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Access: Some aspects of New Zealand's disability history - part two

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  • Russell Brown,

    In spite of best practice evidence and parental advocacy turning against the institutions, the 1953 report of the National Government’s Consultative Committee, which became known as the Aitken report after the doctor who was chair of the committee, recommended that disabled and mentally ill people be housed in large ‘mental deficiency colonies’ containing several hundred people, and extending current institutions such as those at Levin (Kimberley) and Templeton

    I visited Templeton when I was I was at school in the 70s and it was a strange and challenging place. My memory is of room after room scattered with children with various and apparently undifferentiated disabilities. None of them seemed to be doing much besides existing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Do you remember why you were visiting?

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    There's a Film Unit clip about the Wilson home online here:

    Some of the language they use is harsh to the modern ear.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Russell Brown,

    A couple of years ago Peter and I made a point of driving up to (and through) the gates of the old Pukeora establishment in Hawke Bay.

    Titivate it up all they like, the new owners, the ghosts of past detainees still haunt the place.

    And a few weeks ago we took the back route from Palmerston North through to Levin. I had to slow down to nearly stationery for the sharp bend at the end....and asked Peter what on earth was lurking behind that hedge....hidden, unkempt, gloomy...."That's Kimberly...."

    Enough said.

    These places, should they be bulldozed, erased?

    Or left as reminders of how it was, and how not to do it in the future?

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    There is some controversy going on with the Kimberley site as part of it is going to be respite centre for disabled children. This is causing some concern because of the history of the site including unmarked graves.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    Titivate it up all they like, the new owners, the ghosts of past detainees still haunt the place.

    Funny you should say that. The Amazing Maze 'n Maize is set at the site of Kingseat hospital. I took my kids to the maze recently and was quite astonished at how they'd turned the hospital that my Aunt spent some time at into an object of sinister evil. It was really quite effective, I actually did get rising hackles and shivers as I approached the place, so effectively did the dilapidated and abandoned scene resemble so many horror film locations.

    I think it says a lot about human nature that we make this association, that a site for the disabled is now a theme park where people can be literally chased around by zombies for thrills.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    This is causing some concern because of the history of the site including unmarked graves.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if there are also graves from the time that land was used as a borstal. As part of the ‘State Farm’, some of which was carved off for returned soldier blocks following WW1, the various incarnations of the ‘Kimberley Centre’ were among the many uses that land was put to.

    A Horticultural Research Centre immediately across the road was started up at the same time as the Kimberley Centre, using structures from the WW2 Air Force training base. On some days the spray drift was clearly visible. From helping my mother with her cleaning job in their office block I remember the posters for Shell chemicals such as Endrin, Eldrin and Dieldrin, all long since banned for their proven toxicity. It was only years later that I discovered that my own mother suffered two miscarriages. The wife of one of the research scientists who lived on site was supposed to have endured three.

    Of course no-one made the connection back then. During the strawberry picking season I was happy to be promoted to spraying Dieldrin for red mite because it paid better and I didn’t have to stoop. I must have swallowed heaps of the stuff that blew back onto my face and trickled down behind my hot sweaty mask.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Do you remember why you were visiting?

    It was at the end of the sixth form and five of us had somehow wound up on a committee tasked with exploring potential recipients of the school's fundraising efforts. The whole process was educational.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    These places, should they be bulldozed, erased?

    I think they should be remembered, but I'm not entirely sure that what they've done with Kingseat isn't incredibly tasteless. My aunt received care there, and no one ever actually had their brains eaten. But it is being actively used, and the history is there for people to partake of if they care to, and the site is quite popular, so I just don't know, in the end.

    When it was closed down, her continual stream of relocations only continued. Dad read out parts of a letter he wrote to the Ministry urging them not to shut down the place she was in care in towards the end of her life (she died this year), and it was an absolute litany of a person being jerked around as if they have no rights at all, from start to finish. The number of times she'd been uprooted just when she was settling in to a new home went on for pages. As a result of the letter, they kept the last place going, thankfully.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    a site for the disabled is now a theme park where people can be literally chased around by zombies for thrills

    if only they'd monetised it earlier..
    :(

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Socially concerned even as a young person. Not surprising.

