Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: An open thread while I'm down with #OGB

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  • Sacha, in reply to Richard Grevers,

    I bow to your evidence, sir.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15739 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    There was a ghetto of disabled people at Levin for many decades - up to 800 at its height in the early 1970s from small children upwards. It was called the Kimberley Hospital later Centre and it took until 2006 to close it. I drive past it often and think of those who had no identity or choice in their lives to the extent they had no clothes of their own and were called after the name of their dormitory.

    They were called villas when I grew up there. As a kid I'd read about the likes of Maria Callas living in a "villa" on the riviera and I'd think, gee, I wonder if she gets to share the place with the likes of Bobby and Phyllis, and Gordon with his big bald lightbulb-shaped head. Or Ronald the Downs guy who always wore a cowboy suit with a pair of cap guns. Because there was a time when they had names, and their own clothes, and sometimes rather a lot more. In a society that had always marginalised such people (isn't it remarkable how we built vast "lunatic asylums" such as Seacliff so early in our colonial history), it was the only home they had.

    My parents didn't really want to be psych nurses, but when the state was able to "manpower" you into doing what it deemed best you didn't argue. That's how I ended up being born in Levin, and spending the first seventeen years of my life in a staff house there. It's still standing, you may think nice thoughts on my behalf next time you drive by.

    As an initiative of then health minister Mabel Howard, Levin was conceived as a humanitarian innovation, against substantial opposition. In the context of its time, and certainly compared to conditions at Templeton, where most of the initial inmates were drawn from, it probably was. By the 70s it had fallen under the control of empire-building bureaucrats who moved away from the long-held policy of engagement with the wider world, and who had never soiled their hands by hosing down a rubber bedsheet, let alone deal with such occupational niceties as tapeworm outbreaks, which I understand were once common at Templeton.

    When you can maintain your humanity and passion for reform in the face of such things then you deserve to be remembered. Instead we've chosen the narrative that tends to flatter our own vanity, and we forget that there were people with intentions not unlike our own, whose real reforms were reversed and largely lost. Humanitarian reforms do suffer reversals, it could happen again.

    I'd like to say something brief about Brian. My mother was fond of him when he was a little boy at Templeton. He grew up at Levin with no known family, and in his early 20s he went out into the world to work as a shepherd about 40 minutes drive away in the Manawatu. He lived alone in a hut on the farm where he worked, as shepherds often do, and he seemed to get a kick out of having visitors. He'd come to our birthday parties with his tape recorder which provided a huge amount of fun, as no-one else had such a wonderful thing. Unfortunately Brian suffered from a congenital condition that affected his appearance, by his mid-20s he'd grown to resemble Clive James. It was a shock when he killed himself, as he'd always been stolidly cheerful. As my mother said, the tragedy was that he would have known what was happening to him.

    It's still a cruel world out there, and we do have a near-forgotten history of caring for the vulnerable. It'd be good if we'd taken the trouble to learn from it, rather than congratulating ourselves on being the first humanitarians in our history. As they say, just sayin'.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    we've chosen the narrative that tends to flatter our own vanity

    Quite. The alternatives can be a tad uncomfortable.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15739 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    And I can safely attest from past experience that expensive - and Socially Darwinistic - preppy colleges are not the right environment for a borderline Aspergian. I got such a hard time that I nearly flunked 7th Form, and a common response at the time was, "you shouldn't take it so seriously." Sounds like the title of an autobiography, methinks?

    It's a sad state of affairs when Social Darwinism has gone from being a dirty word a generation ago, to a national sport today, complete with all the celebritocracy and hooliganism. Apparently Darwin himself didn't believe in applying his theory to the human race, in which case it seems to cross the dividing line between science and ideology.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 3907 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Hebe,

    What about the subversion of New Zealand’s parliamentary system by the both the National and Labour parties refusing to participate in election leaders’ debates with the other parties?

    Our democracy is just fine, Hebe, since we're still going to have free, fair and credible elections regardless. And, honestly, I find it hard to make the case that the television debates add any value whatsoever to the campaign.

