Simon Collins is the Herald’s education reporter.

Inquiry head determined to find answers

Ruth Herbert, director of Owen Glenn's independent inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Ruth Herbert, director of Owen Glenn's independent inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence. Photo / Mark Mitchell

If we can slash cot deaths by 80 per cent we can do the same with child abuse, says the woman who has agreed to manage millionaire Owen Glenn's public inquiry into the issue.

Ruth Herbert, who turns 60 next week, led a high-profile campaign against cot death in the 1980s after losing her daughter Renee to cot death a few months after she fled from a violent relationship with "a loaded gun pointed at my head".

She was director of the Ministry of Social Development's family violence unit until June.

Last week, Mr Glenn named her director of an independent inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence which he will fund with $5 million of his own money.

Ms Herbert said the inquiry aimed to develop a long-term "blueprint" of solutions, rather than presenting yet another report analysing the problem.

"One of the things that drives me is that when Renee died of cot death there were 250 a year," Ms Herbert said.

"The medical profession still hasn't found an answer to [the causes of] cot death, but we now have about 50 a year dying of cot deaths, so we have dropped the numbers by 80 per cent. That is the sort of thing I think we can do with domestic violence and child abuse."

The Government has already conducted a similar exercise on "vulnerable children" through a green paper published last year and a white paper due on October 12, but Ms Herbert said the Glenn inquiry would take the issue "to the next level".

"I have been fighting this cause for a lot of years and this is the best thing that has happened to domestic violence and child abuse forever - I think not just in New Zealand," she said.

Mr Glenn, who runs charitable projects in India and has been asked to speak at the United Nations regional office in Bangkok about child trafficking, said he also hoped to pass on the inquiry's findings to the UN.

He sold his international logistics group this year and now divides his time between Sydney, Fiji and an apartment in Auckland's Viaduct Basin.

He hoped the Government would provide access to information and experts in state agencies. He will discuss that possibility with Social Development Minister Paula Bennett and Education Minister Hekia Parata in Auckland on October 9.

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