Government announces principles for engaging with Royal Commission into Historic Abuse

The Minister of State Services, Hon Chris Hipkins, has today released a Cabinet paper setting out the Crown’s approach to the Royal Commission into Historic Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-based Institutions.

The Inquiry’s definition of “state care” covers all education settings, including schools and early childhood education facilities. The primary period of inquiry is 1950 to 1999, but the Royal Commission may also consider abuse and neglect that happened before 1950, or after 1999, including people who are in care now.

The Cabinet paper, which is available through the State Service Commission website, sets out, among other things, the six principles that will shape how the Crown will behave, engage and respond to the Royal Commission:

  • Manaakitanga
  • Openness
  • Transparency
  • Learning
  • Being joined up, and
  • Meeting our obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Proactive Releases — State Services Commission

The principles will need to guide not only the way the Crown engages with the Royal Commission but also its wider engagement with survivors of abuse. They will also help to ensure that Māori experiences in care are more recognised and respected.

While the Royal Commission’s work will have a big impact on all Crown agencies that care for children and vulnerable adults, it also gives the Crown a unique opportunity to learn from the past and improve its care systems, now and in the future.

The Crown wants survivors to be heard and to feel heard, to have their experiences honoured and harm acknowledged, and for the current government care system to be improved to ensure this type of harm to children and vulnerable adults does not occur again.

Eleven agencies are working together to coordinate the Crown’s input into the Inquiry’s work: the Ministries of Education, Social Development, Health, and Justice, Oranga Tamariki, the New Zealand Police, the Department of Corrections, Te Puni Kōkiri, the State Services Commission, the Crown Law Office and Archives New Zealand.

Agencies are committed to making sure the Crown supports the Royal Commission while also being careful to respect the Royal Commission’s independence.

Records disposal moratorium

On 28 March, the Chief Archivist revoked the authority to dispose of all records held by public offices that may be relevant to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-based Institutions. The notice will remain in force until the Chief Archivist revokes it.

Chief Archivist announces disposal moratorium — Archives New Zealand

The Ministry has informed schools (see Bulletin for School Leaders Issue No 107) that, as they are subject to the Public Records Act 2005, the notice prevents the disposal of documents held by state and state integrated schools that could be required by the Royal Commission.

Ministry Bulletin for School Leaders | He Pitopito Kōrero

Early childhood education facilities are not covered by the Ministry’s records disposal guidelines or the moratorium. However, the Royal Commission has indicated that "the same expectation” of preservation of records applies to faith-based institutions and “all other bodies involved in providing care".

Consequently, the Ministry has advised early childhood education facilities to ensure that relevant records are not disposed of for the duration of the Royal Commission (see Early Learning Bulletin Issue 47).

He Pānui Kōhungahunga: The Early Learning Bulletin

Archives has provided information on the Disposal Moratorium on Records Relevant to the Royal Commission on its website.

Disposal Moratorium on Records Relevant to the Royal Commission — Archives New Zealand

More information

Questions specifically about the work of the Royal Commission, including how individuals can take part in proceedings, can be directed to the Commission.

Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-based Institutions

If any content in this article has raised difficult issues for you and you would like to talk to a support person, please contact: Lifeline Aotearoa on 0800 543 354.

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback