30 Aug 2017

Govt appears unmoved by UN call for abuse inquiry

9:29 pm on 30 August 2017

By John Boynton

A United Nations report calling for an independent inquiry into the abuse of children and adults with disabilities in state care from 1950 to 1990 appears unlikely to sway the government.

A young boy sits in the corner with his head in his hands (file photo)

Photo: 123RF

A state apology, rehabilitation and reparations for abuse victims are at the centre of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination's report.

Read the full report on the Committee's conclusions (PDF 206KB)

Prime Minister Bill English said the government had a system in place to deal with these "very real grievances".

"We understand the suffering, the frustration and, for some, very difficult lives that have arisen from how they were treated in some of sort of public institution."

Mr English said he invited the committee to see the changes the government had made.

"I think it would be good if the committee came here to see the scale of change that has been instituted for the benefits of children and putting the most vulnerable children at the heart of the government system."

Labour Party leader Jacinda Adern said there did need to be an inquest into historical abuse in the state care system.

"We're in the middle of reforming our state care system and how can we make sure that we have a robust system unless we have learnt from the past from that historic abuse - it's the least we can do."

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy appeared before the UN's Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in Geneva this month.

Following the release of the report, Dame Susan said she welcomed the recommendations from the committee.

She said those who were responsible for abuse should be held accountable, and lessons must learn from the past to ensure this can never happen again.

Lawyer Sonja Cooper represents clients who suffered abuse while in state care and said she was pleased the committee highlighted the abuse of children and adults with disabilities while in state care.

"Those two distinct aspects they say require an independent inquiry, and that's really significant."

Ms Cooper said she had 50 new instructions from clients this month adding to the 750 cases of state abuse cases she was already working on.

Ms Cooper said the 1990 cut-off date for cases also needed to be expanded.

The UN recommendations were released this week.

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