Otaki health camp, 1940s

Otaki health camp, 1940s

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

Content warning: Comments on this article contain mentions of abuse.

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

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Helen B

Posted: 26 May 2022

My sister and I were sent to Otaki Health Camp in 1973. We were there for 6 weeks and I hated it.
The dorms were cold and sparse, and even though it was winter, we only had one blanket each.
The food was horrible. I remember being forced to eat Junkett on a Sunday night as a "treat", this junkett was loaded with nutmeg - to this day I can not stomach the smell or taste of nutmeg.
Even though we were sent with toothpaste, by the third week we were brushing our teeth with baking soda.
The only good thing I remember is walks to the beach and picking up pumice.
To this day, I think of the place more as an orphanage than a health camp.


Posted: 25 Aug 2021

When I was 7 and 9 years old I went to Otaki health camp in the 90s twice for 6 weeks at a time I hated the place I was made to sleep in the girls as the boys dorm was full on Both stays. I have a sleeping disorder that causes me to rock in my sleep I was punished for this every night. By a manly looking women and she would kick me in my private parts while no one was watching. I was so scared I wouldn't sleep due some night in fear of Rocking in my sleep. I tried to run away onces a didn't know my way so I climbed on top of the class room roof and sat up there all day I could hear her looking for me and calling with threats I came down at as it was getting dark she found me out on this round stage thing out toward the pines and beat me with a shoe I was then kick up the bum when I got back to the girls dorm in front of every body also they all Lough at me I snapped got mad and pulled her hair and ran down the hall way towards the room we all eat in she chased me there I was kicked in the private parts so hard I needed stichers. I was then put in a little room after a nurse fixed my testies. I told the nurse she didn't care at all was told to not speak of it. they called this little room I was put in safe room for the night. Woke as I rocked in my sleep in the morning the rocking loosened the stichers. I still have scares today one testie is deformed now I wish I could remember the names of this Manly looking half cast lady and her husband with the pony tile so I can dish her the pain I went thru I felt targeted because I was different I still have a sleeping disorder to day these people need to be held accountable for what happened to me. I feel but after reading some of these posts i feel sick to the core you poor people went though so much

Rena MacLeod

Posted: 10 Dec 2020

I did time at Otaki Health Camp in 1953. It is staggering to think they got away with subjecting children to such a traumatic experience. I recall a militant environment, forced afternoon naps, and fearing deeply one of the matrons who was prone to lashing out at kids who put a foot wrong. I remember kids, deemed to have misbehaved, getting lined up, chastised and belted with a leather strap in front of the others. Even a child who had wet the bed was disciplined in like manner. My parents had sent me some sweets, but this was intercepted, and my parcel was communally distributed. I was 7 years old, homesick, utterly miserable and scared, and I didn't even know why I was there. I remember a kindly fellow who took us pine-cone picking in the forest, but this camp experience overall was profoundly cruel - abuse by any other name, despite the intentions behind it. The best part of the two months of hell was finally getting out. I was 3 stone 4lbs when I was incarcerated, and 3 stone 11lbs on release - minimal gain for a lifetime of having to block out the memories.

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