Agencies are committed to being open and transparent, and responding as fully as possible to all the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-based Institutions (the Abuse in Care Inquiry) requests for information and/or documents.  Agencies are also committed to providing individuals, particularly survivors, with their personal information as promptly as possible, while ensuring privacy is protected.

This overview sets out the categories of records held by the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, Courts, Ministry of Social Development, Oranga Tamariki, Te Puni Kōkiri and New Zealand Police that may be of relevance to the Abuse in Care Inquiry.  Links to potentially useful publicly available material are also provided.

Allocation and nature of records

The division of records reflects agencies’ current functions and historic records from predecessor agencies.

Records are both electronic (for more recent material) and physical (typically for older material).  Physical records can be held at different locations within agencies, including regional offices, secure off-site storage facilities, and material transferred to Archives New Zealand.  Electronic records are held in a variety of document management systems.

Agencies’ holdings

Agencies have primary responsibility for their records, and hold registers of material transferred to Archives NZ.  Records on individuals (such as client case files) are held in strict confidence by agencies and by Archives NZ (the storage location of individuals’ files depends on the date range).

Table 1 summarises the categories or groups of records held by each agency that may be of relevance to the Abuse in Care Inquiry.  Agencies also have a range of corporate documents, such as annual reports, that may also hold useful general information.


Table 1: High-level summary of agencies’ records holdings

Records held

Ministry of Education

  • School staff records – service records; teachers register; complaints files
  • Residential special schools files
  • Health camp schools files
  • Educational agencies policy and operational files – Department of Education (to 1989); Ministry of Education (since 1989); Special Education Services (1989–2002)

Ministry of Health

  • Lake Alice Hospital records
  • Historical mental health institution files (1853–1960)
  • Department of Health files (to 1992) and Ministry of Health policy papers (since 1992)

Ministry of Justice

  • Review and inquiry papers (to 1975) – penal policy review; royal commissions and commissions of inquiry
  • Monitoring and compliance papers (1974–1995) – legislative monitoring and compliance; claims against the department
  • Legal aid papers (1991–2001) –policy and decision-making records, which could include discussions about managing historical abuse claim applications


  • Adoption records
  • Children’s Court and Youth Court records
  • Coronial inquest files
  • Maintenance orders
  • Case files – including domestic proceedings, domestic violence, family proceedings, intellectual disability, mental health case files, protection of personal and property rights

Oranga Tamariki

  • Records on individuals – children in care and their families; adopted child and adoptive parents; foster carers; staff
  • Records on residences, homes and other institutions – site details and policies; logs and registers; reports; administrative files; legal documents
  • Non-government organisation contracts and performance reports
  • Policy (including legislation development) and operational policy files on care systems, child protection etc.
  • Research reports

Ministry of Social Development

  • Historic claims records (including individual claims, policy, and background research)
  • Social Service Accreditation records
  • Policy (including legislation development) files on historic claims processes, social welfare system developments etc
  • Research reports

Te Puni Kōkiri

  • Māori adoption records (to 1989)
  • Department of Māori Affairs district offices’ reports on housing, welfare, health and missing persons
  • Records on Matua Whangai, community-based foster programme for Māori children

New Zealand Police

  • Investigation files into abuse in care in various custodial facilities (e.g. children’s homes, Oakley Hospital, Lake Alice Hospital)
  • Investigation files for identifiable individuals (may include sexual assault medical examination records)
  • ‘Use of force’ records
  • Police complaints
  • Operational policy documents

Archives NZ

  • Records transferred by the above agencies and their predecessor agencies
  • Archives NZ Job Files relating to transferred records
  • Appraisal reports and disposal schedules relating to agency records

State of Crown records

Overall, the state of Crown records appears mixed.  More recent, particularly electronic, records are typically comprehensive and more easily searchable (reflecting modern record management practices).  Records transferred to Archives NZ can have mixed levels of metadata (that is, the high-level information held about a record or file’s contents) depending on the date ranges of the records.  This is similar to older records held by agencies which are also described at varying levels of detail, reflecting variations in recordkeeping practice within agencies over time.

