This page includes information for survivors of abuse in state care.

It includes general advice on how to lodge claims for historical abuse, obtain personal records or report concerns.

Note that the following covers information about support available from government agencies, not from the Royal Commission – the Royal Commission’s website is here(external link).

 

Making a claim

You can make a claim of abuse or neglect if you:

  • were in the care, custody, guardianship, or came to the notice of the Child Welfare Division, the Department of Social Welfare, the New Zealand Children and Young Persons Service or Child, Youth and Family before 1 April 2017, and
  • believe you were harmed as a result of abuse or neglect while in care.

For more information, including how you can start the claims process, please go to the Ministry of Social Development, Historic Claims web page.(external link)

If you believe you were abused or neglected at a residential special school run by the Department of Education before 1989, you can make a historic claim with the Ministry of Education.

For more information, please go to the Ministry of Education’s historic claims web page.(external link)

If you believe you were abused or neglected at a former psychiatric institution, you can make a historic claim with the Ministry of Health.

For more information, please contact the Ministry of Health Historic Abuse Resolution Service.(external link)

 

Requesting personal records

You have the right to ask for a copy of any personal information government agencies hold about you

The Privacy Act 1993 is the main law that sets out your rights to your information.

Contact details are provided below for the main government care service agencies that may hold information about you.

Government records may be missing or incomplete

Sometimes agencies you have dealt with may have patchy records about you. Often this is because records were not kept, were destroyed as part of past record keeping practice, or may have been lost, especially if they are very old.

You may need to ask more than one government agency

Because your personal information may be held by more than one government agency, you may need to make more than one request. 

When asking for information, please try to be specific about what you are looking for – for example, dates spent in care in a particular place. This will help an agency find other agencies that may hold information about you.

Archives New Zealand cannot usually provide information about personal records (or parts of records) it may hold. The agency that transferred records to Archives New Zealand controls access to those records, and there may be privacy or other concerns around them. Therefore, you need to get in touch with the agency (or agencies) to request personal records.

Agencies are looking at ways to streamline the request process, so in future you don’t have to ask more than once for your information.

What to expect about your request

You can expect to:

  • be asked for proof of your identity, usually a passport or a New Zealand driver’s licence
  • receive confirmation that your request has been received
  • have the agency respond within 20 working days of your request being received. This will be to provide your personal information, arrange delivery (if it’s being sent by courier), or give you a timetable for its delivery (if the files are old they can take some time to find and get back from storage). New Zealand Courts may take a little longer to respond as their records need to be reviewed by a judge.

Information about other people

Personal information about other people may be blanked out from your records.

If you are asking for information about someone else (such as member of your whānau), you will have to meet extra requirements.  The agency will discuss these requirements with you, since different laws may apply.

See agency contact details

Making a complaint

If you have any concerns about a government agency’s response to your request, you can complain:

  • directly to the agency, using the complaints process available on the agency’s website
  • to the Privacy Commissioner, if your feel your privacy has been interfered with
  • to the Ombudsman about agencies’ decisions.

 

Need help now?

These services are available if you have concerns about someone’s current care or situation:

  • Police on 111 (if someone is in immediate danger)
  • Oranga Tamariki on 0508 326 459 (for children at risk)
  • Health and disability advocates on 0800 555 050 (for problems with health and disability services)

 

The United Nations Committee Against Torture report on the Child and Adolescent Unit at Lake Alice Hospital

In July 2017, Mr Paul Zentveld submitted a complaint to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (the UNCAT) claiming a violation of his rights under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Convention) relating to his experiences as a child in the Child and Adolescent Unit at the Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital.  The UNCAT issued a report on its decision(external link) regarding the complaint in December 2019, which urged New Zealand to:

  • conduct a prompt, impartial and independent investigation into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment made by Mr Zentveld, including considering filing charges against the perpetrators;
  • provide Mr Zentveld with access to appropriate redress, including fair compensation and access to the truth, in line with the outcome of the investigation; and
  • make the decision publicly and widely known, to help prevent similar rights violations.

The New Zealand Government provided the UNCAT with a response to the report in April 2020 [PDF, 95 KB].  Further observations were provided to the UNCAT in January 2021. The observations noted that since February 2020 the New Zealand Police has been conducting an in-depth investigation into complaints about the Child and Adolescent Unit, which Mr Zentveld and his representatives have been updated on, and the UNCAT decision has been made public on the New Zealand Police website(external link) via the Royal Commission, and through a number of major media items.

As part of the Royal Commission’s investigation into abuse in psychiatric care it is investigating the Child and Adolescent Unit as a case study.  The Royal Commission held a public hearing into the Unit on 14–29 June 2021(external link). Findings on the Unit are expected to be included in a Royal Commission report(s).

 

Related documents

Crown Confidentiality Waiver

This waiver of confidentiality applies to sharing information about your settlement agreement with the Royal Commission.

Crown Confidentiality Waiver [DOCX, 27 KB]

Related pages

Last modified: