Denying right to schooling has lifelong impact, IHC tells Inquiry

Media release

25 September 2020


A six-year-old boy who couldn’t spell cat and didn’t know his last name, was sent to an institution where for the next 13 years he was put to work and physically and sexually abused.

IHC Director of Advocacy Trish Grant will give evidence on Monday to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care [Mon 28 Sep] that M received no schooling, no pay for the work he did, and State authorities frustrated his attempts to have his abuse investigated.

“Before IHC became involved in the development of the civil claim, M had tried unsuccessfully for years to have government investigate the abuse and neglect he experienced in an institution, the life opportunities he had missed, and provide him compensation,” she said.

“M started his formal claim against the State in 1997 and it was finally settled in 2003.”

Trish Grant is giving evidence in two cases – detailing IHC’s experiences of seeking justice on behalf of a man who suffered abuse and neglect in State care and also on behalf of disabled children unlawfully discriminated against at school.

The discrimination case concerns a complaint lodged by IHC with the Human Rights Commission in 2008. The case alleges that students with disabilities are denied the right to education and experience diverse traumas that result in poor life outcomes. IHC has taken the case on behalf the 84,000–106,000 children in State schools who have disabilities and need accommodations to learn. This complaint was finally given a preliminary hearing at the Human Rights Review Tribunal in 2015. IHC is still waiting to hear the outcome.

Disabled students continue to experience discrimination at school in 2020. The students who gave evidence in 2008 have now left school and this unfair treatment has impacted on their adult lives.

IHC’s complaint, lodged under the Human Rights Act, asked the Human Rights Commission to consider whether the policies and practices of the Ministry of Education constituted unlawful discrimination against students with disabilities.

The time it has taken to progress the complaint and the obstructive and at times inappropriate way in which the human rights bodies and the Crown responded to IHC’s case has meant that students with disabilities have not been able to access justice and have their voices heard.

The second case concerns M, who was diagnosed as intellectually disabled and sent to the Templeton Centre near Christchurch. He was promised an education at Templeton, but he was put to work there and not given any education. He finally left there at the age of 19.

“The recorded evidence for the diagnosis of low intelligence was that at six years old he did not know his surname, could not add two plus two and could not spell the word cat.”

In the 1990s M sought an apology from the Crown for the abuse and neglect he experienced in institutions. It was not until 2003, with the assistance of IHC, that he finally got justice for the abuse he endured as a child and young adult. He received a financial settlement and an apology from the Crown. He died in 2006, aged 78.

IHC fully supports the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care. Many people with intellectual disabilities lived in State care. IHC continues to advocate for the need for increased safeguards for people with intellectual disabilities in 2020.

You can watch a livestream of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care here.