Abuse in care redress must be survivor-led, new co-chair says

Dr Annabel Ahuriri-Driscoll has just been named co-chair of the group charged with designing a survivor-led independent redress system for historic abuse in care.

Survivors of abuse in care designing a redress system is of the utmost importance to achieve healing, Māori public health researcher Dr Annabel Ahuriri-Driscoll says.

Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury Māori health lecturer Ahuriri-Driscoll (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Kahungunu) has just been announced co-chair of the group charged with designing a survivor-led independent redress system for historic abuse in care, along with Ruth Jones (Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata).

Ahuriri-Driscoll has written extensively about Māori children who were adopted or taken into state care and has drawn from her personal experience as an adoptee. She is grateful for the opportunity to be working with other survivors.

“As part of this survivor-led process, we want to ensure there is appropriate and meaningful recognition for those who have been harmed as well as compensation as part of a broader process of healing.”

Existing compensation mechanisms had re-victimised survivors of abuse in care, making it all the more important that the foundations and processes of the new system are tika or right, Dr Ahuriri-Driscoll says.

“Taking a lead from the interim Royal Commission report, we’ll be checking in with survivors and wider networks as we develop and proceed with our programme of work.

“As an adoptee survivor who has researched in this area, utilising that to support change is of tremendous personal significance. We don’t often get these opportunities, as survivors we’ve been marginalised.”

Survivors 'marginalised'

As an academic, these opportunities to be able to contribute in a more tangible and direct way are rare, but really important, she says.

Ahuriri-Driscoll recognised the “considerable mahi” from other survivors to make their voices heard.

“There are a lot of people who have been fighting and lobbying for this.  My approach in terms of advocacy has been via research but there are other skillsets and expertise, insights and lived experience that are needed.

“This appointment recognises both my experience and [co-chair] Ruth’s in working across diverse communities and networks, often at a strategic level. I’m learning a lot already about how we can move from activism into implementation.”

Ahuriri-Driscoll’s leadership in health and academic sectors includes board experience on the Cancer Society, Health Research Council, ethics committee on assisted reproductive technology, and the Council of Academic Public Health Institutions Australasia.