Those abused in state care deserve apology

Written By: - Date published: 8:45 am, August 25th, 2015 - 9 comments
Categories: class war, history, human rights, welfare - Tags: , ,

For all that I like to point out the multiple failings of “private providers”, it is sadly the case that the state doesn’t always get social services right either – and historically it has sometimes got it spectacularly wrong. This is a particularly shameful chapter:

Generation of children brutalised in state care won’t get public apology

The final report of the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service has detailed the harrowing experiences of children at the hands of people who were meant to keep them safe. The report, which heard evidence from more than 1100 people, is still under consideration by the Government. The abuse detailed in the report covers foster homes, institutions, asylums, health camps and borstals from the early 1940s up to 1992.

…asked if the Government would apologise to the children of these institutions, she [Social Development Minister Anne Tolley] said: “No”. “But I do acknowledge that some people in the care of government institutions were failed and let down badly, and that they still suffer the trauma from that experience. “That is why we now have two processes in place to offer an apology and a financial settlement to claimants.”

What possible reason could there be for the government not to apologise directly to the victims?

I hope and believe that the state has learned the lessons of the past, and now provides better, better monitored, and more appropriate social services. Let’s not make the same mistakes all over again with profit-driven private providers.

9 comments on “Those abused in state care deserve apology”

  1. Kay 1

    Exactly the same thing happened to survivors of the psychiatric institutions following the Confidential listening service and subsequent report in the early 2000s, despite overwhelming evidence of atrocities committed in those facilities.

    The “possible reason” is that governments of all stripes refuse to apologise is a) they’re cowards and b) that would mean admitting the state messed up and c) the general public have never had any sympathy for these people. Out of sight, out of mind. So no votes at stake.

    Most survivors of the psychatric institutions never wanted compensation (which was suspected at the time as a reason the govt refused to apologise, ie that would force them to have to pay out). The majority just wanted official acknowledment it happened and an apology, personal and/or public. It says that in the report.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1

      I suspect the problem and the solution are to be found here.

      …examining overseas experiences of apology legislation in practice and offering recommendations about the optimal form of apology legislation for New Zealand.

      • Kay 1.1.1

        OAB- my brain’s a bit fuzzy this morning to fully process, but my reading of the abstract is that apology without admitting to liability isn’t in NZ legislation yet, hence the frequent refusals to apologise?

        It must only apply where the harmed parties are still living- the Clark Govt were falling over themselves to apologise for the Chinese poll tax, and I vagely remember something to do with Samoa in the 1920s. And how do all the apologies that go along with treaty settlements fit into this? Or does this legislation (or lack thereof) not apply because compensation is already part of the package?

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          It strikes me as a bit of a minefield: for example, could a Crown admission potentially prejudice criminal trials? So far as I’m aware the Police haven’t brought any charges for the various assaults etc., the report is still being considered though.

          • Kay

            I really can’t see historic assault/abuse charges against the State getting very far in this country, official apologies or not. It’s always going to boil down to the word of “disturbed” youngsters (or any age in an institution) vs the “good, solid, hardworking” staff committing said crimes. Even if you have 20 people with the same testimony against the same individual. Throw in how long ago and Crown Defense lawyers will tear complainants to shreds.

            Even into the 1990s a person assaulted in a psychiatric institution could go to the police with a complaint, and even with all the evidence under the sun (bruises, eyewitnesses, etc), it would rarely be followed through on, usually under the excuse of the person not being a credible witness, especially if they were detained under the mental health act (even if they were not psychotic and completely rational). So of course there’s no way these historic charges will ever be brought up again- even if the police felt they had enough evidence to proceed it would never get to court.

  2. Sirenia 2

    Helen Clark gave an apology to the survivors of abuse at Lake Alice early on in her government. Unfortunately, didn’t get to the point of a full apology.

  3. save NZ 3


    A refusal to apologise and worse still perpetuating crimes against people in state care Serco style. Wait till the unregulated charter schools get going and the ‘social bonds’. A refusal to apologise is a refusal to acknowledge something went wrong and to change it.

  4. Governments generally don’t like apologizing. It means they stuffed up, and the word sorry generally does not appear in their dictionary.

    • AmaKiwi 4.1

      The arrogance of power.

      Why aren’t they surprised so much of the public hates them?

      More arrogance.

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