    Which doesn't make Key's dreck-i-tude (and Goff's spineless "I will if Key does" waffle) any less annoying.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11617 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    As they say, just sayin’.

    And thank you for doing so. Seems a different kind of 'P.A. Story' is coming out in this thread. FWIW, it's the compassion and empathy inherent in this place that keeps me coming back.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to DexterX,

    I was 17, and what I most remember about the march I went on (the Auckland one - we started from Fowlds Park) is the extreme opposition of my father, who was overseas at the time. He was pretty shitty that 3 of his 5 daughters, and my Mum, were going to do this thing. But my mother was determined, and so that was that. My mental images of that day are: policemen walking alongside us, very peacefully, and then, suddenly being faced with a line of very young, very scared policemen dressed in this very filmic, and frightening looking riot gear. My sister screaming "Your mothers would be ashamed of you." Hearing an older policeman at the back of the frontline saying "Pick your man and down them". Which didn't happen to us, because by that stage it was obvious we weren't going to get through. Maybe others tried, like you Dexter, but I can't be sure about that. After that, my memory fades, and I don't remember what happened but I do remember it was a dreadful time in NZ's history. Where relationships were destroyed, where any conversation boiled down to one thing. Were you for, or against?

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3112 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    After that, my memory fades, and I don't remember what happened but I do remember it was a dreadful time in NZ's history. Where relationships were destroyed, where any conversation boiled down to one thing. Were you for, or against?

    And everyone but John Key can remember the answer.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17967 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Thanks Joe, for a glimpse of the past and a timely reminder. The vanity of assuming we are the first peoples with good intentions (however, ahem, poorly carried out) is blinding as well as self-serving.
    My own experience, as parent of a child with Down syndrome as well as ASD, is that it’s not easy, and can be very isolating. While there are some great support systems in place, the future doesn’t look rosy just at the moment. Could be worse, of course, but certainly not something to get smug about in NZ.
    Best

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1354 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I was 22 I think when it happened, for me it was one of those coming of age things - over the months before the cops had gotten very aggressive and in people's faces, they'd been touring the Dunedin Uni pubs with their new shiny phallic batons carefully displayed.

    I marched every weekend for 3 months through a cold cold winter - we went to the game at Carisbrook (we bought tickets, they couldn't get enough punters and tickets were going cheap - paying $20 was much easier than breaking in through the barbed wire) and smuggled in banners - we all got arrested on the old "breach of the peace" pretext which allowed the cops to drop us in the cells until everything was over without bothering to charge us - they rang our parents (my Mum came out protesting every week after that).

    The next week someone broke into Carisbrook and cut down the goal posts, later that day the march arrived at the gates (seems that same someone had also cut the padlocks) and entered the ground to 'purify it' by burning a rugby ball ....

    We rented moving trucks, filled then full of people and mattresses and left at 2am to drive to Invercargill - we were all a bit scared of the locals and carefully timed our arrival to just after the time they had to be at the game ... we marched without incident and to me it was probably one of the most moving marches I went to - we were joined but a whole bunch of local Maori kids who'd never really had an opportunity to stand up in their community before - we left before the game got out and were followed by the cops all the way back to Dunedin - we weren't allowed to stop, even to pee until we were out of Southland

    On the last day we pulled off probably our biggest operation - by then we'd purged all the undercover cops - and most of the local cops were off to Auckland anyway - people were really angry and wanted to do something - the Dunedin Group split in 3 - one third headed for the airport, followed by the cops, another third headed for Carisbrook again and the final group headed for down town - this had the desired effect and the cop stationed at the Mt Cargill TV transmitter headed off down town - as soon as he was gone a group with a car staged a break down on the cattle stop you had to pass through to get there, jacked their car up and started to change tires ... meanwhile a group who'd hiked up the back from Bethune's Gully broke in and at exactly 2pm turned off the TV transmitter .... oops no rugby on TV .... (and no Sky remember) ... there were angry fans in the streets outside the pubs where they'd gone to watch the game.

