An independent inquiry similar to Australia's. You must be joking. In my view, it's never going to happen in New Zealand - we are not brave enough. That would require holding up a mirror and taking a long hard look at what is staring back at us.

Prime Minister John Key has refused to say whether he will rule out an independent inquiry into the historical abuse of children in state care.

But we can't just blame the government. No, the public must accept part of the blame for allowing an "attitude of indifference" to children in state care to take root, grow and become acceptable treatment of vulnerable children.

We let it happen then and still remain silent. Over the last two decades those children, now adults, started to tell their stories. Nothing much happened. Their voices got louder.
"Our stories must be told. You have to learn from our experience". A few more were heard and silenced. As the number of survivors of state care, those prepared to tell all increased, their supporters became more vocal too.

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Their families, doctors and specialists who helped them when they got older as they tried to deal with the long term effects of years of child neglect. But the public still didn't have the appetite to want to listen, to learn and to try to understand. Even now all these years later we could attempt to make amends. If we cared enough we would insist the Government set up the inquiry and not take no for an answer.

Sadly the number of Maori children in care during those years was high. Remember this was at the start of the migration of Maori families to the cities - working in factories on production lines.

To suggest an inquiry should look specifically into the abuse of Maori children in state care would, in my view, cause the Government palpitations. Yet this should be part of any inquiry.

Today there are about 5000 children in state care, 60 per cent are Maori. They didn't fare well before.

How do we know they are doing any better now? The state tells us things have changed. How reassuring.

The Government should do what's right. Maori leaders should insist upon it.

It wasn't just the physical and emotional abuse suffered. The sexual abuse of both girls and boys traumatised children for life.

As a result our country has thousands of women and men today who had their childhood years blighted by the state.

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Go into any correction facility and talk to the inmates. Ask them about their years in state care.

Prepare to be disgusted and profoundly saddened. They could have lived very different lives had they only had the chance.

The Government believes the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service Panel headed by Judge Carolyn Henwood has done a good enough job. But Judge Henwood herself, after listening to a thousand survivors believes an independent inquiry is still warranted.

The Government says the panel was successful in getting survivors to speak freely of their experiences in a safe environment. Some received an apology, others an apology and compensation. Usually never more than a few thousand dollars.

But there are survivors who will only talk to an independent inquiry. Not to those they hold responsible for their ill treatment.

We must know children in state care are being well looked after.

The Ministry of Social Development's own data reveals that from 2004 - 2007 nine children died each year in care.

Some by natural causes and accidents but it is the number of child suicides that must ring alarm bells.

An independent inquiry with the power to compel sworn testimony and to examine classified information is long overdue.

Its findings will ensure children, should they ever need state care, will receive exactly that. Care. It is not a done deal that children today are not still suffering.

_ Merepeka lives in Rotorua. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart the spread of political correctness.