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ANZASW statement on inquiry into abuse in state care

The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) commends the government for its decision to hold an inquiry into the historical abuse of children that occurred in state care.

The need for such an inquiry has been evident for some time, following the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“The announcement of the inquiry marks an important opportunity to sincerely acknowledge the pain of survivors and learn from the abuse that occurred in the past,” ANZASW Chief Executive Lucy Sandford-Reed said.

While not all of state care was abusive, ANZASW acknowledges that significant abuse of vulnerable children did occur. Social Workers were known to have been active in challenging the abuse; however, the Association is equally conscious of the fact that abuse was sustained in secret by people in positions of responsibility.

ANZASW notes that, overwhelmingly, victims have come from Maori families and sees the issue not only as a matter of addressing the issue of abuse in itself but the wider historical process of dispossession and mistreatment endured by Aotearoa New Zealand’s indigenous people.

The fact that the probe will be a Royal Commission, the most authoritative of all such possible inquiries, is also welcome due to the need for serious reckoning with the pain of victims and an opportunity to learn from the past in order to prevent future abuse.

ANZASW welcomes the appointment of Sir Anand Satyanand, and has confidence in his ability to oversee a credible, thorough and professional investigation.

We look forward to a process in which the privacy and dignity of victims is respected, while no stone is left unturned in identifying the roots of abuse, the systems that failed and the perpetrators themselves.

We also hope that more recent survivors of abuse feel compelled to come forward, with confidence that they can receive support under the present system.

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