Calls for royal commission into abuse in state care chair to stand down, days after Mongrel Mob member stood down as director

The first public hearing for the royal commission of inquiry into historical abuse in state care and faith-based institutions, has taken place in Auckland this morning.

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The commission has launched an investigation into allegations against Harry Tam. Source: 1 NEWS

But the preliminary hearing was held under a cloud of controversy.

Just days ago high-profile Mongrel Mob member Harry Tam was stood down from his role as a director of the royal commission, following multiple allegations of domestic violence.

On Friday, the royal commission released a statement saying it was aware of allegations raised against "a staff member," and had commenced an independent investigation into the matter.

That news has prompted advocacy group Whanau First to call for the commission's chair Sir Anand Satyanand and chief executive Mervin Singham to step down, following claims both men were aware of the allegations months prior to Mr Tam being employed by the commission.

In a statement, Whanau First says the commission "turned a blind eye".

Speaking to fellow commissioners, lawyers and members of the public, Sir Anand Satyanand said the overall goal of the inquiry will be "to transform how we care for our children and the most vulnerable in New Zealand".

During the two hour meeting, each commissioner spoke of how they would undertake their work.

Judge Coral Shaw, said the inquiry will be "bigger and broader" and have "more powers than any other inquiry undertaken in Aotearoa ever before".

Private sessions, public hearings, research policy, and outreach and community engagement will form the basis of the inquiry.

"Already 70 people have attended the private sessions, of which 800 registered to speak at," Commissioner Sandra Alofivae told the room.

Simon Mount QC, said public hearings would play a critical part in the inquiry, taking in Auckland, Wellington and the South Island. Each hearing is expected to take between one and three weeks.

Mr Mount also spoke of the importance of having Māori and Pacific Council working on the inquiry, as well as lawyers who’ve worked closely with the disabled community.

Māori, Pacific and disabled people were found to have been disproportionately abused in state care.

The commission will prepare at least two reports. The first will be delivered by the end of 2020, covering what the commission has learned up until that point, including the number of affected people.

The second report will be given to the Governor General before January 2023. It will include recommendations to the Government and faith-based institutions including changes to laws, prevention of abuse and neglect happening in the future, support options, and apologies.