivors to interact with the puretumu torowhānui scheme, talk about their abuse and make a claim for puretumu torowhānui, and that is open to all survivors, including those who have been through previous processes and those covered by accident compensation legislation
- allows family members to continue a claim on behalf of a survivor who dies
- gives priority to elderly or seriously ill survivors
- covers the full range of physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, racial and cultural abuse, along with neglect
- develops and makes public information about the types of support available, eligibility and assessment criteria, and timeframes for making decisions on a claim
- allows survivors to choose between making a puretumu torowhānui claim that takes into account abuse and its impact or simply the abuse only, which will have lower standards of proof than applies in the courts
- makes belief of a survivor’s account the starting point for assessing a puretumu torowhānui claim
- involves survivors in deciding on the form and content of apologies and acknowledgments and choosing the nature and extent of the oranga services they may need.
- This new approach will fit within a wider “puretumu torowhānui system” – a framework of services, laws and policies that have a role in providing different types of puretumu torowhānui. To make sure puretumu torowhānui is fair, effective and accessible, we recommend the new system include:
- an expansion of oranga and support services for survivors and their whānau
- training for those working with survivors
- establishment of a listening service
- development of processes for referring allegations of abuse or neglect to enforcement or other agencies
- better monitoring of, and reporting on, abuse and systemic issues
- memorials and other projects to honour survivors and remember abuse
- enactment of a right to be free from abuse in care, as well as of a duty to protect this right
- an exception to accident compensation legislation
- changes to laws relating to civil litigation
- a review of legal aid rates
- a new model litigant policy for the Crown
- improvements to the handling of survivors’ requests for records, including as few redactions of survivors’ records as possible
- a review of record-creation and record-keeping practices.
Importantly, we also recommend that there be public acknowledgement of, and apologies for, the abuse that occurred and the harm it caused, at a national and community level, including from the Governor-General, Prime Minister and leaders of faith-based institutions.
Our 95 recommendations are based on 15 weeks of public hearings, evaluations of hundreds of witness statements, a large number of public submissions, private sessions with hundreds of survivors, analysis of more than 150,000 documents, meetings with government agencies, discussions with the Scotland, Ireland, Australia and Canada redress organisations, hui and wānanga with experts and leaders from the Māori, Pacific and disabled communities, and policy, research and investigation work.
There is still much more to be done by our inquiry, but in presenting these recommendations at this stage in our work, we make the following point: survivors continue to suffer as they wait for puretumu, and many have died in the meantime. They should wait no more – the time for action is now.