Otaki health camp, 1940s

The dining room of the Otaki Health Camp in the 1940s.

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24 comments have been posted about Otaki health camp, 1940s

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David Ross BARNES. BORN 28 / 08 /1939. WANGANUI. NZ

Posted: 08 May 2020

I attended Otaki twice in the early Fortys, .Fortunatly,I went with my Sister, M Lois Barnes/
and I was allowed to Sleep with Her, Both then and Latter it Wanganui Orphanage . Twice.
I made a lot of Friends Even though I was away from Home for variously reasons.Polio etcI got used to it.
Even Got to like the Cod-liver Oil. Started to go back for More. Hard to Believe, Eh?
The Staff Were o.k..Iteamed up with a mate, 7 we used to go along the beach to the shops for some lollies.Seems strange, that here with since 2002. Virus, and having to be separated from Homes.


Posted: 24 Apr 2020

I was sent to Roxburgh Health Camp in early 1977 when i was 6 years old.
I knew why i was at the camp , it was to help my parents after i had a head injury that effected my learning and behavior.
I can remember the first day at school there , the teachers were a married couple and they were very nasty. We would get humiliated in front the class if we couldn't read or write in a timely manner.
I was locked in a small dark cupboard for not being able to read from a book in front of the class and this would carry on until i could do so. Being in that cupboard in the dark still haunts me to this day. The teachers there would call us dumb , stupid and many other hurtful names.
We were threatened by the teachers , that if we said anything to anyone about what had happened in school that we would get worse than what we had been getting. This scared many of us and nothing was ever said until later in life.
Night time in the dorms became scary sometimes , as you would hear a different kid being woken and taken out of the dorm to the TV room on different nights. It wasn't long before it was my turn to go to the TV room. The staff member began asking questions and if it wasn't for me saying my surname and that i had family who lived in Roxburgh , i don't know what would of happened.
Many of the kids in the dorm became like zombies.
Some of us tried to tell staff of what was going on , but because all we were to them were kids with problems.
Don't get me wrong there were some good times at the Health Camp , but when you think of those good memories , the bad memories seem to take over.

Scared 3 x

Posted: 11 Nov 2019

I went to Otaki health camp 2 maybe 3 as a child. I hated it. I was home sick crying all the time. I had to wear shoes that were to tight. My feet had blisters all over them. I remember nurses smacking us around the heads with their jandals. One boy got repeatedly kicked up the bum in front of us all. I remember. On the first day I arrived I was made to strip to singlet and undies. My hair was check for nits and a doctor looked at us all lined up. He even looked down our pants. I also remember when there was no hot water and we were made to go for a swim in the middle of winter in the nude. Both boys and girls we were all shivering. I remember as punishment for not making my bed right. Was doing nude press UPS on the floor of the dorm room. I remember the nurses standing over the shower room looking down at us showering. And making rude humiliating comments about our body parts. I hated health camp. I still hate the place to this day. It was like a military camp ..

Casey Hamblin

Posted: 22 Jul 2019

I went to this health camp twice during the 90s and absolutely loved it. I still look back on my time there with fond memories. I was probably pretty naughty but I still had an amazing time. I remember being so excited when I was told I was returning for a second time!
I’m sad to read it’s been closed for a lack of funding. That is a true loss to the nation.

Otaki Health Camp 1986 & 1988

Posted: 14 May 2019

I was sent to Otaki Health Camp twice in the 1980's I think I was 7 and 9 years old then. I was your typical Porirua ward of the state, getting into trouble and wagging school, that's why I was sent there.

I had lots of fun there. I remember we use to go into the forest or where the pine trees where at night and look for Hobbits. Pine cones will fall from the trees and all us kids will think it's the Hobbits and the staff use to play along.

Reading some of the other comments, I will say that some of the staff may have been a little hard, or strict, but in all honesty; looking back. I was a very out of control kid I was ruthless and i know I gave them a challenge. I was always fighting against authority.

I remember having lots of fun on the BMX's and causing a ruckus at dinner time when I had to wait for my food.

Today, I look back and think it was a real positive thing for wayward kids..


Posted: 14 May 2019

i was sent to Otaki health camp twice when I was a kid.. I went because I was always wagging school. Enjoyed it thou. I can remember I featured in a Camp production called Harry Hazard. I would like to see it now, be a laugh..

Fiona megan baker

Posted: 25 Sep 2018

My name is Fiona Megan Baker, my parents sent me here when i was very young. I remember some things well such as receiving letters from my family Picking clothes off a rack. I think we had a house matron I loved it. I am now 51. Years young. I was born araparaumu 1967, we left when i was standard 3. Anyway i loved it there


Posted: 31 Dec 2017

I also went to Otaki Health Camp in 1955 as my mother was told I was underweight. Unfortunately I think now she was bullied into sending me, I returned home three months later thinner than when I first went. My memories are being cold as I went in April, froze in bed at night and one night I peed myself just to warm up. Couple of hours later I woke up making a racket as I was so cold. The food couldn't have been that good, I can't remember it. Do remember the cod liver oil, tablespoon every day as I could not take the tablets. Polio went through the camp and some children got very sick or died. Felt more like a prison not a home. I did ring the camp a year or so ago for my records and they said they were burnt, did not keep any records, now having read what some of the other children suffered, maybe it was the senior staff/management way of keeping the truth hidden.


Posted: 05 May 2017

I was sent to the roxburgh health camp in the late 70,s for reasons I have still to know.
The abuse at the camp was horrific, sexual and physical.
I remember asking the teacher at school one day why I was there and he replied because you cant read.
I answered yes I can started to read from the book in front of me.
This sent him into a rage.
he picked me up by the throat and shoved me into a small cupboard only 2feet by 2 feet and that's where I spent the day locked inside of it balling my eyes out.
This then became a regular occurrence.
I thought about running away but when another boy did run away he was caught by the police and brought back to the camp only to be severely beaten by the woman that was in charge.
He ended up in hospital and I never saw him again. Ill never forget his screams begging her to stop until he went silent.
That changed my mind about running away.
Another time we where in the craft room being looked after by a rather overweight nurse who when she went to sit down broke the chair, I few of us laughed.
she calmly stood up, locked the door and then continued to punch and kick us and even used a length of wood to hit us with.
sometimes at night you could hear a girl screaming from the girls dorm and she always looked very frightened, I often wondered what was happening to her.
I did tell my parents about the place about 20 years later and my father was very upset to hear what went on there.
To this day I have always maintained if I ever run into some of the staff that worked there back then they would get their dues that they deserve.


Posted: 16 Nov 2016

I was 7 years old when I attended the Otaki Children's Health Camp in 1956. My physical stature made me a prime candidate for the camp as I was very, very skinny and my Dad was adamant that I should attend. I went willingly and treated the prospect as a holiday adventure.

Perhaps life would be very different for me today if I, like others I have read about, had come away from the institution with nightmarish recollections of the six weeks spent at Otaki - but that was not the case for me. I left with fond, pleasurable memories of my experiences there.

I arrived at Otaki Children’s Health Camp as a happy, sociable lad and arrived back home apparently much the same person perhaps with a healthier complexion. As a 7-year old I may have been aware at some level, but my parents certainly did not detect the changes that had occurred in me. In reality I came home highly sexualized with inappropriate views about relationships. In particular, wash time and bedtime experiences with two female staff members created distortions that came back to haunt me later in life. It took much time and pain before I could recognize and label the ‘pleasurable’ memories for what they really were - sexual abuse.

I don’t condemn the institution as a whole because there were very helpful and very caring staff who did their best for the children in their care. It is a pity however that the great achievements by the majority may be undermined by a minority of their number.