A petition calling for a public inquiry and an apology was presented to parliament today by former wards of the state. As children some were victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse and mental abuse whilst in state care here in New Zealand.
Since the age of five Tupua Urlich was raised in state care living in over 10 foster homes. Now at 21 years of age he's presented his thoughts on the issue in an open letter to parliament today.
Urlich told Kawe Kōrero, “I didn’t sugar coat it, I just said children are dying, lives are being destroyed, mental health is being torn apart and the government, they’re responsible, they’re accountable. It’s time they stand up, they confront the issues and they own it.”
Urlich said that there was a mixture of emotions at parliament. One thing that stood out to Urlich was the fact that the National-led Government wasn’t present.
“It took a lot of courage to take this issue that has haunted generations of our people to government and it was made even worse by the fact that not one single National MP was there to face them. For me it was quite offensive.”
Speaking from his own experience, Urlich said that state care in New Zealand needs urgent attention from our government.
'I’ve spoken quite a bit on it, on many occasions and it’s not a nurturing environment. It’s not a system that is going to raise leaders in Aotearoa, its raising criminals. The physical abuse, all sorts of abuse, the instillation of that negativity from an early stage in life and then being released into society with no support, you’re isolated and you’ve got stigmas attached to you. It’s a constant battle."
Urlich believes addressing and acknowledging the past will help state care move more positively into the future. He said an internal inquiry would be a good start.
"I really want an internal inquiry into the historic abuse of our state care, our state wards. To actually take ownership, not just read statistics but respect the fact that those numbers represent lives. And those lives don’t mean any less because of situations that we were born in and it doesn’t take any more value away from our lives and our outcomes should not be settled to be lower than anyone else."