    Meanwhile an even braver group drove inland from Timaru to the TV transmitter/microwave relay there and, having synchronised their watches, turned that off at 2pm too .... they hopped back in their car and drove for the cost ... a while later they saw the cops coming in the distance, they turned around and drove the other way so that when the cops passed them they were driving towards the transmitter ....

    (no real damage was done - TV was back on in time to watch what had happened in Auckland on the news - it was also the only day I ever made a 111 call (it was a genuine one))

    At the end of the year there was the election - Dunedin had a history of full political meetings- this was the first time ever that a political leader held a election meeting in the Town Hall that wasn't public - the National Party printed tickets to see Muldoon and handed them out to the faithful - by today's standards they were very simple - simple a piece of yellow cardboard with a unique number on it- remember no laser printers in those days - no desktop publishing - someone realised that you could simply xerox the real tickets and pretty soon bootleg tickets were being handed out at the Cook by the hundreds - with just 12 unique numbers on them - the town hall was overflowing, by the time they realised what was going on it was too late, because the cops new everyone from the tour some of us had to go in in disguise (some went as nuns) - the SIS agent sitting beside me pretending to be one of us was so silly (it was the bomber command mustache that gave him away ...) ... lots of screaming ensued, people were still very angry - and then half way through more than half of the crowd turned their backs on Muldoon and walked out

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 1958 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    My memory of that third test is really quite vague and a bit confused but I have a strong memory (which is not surprising) of a whole bunch of people singing loudly There is No Depression in NZ. Don McGlashan was standing across the road and the crowd were seemingly unaware of the writer. I've never asked him what was going through his head at that moment but often wondered.

    I had the privilege to spent most of an hour with an old buddy of mine, Will Ilolahia, the leader of the Polynesian Panthers, and founding manager of Herbs (it was under his leadership they released the still mighty Whats' Be Happen in 1981) at Radio NZ yesterday.

    Will was one of the leaders of the Patu Squad that day and was arrested shortly afterwards. It was the intervention of Desmond Tutu - who appeared as a witness - that saved him from what was likely to be a severe sentence. He then left NZ for Tonga, saying he would never return. It was only the visit of Nelson Mandela, who asked to meet the Patu Squad, in '96 that bought him back.

    Mandela told him that it was the news of the tour and protests so far away that lifted his spirits whilst in Robben Island and gave him the strength to carry on.

    Will then found it possible to return to New Zealand.

    The full interview is, I think, on RNZ this Saturday. I'm on it too, but the person you really need to hear is Will Ilolahia.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3185 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    So my random memory of the Eden Park protest. I was a student living in a flat across the gully from Eden Park. On weekends I would walk across Bond St to the bakery and buy doughnuts to bring back to the flat for breakfast. At the time I was aware there was a test match on and was planning to watch it on TV. I wasn't opposed to the tour and firmly believed stopping the sport would have no effect on the politics (I was of course wrong). But I also wasn't terribly caught up in the anger of the debate, oh I'd happily argue but I couldn't feel the anger that brought people do violence with each other.

    I vividly remember being more than a little confused as to why, having got up and dressed and somewhat bleary-eyed walked over the bridge, I could not get to my favourite bakery. Some plonker had parked shipping containers across the road??? I'm not sure what the police thought of me as they turned me away, apparently I needed to show them tickets to the game in order to go to the bakery?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3114 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    BTW - one of the more surreal parts of moving back to NZ almost 25 years later was having my kids being taught "the Tour" as history ("what did you do during the tour Daddy?")

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 1958 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    While there are some great support systems in place, the future doesn’t look rosy just at the moment. Could be worse, of course, but certainly not something to get smug about in NZ.

    All the best with that Rob. While it was what my folks did that put me into early contact with people who are different, being involved in raising someone with a supposed disability was a significant part of my later life. For another family member it's a lifelong thing. Fate's funny like that.

