After the apology, they’ll want cold hard cash

Children taken from their parents by the New Zealand Government during the 1950-1980 period want their lives examined and the current Government to apologise.

The first-person accounts of abuse were chillingly similar to those survivors who’d shared their stories with me – bashings, stompings and sexual abuse were woven through them all.

Many had never told their stories and others are just beginning to. When Ngā Mōrehu told their stories to me this year there were tears from them, from me and many more from those who watched.

They were quiet tears that rolled down tattooed cheeks and splashed on their heavy chests. Once they’d started it was a river, and I suspect the flood gates will open again when this government stands to publicly say sorry.

As a country we’re only coming to understand how these abuses took place. How many people drove past those places not knowing what was going on behind the fences and gates of Kohitere, Ēpuni, Hōkio, Ōwairaka and more? How many knew and said nothing, and how many participated in the abuse?

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy has launched an online conversation asking victims of state care abuse to give feedback on how they would like an independent inquiry to run.

Holocaust Remembrance Day held at Makara Cemetery in Wellington. Dame Susan Devoy was a guest speaker. Raising growing concerns around the influx of hate speech online.Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King
In July, the National-led government rejected a petition signed by 12,000 people calling for an independent inquiry into state care abuse.

Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox says the survivors deserve a Royal Commission of Inquiry, which would be truly independent of the government. It would investigate the facts and provide policy or legislative changes to prevent abuse happening again.

State care abuse petition, ParliamentFormer wards of state demand an inquiry into state abuse at Parliament. Photo: RNZ / John Lake
In 2013, Australia launched a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It investigated the history of abuse in institutions including educational and religious groups, and sporting organisations.

New Zealand’s inquiry is in the government’s First 100 day’s list – it is part of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children’s portfolio, where New Zealand First’s Tracy Martin is the minister.

Her office told RNZ they were just beginning to work through what shape the inquiry would take.

Back in July, after the government rejected the petition, I escorted a small group of Ngā Mōrehu to Parliament to meet the then-MP for Tāmaki Makaruau, Peeni Henare, and MP for Mt Albert, Jacinda Ardern, where they committed to an independent inquiry.

They’re now the Minister for Whānau Ora, and the Prime Minister. The survivors are ready to collect on that promise.

An apology is the least we can do.  The misguided actions during those times are easily apologised for.  But the reticence isn’t about the apology.  It’s about the tacit admission of guilt which is then expected to lead to calls for compensation.

This is why governments generally do not apologise until most of the affected generation has passed on.

Jacinda’s crew may just be the exception.  She gets a real high from saving the world.  And Tracey Martin is to the left of Lenin, so there should be little to stop them digging an even bigger fiscal hole.


– Mihingarangi Forbes, RNZ


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