The Royal Commission into Historical Abuse was fully launched this week. With skilled Commissioners at the helm, there is much to like about this new body.
The headline news was that the Commission would expose the abuse in faith-based institutions alongside that in state care placements. The Bishops came out to demonstrate their support. Let us all hope that they will still be ‘standing up to be counted’ when the concerns of apologies, compensation and institutional changes are recommended over the next few years.
The Commission now has an extensive remit, and rightly so. The experiences of those abused in foster care, adoption placements, children’s homes, state residences, borstals, psychiatric hospitals, disability facilities, health camps, early childhood facilities, state schools, special residential schools, teen parent units, police cells, court cells and even places of transport between care settings will all be examined.
Alongside children and young people, ‘vulnerable adults’ (such as those who have mental health problems or disabilities) will have their abuse recognised.
The Commission will also be able to uncover the structural, systemic and practical factors that contributed to abuse, and tell us about the impacts on victims but also their families, whānau, hapū, iwi and communities, including how the trauma of abuse crosses over generations.
So much of this is commendable. It has the potential to change the way we think about many social problems – crime, mental health, family breakdowns, state interventions.
Yet, amid the fanfare, there is a creeping feeling of state self-protection. A few months ago, I had a conversation with a senior government worker on the draft Terms for this Commission. He happily remarked ‘We missed a bullet there!’ And, today, I am sure that many senior civil servants and politicians are feeling quietly comfortable at the confirmation that the Commission will not have any great impact on them or their institutional operations. Continue reading Royal Commission as State Protection?