By Voting Citizen
In the 1950s to the 1980s, the New Zealand Government placed more than 100,000 children into state care in residential facilities. Within these facilities, children faced horrific abuse. Mihingarangi Forbes interviewed Bill English on ‘the Hui’ (Mediaworks, 2017a) in early March on the need for an inquiry into this abuse in state care. The Prime Minister questioned if an inquiry would change what happens next or add to the information we already have. He referenced the ‘fundamental’ change to Child Youth and Family which is, as of 1st April 2017, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki as the solution to this problem. One month later and ‘the Hui’ screened ‘Nga Morehu – The Survivors’ (Mediaworks, 2017b) in which four former state wards spoke for the first time about their experiences in state care. Their names are: Quentin Tuwhangai, Eugene Ryder, Riwhi Toi Whenua and Hohepa Taiaroa. The opinions and views of these men are more relevant than the views of a man named Bill English. These men are calling for an inquiry.
Mihingarangi Forbes and Jacinda Ardern seem to understand this. Mihingarangi Forbes to Bill English in ‘the Hui’ interview: “I am telling you this is that they want, will you do it?” (Mediaworks, 2017a) And Jacinda Ardern, deputy Labour leader, on Radio New Zealand Morning Report told Guyon Espiner: “if the people who went through this want an inquiry, we should listen to them”(Radio New Zealand, 2017). In a Labour Party press release (Labour Party, 2017) Jacinda Ardern condemned the National Government for denying the victims of abuse a better healing process. I would think in this modern and enlightened country; the Prime Minister of New Zealand would be interested in enabling a healing process.
Elizabeth Stanley is the author ‘The Road to Hell’ which tells the stories of 105 New Zealanders who were in state care. Stanley recently published a blog post ‘Supporting an inquiry into abuse in state care’ on ‘Reimagining Social Work’ (Stanley, 2017). She outlines the four main reasons an inquiry is necessary. Many victims will not have come forward under the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service (see final report here)and some victims never got the chance to come forward as they died before this service was set up. We need to understand what happened in the past so it does not get repeated. Although individual, private apologies have been made to victims, a public apology is needed for the government to begin the process of ‘moral repair’. And lastly, being heard often begins healing and transformation needed for victims.
Guyon Espiner asked Jacinda Ardern if the opposition parties could set up their own inquiry, Ardern highlighted that they would not be able to access the records needed for a full inquiry (Radio New Zealand, 2017). Only the government can access these records and Bill English believes it is better to focus on preventing harms in the future than looking back to the past (Mediaworks, 2017a).
What will cause him to change his mind?
Labour Party. (2017). State inquiry for Nga Morehu, the survivors of state abuse. Retrieved from http://www.labour.org.nz/state_inquiry_for_nga_morehu_the_survivors_of_state_abuse
Mediaworks. (2017). The hui. Retrieved from http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/shows/2017/03/looking-backwards-won-t-help-future-state-abuse-victims-english.html
Mediaworks. (2017). The hui: Nga Morehu – the survivors. Retrieved from http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/shows/2017/04/four-former-wards-of-the-sate-share-their-horrific-stories-of-abuse.html
Radio New Zealand. (2017). Ardern calls for inquiry into abuse in state care. Retrieved from http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/201839793/ardern-calls-for-inquiry-into-abuse-in-state-care
Stanley, E. (2017, April 9). Supporting an inquiry into abuse in state care [Blog post] . Retrieved from http://www.reimaginingsocialwork.nz/2017/04/supporting-an-inquiry-into-abuse-in-state-care/