Sunday, April 14, 2024

Survivors key to abuse in care redress healing

The newly announced co-chair of New Zealand’s survivors of abuse redress system design says the initiative must be survivor-led to achieve healing.

University of Canterbury Māori public health researcher, Dr Annabel Ahuriri-Driscoll, is co-chairing the group charged with designing the redress system for historic abuse in care with Ruth Jones QSM (Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata).

Ruth Jones, QSM, and Dr Annabel Ahuriri-Driscoll.

Dr Ahuriri-Driscoll has written extensively about Māori children who were adopted or taken into state care and has says she has drawn from her personal experience as an adoptee.

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

She says 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 correct.

“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.”

“Receiving this appointment is an honour and a privilege. 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.”

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

“There’s 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,” she says.

“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.”

Dr 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.

“I see this appointment as the interface of the professional and personal, advocacy, activism and research – the culmination of all of these things, which for me is exciting. It’s a contribution that is important, and a form of healing in itself,” she said.

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