Royal Commission of Inquiry gives hope to state abuse survivor

A state abuse victim says he shed a tear when he heard the Government announced a Royal Commission of Inquiry today. 

Keith Wiffen was 10 years old when he was taken into state care. The violence began the minute he stepped into the van that transported him to Epuni Boys home in Lower Hutt.

For eight months, he suffered at the hands of the people charged with caring for him.

"The effects of that have stayed with me my whole adult life," he told Newshub.

For years, he has fought for justice - not only for him, but the hundreds of others like him. Today, the Government answered, announcing the highest form of inquiry - a Royal Commission. 

"My actual first thoughts were for all those that didn't make it," Mr Wiffen says. "So this day honours them."

The inquiry will be headed by former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand, whom Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called "an individual with extensive experience, mana and the integrity required".

Minister for Children Tracy Martin says it will cover any child who was in state care and suffered any form of abuse will be covered - no matter where the abuse occurred. 

"This inquiry is about people, not institutions," she says. 

It will span 50 years, from 1950 to 1999, and will cover physical, sexual and emotional abuse, as well as neglect.  

"We hope that this inquiry - this Royal Commission - will confront New Zealand's history in this area," says the Prime Minister.

Mr Wiffen has suffered pushback after pushback from successive governments and state agencies as he has sought redress for what happened to him.

He says this was "worse than the original abuse, in my case".

For the first time, he feels like the Government believes him. 

"I've got faith in this and I haven't had faith."

The inquiry won't look at individual compensation, but wants to hear from those who have been through the historical claims process.

The Royal Commission is expected to run for nearly three years, although this may be extended if more time is needed.



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