New PM opens inquiry door beyond state child abuse
Jan 16, 2018 — Nothing's changed.
Or has it?
Headlines in the media state that the Adern administration is sticking to an inquiry that only focuses on child abuse under 'state' care.
"Government inquiry into child abuse will not include churches, sports clubs", reads the New Zealand Herald, for example.
"Govt inquiry into child abuse won't include churches", states the Otago Daily Times.
A more careful reading of statements from Prime Minister Jacinda Adern however indicates a more open approach.
After dropping an election promise to hold a "ministerial" inquiry in favour of an "independent" version, Adern this week made the point in her first live interview with Radio New Zealand that the full scope of the inquiry would be decided by the independent inquiry itself.
"We might put out a starting point but an independent chair will go out and consult on those. That's the way we will include the voices of the many."
Adern notes that the state has a long reach, including what happened to children placed in care by the state, outside the state.
"A child may have been in state care and then was placed in a particular environment, or had anything to do with the decision-making that led to that young person in particular being abused. The state's reach in that respect goes beyond state institutions."
By "particular environment", Adern is apparently referring mainly to churches, identified in the Australian Royal Commission as being the main source of child abuse there.
This is another step in the right direction.
We've come a long way from the historic position of the Labour party - that there was no need for an inquiry - to promising a "ministerial" inquiry, then an "independent" inquiry which may look beyond government.
However we are still far from a "full" inquiry called into here.
Worst case scenario: an independent inquiry decides not to look beyond "historic" cases of child abuse under the state.
Best case scenario: the inquiry is given the widest, most independent terms of reference and looks into ALL child abuse - both physical and sexual, in all institutions, with an open timeframe.
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