People can participate in this Inquiry in different ways and, in most cases, you will not need a lawyer.

However, there will be times when you may need a lawyer to help you if you want to prepare a witness statement about your experiences, or if you are asked to give evidence at a public hearing.

Legal assistance funding is available to people or groups who

  • are unable to afford a lawyer, or
  • if it will cause hardship to pay for a lawyer, and
  • if what they are sharing with the Inquiry is within the Terms of Reference.

To see if you can get legal assistance, please fill out this form [DOCX, 267 KB]and email it to:, or post to: PO Box 10071, Wellington 6140.

If you need help with the form or have any other questions email

You can also ask for help filling out the form from one of the panel lawyers, who are listed on the side of this page. You can ask for help with the form before your legal assistance has been approved.

If you want to use a different lawyer from one of the panel lawyers, or if you are not a survivor, or for organisations or groups of less than five, there is a different form you will need to fill out. Please email about those different forms.

There is more detailed information about Legal Assistance under Section 18 Legal Assistance of the Inquiries Act 2013(external link)(external link).

Panel lawyers

Panel lawyers are lawyers who are independent of the Inquiry and can give legal assistance if you are participating in the Inquiry.

You will need to apply for legal assistance to use a panel lawyer. The lawyer will act in your best interests.

You can read about who the different panel lawyers are, they are listed down the side of the side of this page.

These lawyers can also help you fill out the legal assistance application form [DOCX, 267 KB].

See the questions and answers below, for more detail.

Questions and answers

Do I need a lawyer to participate in the inquiry?

There are many ways you can participate in the Royal Commission's work, and for many of them you do not need a lawyer.  For example:

  • if you are a survivor of abuse in care you can participate in a private session with a Commissioner;
  • you can write your own statement about your experiences in care; and/or
  • make a written submission to the Royal Commission about what you think their findings and recommendations for the future should be.

If you would like more information on how you can participate in the inquiry, you can

  • find out how to get involved
  • call us on 0800 222 727 between 8.30 am and 4.00 pm Monday to Friday, or
  • email

What if I want a lawyer to help me participate in the inquiry?

If you want a lawyer to help you participate in the inquiry you can.

If you can't afford private legal fees the Royal Commission has a team of independent lawyers who are known as Counsel Assisting the Inquiry.  If you want or need legal help to prepare a written statement or submission they can help to do this.  They can also assist if you are asked by the Commission to be a witness and give oral evidence at a public hearing.

Alternatively, you can apply for Legal Assistance funding.  (See "What is Legal Assistance funding?" below)

Do I have to make a decision now?

No.  You can choose at any stage of the inquiry to instruct a lawyer.

What is Legal Assistance funding?

Legal Assistance funding is funding provided under the Inquiries Act 2013 to ensure those who need a lawyer but cannot afford one, can have one.

Is this Counsel Assisting the inquiry?

No, it is another form of support should Counsel Assisting the Inquiry not be available. 

It is expected Counsel Assisting the Inquiry will be able to help many people, but due to the numbers expected to participate in the inquiry they may not be able to help everyone when they need help.

Are Legal Assistance lawyer's independent?


What is funded?

12 activities have been approved that Legal Assistance can be provided for.  These activities are set out in Schedule 1 of the practice note.

If different funding is required, then this will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

What do I have to do to get Legal Assistance funding?

An application form needs to be completed.  Guidance on which form to use can be found below, on this page.

Is Legal Assistance funding approval automatic?

No.  Section 18(2) of the Inquiries Act 2013 sets out the criteria that must be met before Legal Assistance funding can be approved.

The criteria is made up of four requirements:

  • the likelihood of hardship if legal assistance is declined;
  • the nature and significance of the contribution that will be made;
  • the extent to which legal assistance is required to enable the inquiry to fulfil its purpose; and
  • any other matters relating to public interest.

An application needs to meet all four requirements.

Is there a cut-off date by which I have to submit my application?

Applications for Legal Assistance to prepare submissions must be made before 1 July 2022. 

This is to ensure the Royal Commission can consider all submissions in their final report.

An application relating to anything else must be received by the Royal Commission before the start of the inquiry's final public hearing.

Can I choose any lawyer to represent me?

The Royal Commission has appointed a panel of independent lawyers who will act as an applicant's lawyer, if Legal Assistance is approved. 

When you apply for Legal Assistance funding, you can nominate a panel lawyer who lives close to you. 

If you do not nominate a lawyer, and your application for Legal Assistance is approved, a panel lawyer will be allocated to you.

In exceptional circumstances you may be allowed to nominate another lawyer.

To find out more about exceptional circumstances email

Does everyone get their own Legal Assistance lawyer?

In some cases, if the features of your experience or your interests are very similar to those of other people, a lawyer or lawyers may be assigned to represent all of you as a group.

This may occur where a particular place, such as a children's home, is being investigated.

However, if an applicant's situation means joint representation is not appropriate, then it is likely they will be assigned their own lawyer.

Do I have to repay the cost of Legal Assistance?


If you are assessed as eligible to receive Legal Assistance it is because it has been established you would suffer hardship if the application was refused.  Therefore there is no requirement to repay the legal fees paid on your behalf.

Can the legal assistance lawyer help me seek compensation or help with my criminal case?

No. If a legal assistance panel lawyer is approved, they can only help you in relation to the Royal Commission. They are not able to help you with a civil claim or a criminal case.

Can I use a lawyer who is not on the panel?

In exceptional circumstances you may be able to use a lawyer not currently on our panel. Your lawyer will have to be approved by the Royal Commission before legal assistance is granted.

To find out more about exceptional circumstances email

Contact the Royal Commission to discuss legal assistance options appropriate and/or available to you. Email us at or call us on 0800 222 727.

Select an option below for more information and details of lawyers who can help you:

Māori Panel Lawyers | Pacific Panel Lawyers | Auckland | HamiltonRotorua | Gisborne | Wellington | Christchurch | Tauranga | Whangerei | Invercargill | Dunedin | Palmerston North | New Plymouth | Napier | Whanganui | Queenstown

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