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The culture of New Zealand Police has reached a new milestone

Louise Nicholas
Child and adult rape survivor Louise Nicholas with Superintendent Tusha Penny from New Zealand Police Louise Nicholas Facebook

A decade long Commission Of Inquiry into how police treat assault victims is about to end.

The Inquiry led by Dame Margaret Bazley scrutinised many aspects of policing including the treatment of sexual assault victims by police officers, spanning as far back as the late 1970's.

The Commission's report was released 10 years ago today, on April 3 2007 and included 47 police- specific recommendations for change.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the Commission of Inquiry provided a catalyst for reform, and 10 years on, the changes they have made as an organisation are enduring.  

"More than ever before, we have a healthy, diverse and inclusive culture that puts victims at the heart of everything we do- and we are in the process of building a truly high- performing organisation," Bush said.

Commissioner Bush reiterated his thanks to Louise Nicholas, whose courage to share her experiences contributed greatly to the Inquiry.

Louise is a survivor of child and adult rape committed against her by 4 members of the New Zealand Police and said the Inquiry has changed the culture of New Zealand police forever.

"Because they've been trained in specialising in working alongside survivors of sexual violence, we're finding there's an increase in reporting. That doesn't necessarily mean there's an increase in sexual assault, I truly believe it's because the police are so better at the job they do when somebody comes in and says I’ve been raped and sexually abused, so it's a win win."

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Child and adult rape survivor Louise Nicholas (right) with author of book 'Family Violence Lifting NZ's Dark Cloud' David White and wife Pam, and Superintendent Tusha Penny from New Zealand Police Louise Nicholas

Louise shared her experiences of sexual assault and rape and said although she is proud of her confidence to speak out, she hasn't done it alone.

"It's something that I haven't done on my own, in fact I didn't want to do it in the beginning, but it was my family, especially my husband that said you've got an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past."

"I'm not going to take credit for it all, at all. I’m proud of the fact that I stood up and put myself out there and had the guts to do it, but I think it was more so because I got angry, angry at not only the bad stuff that was done to me, but having to live with a shame that shouldn't have been mine in the first place," Louise said.

Louise now works for Rape Prevention Education and says that every aspect of her sector has a part to play in making sure awareness of this issue is maintained.

"It's consistent messages all the way through all agencies, not just police, but our education, our health, we've all got to come together and we've all got a part to play."

She applauded New Zealand police for all their work since the release of the report, but said the work can't stop now.

"Police are so much better at investigating themselves which they have to do, and to a point where faith has been restored in that area alone, and that's huge."

"They can't take their foot off the accelerator, they've got to keep moving forward and keep making the changes when need be, for the benefit for not only themselves, but for society, for us all."

Throughout the past decade, police's Inquiry progress has been overseen by the State Service Commission and the Office of the Auditor- General.

A final performance audit of the police's efforts is expected to be conducted later this year.