Calls for abuse inquiry to include faith-based

A Royal Commission on historic abuse in state care will ``fail'' survivors - including those still suffering in Otago - unless faith-based institutions are included, a campaigner says.

The call came from Liz Tonks, the head of a support network for survivors of abuse in faith-based institutions, as consultation on the draft terms of reference for the Royal Commission into Abuse in State Care entered its final week.

But Ms Tonks, who met Royal Commission chairman Sir Anand Satyanand yesterday to discuss her submission, said there was no sign of a ``significant'' change in the scope of the inquiry.

The draft terms limited the inquiry to a 50-year period, from 1950 to the end of 1999, and circumstances where the state directly ran institutions or outsourced care to non-state institutions.

That meant a school like Marylands in Christchurch, which became a notorious centre of sexual abuse under a Catholic order, the Brothers Hospitallers of St John of God, would be covered.

But other non-state settings for abuse, including the church itself, would be excluded, which Ms Tonks said risked ``severely diluting'' the outcome.

``Any contributions survivors make, with these limitations in place, would be without purpose and potentially further traumatising,'' she said.

That also worried Dugal Armour, the Otago branch manager for the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse group, who said Australia's wide-ranging Royal Commission into institutional abuse should be the example.

The group had also written to Sir Anand, calling for the Royal Commission to be expanded to include faith-based institutions, he said.

If it was not, the inquiry risked failing to ``open up the conversation''.

``This is a big step. It's a conversation that needs to be had.''

Their concerns echoed those of New Zealand's Catholic and Anglican church leaders, who wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last month calling for the inquiry's scope to be expanded to include them.

Sir Anand responded by suggesting the churches could instead run a parallel in-house inquiry, but Ms Tonks said yesterday that would not work.

Survivors of abuse in state care needed an independent Royal Commission because they would not trust a lesser inquiry run by a ministry under whose care they had been abused, she said.

Sir Anand, responding to Otago Daily Times questions, would not be drawn on the merits of excluding faith-based institutions. He would only say he was meeting a ``wide range'' of stakeholders, including Anglican and Catholic bishops, and ``understands their position''.

Cooper Legal principal Sonja Cooper, whose Wellington-based law firm works with abuse survivors

said the ``major flaw'' in the draft terms was limiting the inquiry up to 1999. Her firm had more than 100 clients alleging abuse since 2000, highlighting the need to examine events ``to the present day''.

More than 200 submissions have been received ahead of the end of public consultation on the draft terms on April 30, after which Sir Anand will make a final report to Cabinet, which will then decide final terms of reference.

 

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