Career criminal Arthur Taylor says he only had one brush with the law before he was placed in a boys' home.
"When I was doing my paper round one Saturday morning in Masterton a police officer had lost his helmet and I took it up to the police station and returned it. That was it."
But at 11 years old, he was forcibly separated from his family by child welfare officers because he had been wagging school. He was called NUPC, or "not under proper control", and placed in Epuni Boys Home in Lower Hutt.
"That's when things started breaking down," he said.
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Taylor, now 63, will recount his experience of state care and its link to his life of crime tomorrow. He is speaking at the first day of public hearings at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into historical abuse in state care and faith-based institutions in Auckland.
At the boys' home, he was beaten by staff, hit with a strap and forced to do humiliating, back-breaking labour like mowing sports fields with a hand mower in the summer heat. Worst of all, he was housed alongside established young criminals.
"Now they know you don't mix up youth justice criminals with care and protection," he said. "It was like a crime factory."
Taylor eventually racked up 152 convictions and spent 40 of his 63 years in prison. No one else in his family has a criminal record and he firmly believes he would have stayed out of trouble if he was not placed in the home.
"My life would have been completely different. Who knows what I could have achieved?
"And it's shown by the fact that in all the wings of prisons over the years I've seen all the people I was in the boys' homes with."
The first public hearings, which will run for two weeks, are designed to set the context for the $78 million inquiry. In all, it will take until 2023 to complete and will produce two reports and recommendations for the Government.
Asked what he sought from the inquiry, Taylor said he wanted the state to show the remorse and rehabilitation it had demanded from him for his crimes.
"It's all about wanting remorse when it's dealing with criminals and offenders. Changing of their ways. That's what I want - some expression of remorse and lessons to be learned."
Also appearing on the first day of hearings is Keith Wiffin, another former ward of the state placed in Epuni Boys Home. He was taken from his mother at age 10 because of disruptive behaviour - tantrums, running away from home - following the death of his father.
"It was a physically, sexually and psychologically abusive place to find yourself in. It was totally foreign to anything I had come across," he told the Herald in 2017 .
Wiffin, a cleaning contractor and advocate for abuse victims, said he wanted the commission to clearly show how widespread state abuse was and highlight its longstanding impact not only on victims but on crime, welfare, prisons, and society itself.
"I want New Zealanders to understand what's happened - the scale of it, the magnitude of it, the impact that it's had not only the many thousands of victims but on the country as a whole," he said in a video for the commission.
The inquiry will take until 2023 to complete, and has been expanded to include more than 100,000 children in both state and faith-based care between 1950 and 1999.
It has had a few bumps since it was set up by the Coalition Government soon after coming into office.
The 75 year-old chairman, Sir Anand Satyanand, announced his resignation in August after recognising that it would take longer than first planned.
The inquiry was last month criticised for allowing a child sex offender into meetings with survivors.
And there has been some concern about government agencies not sharing lists of alleged abusers with the Royal Commission because of privacy concerns.
ROYAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO HISTORICAL ABUSE IN STATE CARE AND FAITH-BASED INSTITUTIONS
• established by Coalition Government as one of its first 100 days projects
• later expanded to cover faith-based institutions, with a deadline of 2023 rather than 2020
• covers the period 1950-1999, when 100,000 children were in state care
• two reports to be produced in 2020 and 2023, with recommendations for Govt
• hearings behind closed doors have already lead to information being passed on to police for investigation