A Royal Commission of Inquiry established to investigate historical abuse in state care in New Zealand should be expanded to include the role of the church-related bodies, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia said today. In a letter to the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and the Children’s Minister, Tracey Martin, Archbishops Winston Halapua and Philip Richardson said that the decision to ask for churches to be included in the Inquiry was made by the Standing Committee of the province’s General Synod when it met earlier this month.
“Our Christian faith teaches us the power of truth, justice and reconciliation,” they said. “We see this Commission of Inquiry as one way we can put that faith into action, and we encourage you to give this request serious consideration, in the hope that this will provide a pathway to healing and wholeness for all concerned.”
In their letter, the co-Primates said: “Our primary concern is for the needs of those whose lives have been impacted by abuse, and we are conscious that abuse has been perpetrated by agencies across our society, including the Church and its agencies. We are concerned that it will be unhelpful to victims and survivors, if the inquiry and its process is limited only to the state sector, denying some the right to have their voices heard.
“We believe that victims, survivors and the public at large would have greater confidence in the processes and outcomes of the Royal Commission’s Inquiry if it was fully inclusive. By contrast, for example, if we were to hold a parallel inquiry into our Church organisations we believe it would have a lesser standing and therefore lesser restorative benefit.”
The Royal Commission of Inquiry is a form of statutory public inquiry in New Zealand. It was announced in February and will be chaired by Sir Anand Satyanand, the country’s former governor-general. Its scope includes youth detention centres, psychiatric hospitals and orphanages. Private organisations, such as churches, are only covered by the Inquiry in terms of any government care services contracted out to them.
“This is a chance to confront our history and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again,” Martin said at the time the Commission was announced. “It is a significant step towards acknowledging and learning from the experiences of those who have been abused in state care.”
A similar Royal Commission in Australia has completed its work. A public inquiry in England and Wales is ongoing and last week concluded three-weeks of public hearings in its first case-study in its investigation into The Anglican Church – the Church of England and the Church in Wales.
The issue of safeguarding across the Communion is being examined by an international Anglican Safechurch Commission, which will next meet in South Africa in May.