    One thing I'm certain of, the importance of personality over so-called intellect can't be underestimated. It's absolutely vital for everyone to have the chance to be themselves.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    Thanks Joe, for a glimpse of the past and a timely reminder. The vanity of assuming we are the first peoples with good intentions (however, ahem, poorly carried out) is blinding as well as self-serving.

    We have one of the most punishing and cynically uncaring systems in the developed world, when it comes to access to services. About this I have no doubt.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7315 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    And everyone but John Key can remember the answer.

    Hey, is it OK if I didn't have any particular views on the Springbok Tour at the time. I am so ashamed of my nine year-old lack of socio-political consciousness. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11617 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Please let this be the only time I am 'like John Key' as I can't recall just what I felt about the tour. I was in my mid-20's, quite keen on rugby and pretty gung-ho about ending racism, but the clincher is that I was working in a bar in Glyfada, just outside Athens and was disengaged from the whole thing.

    Does that make any similarity with our piss-weak PM less cringeworthy?

    Our english-language news was from the US armed-forces paper and a weekly Sunday Telegraph (for the crossword as much as anything), so events around the tour simply passed me by.

    Reflecting on it now I feel conflicted as all hell - I hope that I would have come down on the side of the protestors but it is unlikely I would have been actively involved. It is something that I had to read up on when I returned at teh start of 86.

    Te Ika A Maui - Waitakere… • Since Oct 2008 • 552 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Thanks, Joe, for that perspective.Kimberley is now a huge abandoned site about a kilometre long just past the State Highway One turnoff to Shannon. I'm not sure what era you are talking about but the growth era of our 'mental deficiency colonies' came after the 1953 Aitken report which recommended their expansion and extension, in spite of that being outdated best practice from the WHO, and against the wishes of parent groups (who wanted more community-based support). The role of psychopedic nurse was an NZ invention. Have you read the deinstitutionalisation study by the Donald Beasley Institute. Different perspectives all fascinating: staff, patients and families.

    My interest is mainly in the stories of the residents of such institutions and the families who sometimes found lost family members as they started to close. Spectrum Care's 2010 book "Extraordinary journeys' has the story of one adult who was in Kimberley unkonwn to his large family for many years. When they located him it took them several more years to be allowed to take him home with them. When he finally reconnected with his whanau they put on a big powhiri to welcome him back.

    Institutionalisation of disabled people was all done in the name of policy and with the best of intentions.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 1901 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to DeepRed,

    a borderline Aspergian

    oh go on, commit :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15739 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    Were you for, or against?

    I was approx. -1 at the time. But I remember as a teenager once borrowing my Dad's old oilskin jacket and asking "Where did this paint stain come from?", to be told "Oh, that's whitewash which was thrown on us when we protested against the Tour".

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    Don McGlashan was standing across the road and the crowd were seemingly unaware of the writer.

    Ahem. He composed the music but Richard von Sturmer wrote the famous lyrics.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15739 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    We have one of the most punishing and cynically uncaring systems in the developed world, when it comes to access to services.

    Interesting how easily our politicians can encourage a punitive response from the public that some things are a "lifestyle choice" and that the system's default setting should therefore be distrust.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15739 posts Report Reply

  • merc, in reply to Sacha,

    Their allegiance lies elsewhere.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2468 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I'm not sure what era you are talking about . . .

    I left at the end of 1965. My father worked there until his retirement in about 1978. My memories are from the 50s and 60s.

    Have you read the deinstitutionalisation study by the Donald Beasley Institute. Different perspectives all fascinating: staff, patients and families.

    I've read the material that's on line. You're right, it's certainly fascinating and informative, and gives something of the human perspective. There's also Anne Hunt's The Lost Years, about which the less said . . .

    It's a pity that your interest in the place developed when it did. In the mid-60s you could have wandered in and had a look for yourself, it was pretty open. The biggest risk was getting mistaken for one of theirs and put in line for a bath. It happened to me and my siblings more than once.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to merc,

    Their allegiance lies elsewhere

    The public or the pollies?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15739 posts Report Reply

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