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Chief Ombudsman gives evidence at Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry

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The Royal Commission of Inquiry is holding a public hearing to examine the responses of State agencies to the abuse and neglect of children, young people and vulnerable adults.

Evidence from these public hearings will inform the final report due to the Governor General in June 2023. The final report will also consider evidence from:

  • investigations
  • survivor and witness accounts
  • research and policy review
  • hui
  • wānanga and fono, and
  • community engagement.

The Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier appeared at the hearing on Friday 26 August.

The Chief Ombudsman gave evidence across a wide range of his work relevant to children, young people and vulnerable adults in care. This includes inspections of places of detention and complaint handling. The Chief Ombudsman’s opening remarks focused on children and young people in care.

Watch the Witness Statement of the Ombudsman New Zealand – Te Tari o te Kaitiaki Mana Tangata

Speaking notes for the Chief Ombudsman's Witness Statement

A written transcript will be added to this page when it is available. Provided below are speaking notes for the Chief Ombudsman's statement.

Introductory remarks

I want to thank you for inviting me to speak to my submission.

With the Commissions permission, I’d like to start this morning with some personal reflections.

I have witnessed the state care system in action for more than 40 years. I make the following observations from the point of view of a Family Lawyer, Judge and now as te Amokapua o Kaitiaki Mana Tangata/Chief Ombudsman.

The revolutionary Children, Young Person's and their Families Act was passed in 1989 - the year after I was appointed as a Judge.

Things started out with so much hope and promise.

The new act represented a quantum power shift away from court based resolutions and state institutions in favour of the community including iwi, hapū and whānau.

But there simply wasn’t the will to sustain that momentum and the power shifted back.

As a Judge in the Family Court, I witnessed the state’s oversight of the welfare and protection of children become increasingly dislocated and, on too many occasions, tragedy has resulted.

There have been a number of reviews over the years-often held as a result of such tragedies.

Unfortunately, from my point of view today as te Amokapua o Kaitiaki Mana Tangata/Chief Ombudsman, I see too many poor practices continuing.  

For example, Māori culture and tikanga should hold their rightful place in the system.

Yet this influence is uneven and not always evident at times when it is most needed.

Some of those shortcomings were highlighted in our major report - He Take Kōhukihuki | A Matter of Urgency published in 2020. This was an investigation into Oranga Tamariki’s policy and practice when removing newborn pēpi from their parents.

And yet in the same report, there was evidence of good cultural practice in some parts of the country.

So what does the future hold?

Children need a sense of security safety and wellbeing. They need to feel loved.

But at present, the level of protection offered to a child across the state system can just be a matter of chance.

When the state intervenes, it can save lives.

On the other hand, its intervention may not always be meaningful, appropriate to the situation or can simply come too late.

To put it plainly, it may be random whether a child is rescued, continues to be neglected or worse.

The future of all our children should be certain and not just a matter of luck.

We need to have a country, a system, a culture, an ethos, where children’s safety and wellbeing can be assured.

As I have previously advised the Commission, the law does prevent me from giving evidence about individual cases that have been investigated by myself or my predecessors, other than to the extent there are already published case notes on those matters.

Within those limitations, I hope what I have to say this morning will outline the contribution the Ombudsman is making towards achieving this goal for children of Aotearoa.

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