Frequently asked questions about the Royal Commission and its Terms of Reference.

Terms of Reference

Royal Commission

Terms of Reference

I am older and/or unwell – can I speak to you urgently?

We will do everything we can to prioritise those who are aged/unwell and who want to share their stories.


Can I talk to you if I have already spoken to a listening service, made a complaint, or received redress or settlement through another process?

Yes.  The Inquiry will hear from anyone within scope, even if you have already participated in another process of any kind.  This includes the “CLAS” (Confidential Listening and Advice Service), the Confidential Forum for Former in-Patients of Psychiatric Hospitals, any of the Historic Claims Units, the Police, or any other process.


Can I still make a complaint to other agencies?

People can still make a complaint or claim to the Government or others, including the Police, while the Inquiry does its work.  The Inquiry’s work does not mean that cases will be put on hold, or that new claims can’t be made.  We can, however, recommend changes to make complaints and claims processes better in the future.


What is out of scope?  

This Inquiry cannot look at abuse and neglect that happened in a fully private context, for example abuse by parents of their own children at home. The Inquiry cannot generally look at abuse that happened in prisons, general hospitals, aged residential and in-home care, and immigration detention. The Inquiry can only look at these places if someone was in State or faith-based care at the time.

While we can’t look at prisons in general, we can look at the fact that people in care often went on to experience the prison system.  We can look at this from the person’s perspective and think about the impact this had on their family and whānau (the next generation).

For faith-based care, fully private settings are excluded. The word ‘private’ here does not mean where the abuse and neglect actually took place (for example, behind closed doors).  What is excluded is where the faith-based institution was not responsible for the care of the person. 

Even if your situation is not covered, we may still be able to hear from you.  If you are unsure about whether you are covered, please get in touch with us.

Some other limits on what we can do 

There are limits on what the Inquiry can do.  We cannot review individual court decisions, but we can look at how court decisions were made in general, whether the right information was available to courts and what laws and rules they had to follow at the time.

The Inquiry’s role is not to prosecute people, sue them, or discipline them (for example, remove them from duty).  But we can refer cases to other agencies - for example the Police.


What powers does the Royal Commission have?

The Royal Commission has powers to receive any evidence that may assist it; to require any person or body (including a Government agency) to produce documents or other information; and to summons witnesses to give evidence. 


What if I live out of New Zealand?

Almost all of the Inquiry’s work will happen in New Zealand, but this won’t limit our ability to listen to people who are out of New Zealand. 


Can the Inquiry hear about abuse of someone who has died?

Yes. We can hear from family members, friends, or anyone else with relevant information.


The person who abused me is very ill or has passed away.  Am I still able to share my experience?

Yes.  The Inquiry has been asked to look at abuse and neglect that happened in institutions.  This means that, in some cases, people may have passed away or may no longer live in New Zealand.  This will not prevent you from sharing your experience with us.  You will still be able to come forward.


Why was faith-based care included and what's in scope?

Many of the 400 submissions that Sir Anand received suggested that the inclusion of non-state care in the Terms of Reference would be appropriate. Sir Anand agreed with that view and reported to the Government on this. The Government acknowledges there is a wider responsibility to all children.

You are in scope if you were abused in a faith-based setting, for example as an altar boy/girl. You are also in scope if you were abused by a priest, a member of clergy or a person of authority at home or on a trip away.


Royal Commission

When can I tell my story?

The Chair will work together with the Commissioners and key stakeholders to plan how the Inquiry will run. While it may take some time to get the appropriate support services in place the inquiry will be up and running in 2019.  

The Royal Commission will then contact anyone who has pre-registered with us and will publicise when, where and how survivors can be involved.

Will the Inquiry pay compensation?

No, the Inquiry is not the vehicle to award or pay out compensation. 

The Inquiry has been asked to make recommendations to the Government about the process of compensation and what that might look like in the future.

How long will the Inquiry run?

It is anticipated the Inquiry will take a number of years.  The Royal Commission is expected to provide the Governor General with an interim report in 2020, and final report in 2023.

Can you progress my case through the courts?

No, the Royal Commission is not able to advance a case in the courts. In some cases, we may refer people to the Police if they wish to make a formal complaint about criminal offending.

Do I have to tell the Royal Commission about crimes I have committed?

No. Anybody participating in the Royal Commission has the privilege against self-incrimination. This means you do not need to answer any questions, or provide any information, about crimes you may have committed and have not been convicted of.

What if I choose to tell the Royal Commission in a private session about crimes I have committed?

The Royal Commission’s private sessions will be kept confidential, with only very limited exceptions. These exceptions are:

If you tell us about any current serious risk to the health and safety of any person – for example if you tell us you are going to commit suicide, or that you are currently at risk of assaulting or sexually abusing someone – we will have to tell the Police or authorities.

If you tell us about serious criminal offending that is ongoing or planned for the future, we will also have to tell the Police or authorities.

Unless those exceptions apply, we will make sure that all information you give us about your past crimes is kept confidential, to the extent permitted by the law.