Our Terms of Reference included an expectation that we would connect with New Zealand’s Muslim communities on matters relating to the inquiry. We understood the importance and need to do so. We have also engaged with other communities and we have heard from the wider New Zealand public during our inquiry.
An important group of people we engaged with was the whānau of the 51 shuhada, and survivors and witnesses of the terrorist attack and their whānau. This group of people could collectively be referred to as victims. We heard from some people that they dislike the term victim being used, while others said the term validates the harm they have experienced. Some people prefer the term survivor, while others dislike that term or prefer not to be labelled at all. For this report, we use the description “affected whānau, survivors and witnesses”.
This Part summarises their views and perspectives, as well as those of other individuals, communities and interest groups that we heard from. We engaged mainly through private meetings with people or organisations, including meeting regularly with our Muslim Community Reference Group. We also received 1,168 submissions from the public. We heard from a variety of people, providing us with diverse perspectives and experiences.
These insights, experiences and views have been a central part of our inquiry and have been reflected in our report. In addition, we have endeavoured to address specific issues or questions raised by communities directly at the end of relevant Parts of our report.
We note at the outset that the number of people we heard from represents a small proportion of all New Zealanders and they describe largely negative experiences. There have been clear and consistent themes in what we heard, and we believe the issues raised cannot be ignored. Hearing these perspectives helped inform the questions we put to Public sector agencies and the lines of inquiry we pursued to meet our Terms of Reference. In this Part we are primarily recording, and not assessing, what we heard. To the extent that assessment is necessary that comes in later Parts of our report.
In the next chapter, we explain in more detail who we engaged with, why we engaged with them and how we approached the engagement process.
Chapter 3 summarises what we heard about the impact of the terrorist attack on affected whānau, survivors and witnesses. The chapter highlights the ways in which the terrorist attack changed the lives of affected whānau, survivors and witnesses, which extends well beyond the direct harms that resulted from the terrorist attack, both physical and non-physical. We set out the view that the Public sector agencies’ systems of support, through which affected whānau, survivors and witnesses are navigating, are insufficient and have exacerbated the trauma and grief that they have already experienced.
Chapter 4 summarises what communities told us about the broader context in which the terrorist attack occurred. We heard from communities that in general New Zealand is viewed positively. But some people have been, and continue to be, subjected to unacceptable and harmful behaviour. What we heard from communities highlighted that there are parts of New Zealand society that do not align with the loving, welcoming New Zealand that came out in full strength immediately after the terrorist attack. We also heard that some communities perceive bias and deficiencies in Public sector agencies that create or exacerbate an environment in which they do not feel safe or supported. This has eroded the trust that some have in New Zealand’s Public sector agencies.
Chapter 5 sets out what communities told us about matters that were outside the scope of our inquiry. In some instances, we wrote to relevant Public sector agencies to highlight these issues and where appropriate asked them to follow up the matters directly.
Throughout our inquiry, the main points we heard were that:
- it is critical that Public sector agencies enable genuine community engagement in decision-making;
- Public sector agencies should value the unique expertise that community and other non-government organisations can contribute to decision-making on issues relating to their communities, and support them to do so;
- Public sector agencies’ ability to understand and meaningfully engage with communities is hindered by an insufficient appreciation of diversity and a lack of cultural competency;
- the preparedness of Public sector systems for the ongoing recovery of those affected by the 15 March 2019 terrorist attack has been found wanting;
- New Zealand is generally viewed in a positive light, but harmful, hateful and discriminatory behaviour remains commonplace; and
- embracing New Zealand’s diversity would support openness of thought and action and may lead to some harmful societal norms being challenged.