    Many of the Templeton residents transferred to Brackenridge when Templeton closed and it opened but that facility was in the news last year. Some aspects problematic.
    Re recycled institutions: I think there is a plaque at AUT? commemorating its earlier use as Oakley. And Mangere is now depressing private housing for desperate and poor people – that has also made the news from time to time.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Porirua has kept a a little of its history

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to BenWilson,

    and it was an absolute litany of a person being jerked around as if they have no rights at all, from start to finish. The number of times she’d been uprooted just when she was settling in to a new home went on for pages.

    It would be interesting to read these accounts...of individuals and families writing missives to Those In Charge to effect, if not change, better and fairer access to supports.

    Even more interesting would be the responses from TIC...if any.

    Sincerely hoping your Aunt rests in peace.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    Sincerely hoping your Aunt rests in peace.

    Thank you. We'll be putting her ashes with her parents soon, just across the road from where I last took her to lunch at Palmers. But I think of her as at rest now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald,

    The question of how to accommodate those who are unable to live independantly....for whatever reason...is complicated.

    So often we see knee jerk reactions to reports of neglect, abuse and generally miserable living conditions. We close down the 'institutions' and chuck the baby out with the bath water.

    Factions develop, with one side demanding that all people with disabilities should be living fulltime in the midst of mainstream communities...in the city....and not hidden away, while the other side claims that actually, living in a quiet, rural environment would be great.

    I have seen both sides of this....in the mental health sector, the disability sector and in the child protection arena.

    Horror stories abound from Porirua, Kingseat and Tokanui, yet back in the early eighties the 'halfway house' I worked in during the early eighties had a couple of residents who preferred to be in Tokanui. Why? Because there was no expectation on them to behave 'normally' in that environment. Not that these residents were particularly 'different' (we had far more unwell residents who were happy as Larry being out in the community), it was simply that the world affected them too deeply.

    So now we have a 'choice' between poorly resourced community care and voluntary/compulsory care in inner city acute units. Perhaps one day we will see a couple of units being set up in the quiet of the countryside...properly run this time...for those who simply do not fit into this current system.

    Fast forward to the early 2000s and Peter and I are offering emergency foster care for CYFs and respite care through CCS Disability Action.

    The same issues.

    No, we do not want to go back to the likes of Kimberly and Templeton...the overcrowding and neglect and abuse. Of course living in the community is better. But, there are times when having some sort of ' facility' where children can go and stay for respite where they will be safe and well cared for would be useful. We cared for a number of disabled children whose families seriously needed a break...but there were a few requests we simply had to turn down. These were kids who were seriously violent, and/or were habitual bolters. We simply could not keep them (or our own children) safe....no matter what ' managing difficult behavious' tactics we employed. Our puny farm fences and gates were simply inadequate to constrain a child hell bent on taking off. We had a few foster children...very young ones...who came into this category. We felt terribly guilty having to reject these children (and their parents) but we knew we could not provide the care these children deserved.

    There simply are not enough private foster homes available for these children....with foster parents with the right skills to care for them. More often than not, it would be unsafe to expect one couple to care for these kids 24/7. The support that foster parents get from CYFs is often inadequate. The supports for parents of children with high needs is woeful.

    "Homes" do not have to be some Dickensian nightmare. Surely it is possible, with the benefit of history and hindsight, to have establishments where care can be provided in a safe and loving, but professional environment?

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    “Homes” do not have to be some Dickensian nightmare. Surely it is possible, with the benefit of history and hindsight, to have establishments where care can be provided in a safe and loving, but professional environment?

    It takes strong oversight arrangements to keep things on track.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • daleaway,

    Happily off topic.
    I'm intrigued by the IHC kiddies on the roundabout. I swung on that very roundabout many times in the 1950s but did not know of any IHC facility in the neighbourhood.

    In those days the Basin Reserve was closely ringed by schools - primaries Mt Cook (new buildings), St Joseph's (now defunct), St Mark's, and Clyde Quay School was relocated to the old Mt Cook school buildings after earthquake damage (1954-56). Secondaries included St Pat's (now relocated to Kilbirnie), Wellington Tech, and Wellington College, with Wellington East Girl's' nearby just above the Mt Vic tunnel.

    None of those inner-city schools had decent grounds or playing fields except for Wellington College, for obvious reasons, so these tiny play areas got a lot of use.

    Oh, and the Boys' Institute was just behind the Basin.

    That double-fronted building on the right in the photo was where Millwood Press was later located.

