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Witnesses testify before New Zealand child abuse commission

WELLINGTON: New Zealand: In a two-week public hearing, survivors of child abuse testified before a New Zealand state commission.

The commission publicly quizzed witnesses in a large-scale probe into child abuse on Tuesday, with two abuse survivors testifying at the opening of the public hearing.

Authorities in New Zealand took 100,000 victims, including children and adults, from their families between 1950 and 1999. The overwhelming majority of children taken under state care were Maori, according to officials.

The officials will also hear a total of 28 witnesses, including activists, academics and lawyers by November 8.

In early 2018, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the launch of the inquiry, describing it as a “chance to confront our history and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again.”

Campaigner Susan Devoy, who served as the human rights commissioner at the time, said that a “huge number” of children in state care ended up in prison as adults.

“We know from their stories that many New Zealanders who were placed in government institutions suffered sexual, physical and psychological abuse inflicted by staff, social workers, caregivers, teachers, clergy, cooks, gardeners, night watchmen and even other children and patients,” Devoy was quoted by the DPA news agency as saying.

The commission’s work has been plagued by delays and public controversies. The authorities have named Harry Tam, an activist who is also a former gang member with a domestic violence conviction, to serve as director of policy and research in the inquiry.

Last month, it was reported that a convicted child sex offender had attended a survivor advisory group, according to Radio New Zealand.

The inquiry will also need a new leader as its current chief, Sir Anand Satyanand, is set to step down after the end of the public hearing. Satyanand said he was resigning due to increased workload when faith-based institutions were also included in the probe.

The commission is due to issue an interim report next year and the final version of their findings in 2023.