Having less metadata for older physical files can make it slower to identify all relevant records within a particular category.  It can also make it more difficult to identify and extract information on particular groups.  For example, pre-1980s personal files frequently do not record ethnicity so identifying impacts on Māori survivors will involve reviewing the contents of large numbers of files to try to confirm if they relate to someone who is Māori.

There are some known gaps in records, particularly where record responsibilities sit (or have sat) with separate entities such as district health boards (and their predecessor hospital boards and area health boards) and schools.  Records prior to the Archives Act 1957, when the first legislative provisions for government recordkeeping were introduced, can be highly patchy depending on the particular sector or agency.  We expect more gaps will be identified once older records are delved into in depth. 

Compiling requested records

More recent documents or historical documents that have been digitised can be accessed and compiled easily.  Dispersed physical records are likely to take some time to compile for release following a request.  Preparation may also need to include reviews to ensure compliance with key requirements such as privacy and legal privilege.  Agencies will also need to liaise with the Cabinet Office about any Cabinet papers to be released.  Please note that any records requested from Archives NZ will be delivered digitally, to protect the integrity of the national archives.

In some cases where services were contracted to a non-government organisation (NGO), records relating to the specific service they provided (such as duty logs or staff files) may only be held by those NGOs.  Agencies work with NGOs and Crown entities to try to ensure records are compiled and provided as efficiently as possible.

Publicly available material

A number of records (such as Cabinet papers, reports, and public consultation documents) have been publicly released by agencies.  Examples include:

Cabinet papers on the new National Care Standards for children and young people(external link)

Papers on the review to improve the historic abuse claims resolution process (external link)

Some of the papers on the establishment of Oranga Tamariki (external link)

The final report of the Expert Panel on Modernising Child Youth and Family (which includes an extensive bibliography)(external link)

Puao-Te-Ata-Tu, the 1986 report of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on a Māori perspective for the Department of Social Welfare (external link)

The report of the 1983 Committee of Inquiry into Procedures at Oakley Hospital and Related Matters (external link)

The report of the Independent Police Conduct Authority’s 2011 inquiry into police conduct, practices, policies and procedures relating to the investigation of child abuse Part One(external link)

The report of the Independent Police Conduct Authority’s 2011 inquiry into police conduct, practices, policies and procedures relating to the investigation of child abuse Part Two(external link)

Human Rights Commission-sponsored research into the experiences of people with learning and other disabilities, “Institutions are places of abuse: The experiences of disabled children and adults in State care"(external link)

There are general histories about state care, government agencies and major developments available for download:

‘Social Developments – An organisational history of the Ministry of Social Development and its predecessors, 1860–2011’(external link)

‘Social Assistance Chronology 1844–2018’(external link)

‘Social Welfare Residential Care 1950–1994: Volume 1’ (external link)

‘Social Welfare Residential Care 1950–1994: Volume 2’(external link)

‘Social Welfare Residential Care 1950–1994: Volume 3’(external link)

‘New Zealand Health System Reforms’(external link)

‘Chronology of the New Zealand Health System 1840 to 2017’(external link)

In addition, there are a range of useful books (or publications) such as:

  • Dalley, Bronwyn (1988) “Family Matters: Child Welfare in Twentieth Century New Zealand”, Department of Internal Affairs
  • Fergusson, David et al (1972) “Child abuse in New Zealand : a report on a nation-wide survey of the physical ill-treatment of children in New Zealand”, New Zealand Government Printer
  • Stanley, Elizabeth (2016) “The road to hell: state violence against children in post-war New Zealand”, Auckland University Press
  • State Services Commission (1962–1988) “List of Persons Employed on the Permanent Staff of the Public Service”, held by the National Library of New Zealand
  • State Services Commission (1986) “Public Service Manual of Instructions”, held by the National Library of New Zealand

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