    Since Jul 2007 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to daleaway,

    In about 1950 the parents of children with intellectual disability won the right to use a couple of rooms in the old Basin Reserve stand as a temporary educational facility (although it probably wasn't really a school as such). After a long battle in 1949-50 they had their request for their preferred site in Oriental Parade turned down, but with the help of local MP Peter Fraser (just before he died) they got the use of the Basin Reserve rooms. It apparently took a lot of effort by the parents to clean it up and make it a usable space. They then bought a section in Coromandel Street Newtown and built their own place so the Basin Reserve was only a short term site. At that time education for children with ID wasn't seen as necessary. Those stroppy parents who founded the IHC had to do a lot of fighting and lobbying.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    And a few weeks ago we took the back route from Palmerston North through to Levin. I had to slow down to nearly stationery for the sharp bend at the end….and asked Peter what on earth was lurking behind that hedge….hidden, unkempt, gloomy…."That’s Kimberly….”

    Enough said.

    While I can understand your feelings, I'm not connecting with your geography. The chunk of the old State Farm once occupied by the dreaded Kimberley stretches for close to a kilometer along a dead straight stretch of Kimberley Road, but there are no bends, sharp or otherwise, on or anywhere close to Kimberley proper.

    These places, should they be bulldozed, erased?

    Six years ago what was left of Kimberley appeared to be securely mothballed, with a pair of bored guards who were keen to talk at the main entrance, but strictly no admittance. When I last visited there in December 2012 they were gone. An access road had been bulldozed past the old main entrance leading to some kind of market gardening activity.

    There was a big heap of Roundup containers in the field next to the recently demolished staff house where I spent my first 17 years. Even the pohutukawa my mother planted the year I was born appeared to have been blown over. I didn't want to venture too far in, as the few weatherboard buildings still standing were in bad shape. Like Shelly Bay the place was once an Air Force facility, and the peeling weatherboard atmosphere was very similar.

    I'd imagine that the later structures are in better nick, but the sheer room for expansion that the place offered only seemed to encourage empire building.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    This young Australian man was in supported residential care. But staff couldn't cope (not properly resourced, trained etc), called the police and he ended up shackled to a hospital bed and heavily drugged including for his 21st birthday. Ok he wasn't in an institution but the attitudes sound similar (stories of restraint and drugs are very common in institutional care). His parents set up a petition and with the help of the new Labour government in Victoria seem to have some solution. But parental lobbying very much still required. I don't think big institutions would be any sort of improvement.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Kimberley site was sold a few months ago (apparently the DHB sold it very cheaply), numerous trees now cut down, some of the old buildings seem to have disappeared and new ones appearing. Rumour is that it is going to be some kind of gated older people's community, with a respite facility for kids at one end of the site. I drive past regularly and lots of change happening now after years of inaction and decay.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Highway 57 turns very sharply to the right on the final appraoch into Levin. Arapaepae Road becomes Kimberly Road at this bend. About a hundred metres or so past that bend is the entrance to Kimberly.

    In a car....might not be noticed. In our Bus, however....takes about 100meters or so to get back up to speed. We tend to see a lot more detail travelling at 90km or less!

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Thanks Hilary, really appreciate the update. For good or ill that place shaped me.

    About work conditions for the disabled - with the kind of import restrictions in place in the 50s and 60s Levin was then a booming small manufacturing centre, which promised a good fit with the impetus back then to make useful citizens of the disabled. My mother encouraged my brother and me to drop in on two of her favourites, who she'd known as boys from her time nursing at Templeton.

    They lived in a very basic staff house at Ashley wallpapers, and having visitors was probably meant to encourage their attempts at domesticity. While I have no idea how fairly they were treated in their employment they seemed to manage well enough. The only issue for me was their insistence on our listening to both sides of their one and only LP, which featured "Holland's most famous barrel organ".

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    ".... to insufficient space inside and outside for James to be able to release his energy when stressed. "

    Thats along the lines of what I was trying to say....more space, more room, to roam safely. Hard to do in town, on a small section.

    I am certainly not suggesting the return of the big institutions....just some happy medium between that and the pressure cooker environments of small institutions.

    And higher staff to client ratios.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    Highway 57 turns very sharply to the right on the final appraoch into Levin. Arapaepae Road becomes Kimberly Road at this bend.

    Arapaepae carries on beyond Kimberley in my recollection, but I understand your direction now, thanks :)

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

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