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

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Posted: 13 Apr 2014

I was incarcerated in a health camp, probably Otaki during the Christmas and New Year of 1965/66. I should not have been there. I was five when I arrived, but mum had been carted off to the Tokanui Psychiatric Hospital and my father was not able to look after my younger brother and I My younger brother I believe stayed with relatives and my baby brother was placed in the Karitane baby's hospital in Wellington.
My father tricked me into getting into the car, that morning, we drove out to a bakery we often went to and he bought me two of my favourite fruit buns with pink icing. I ate one as we drove to a supermarket car park and saved the other for later.
When we arrived at the carpark, there was a bus there and a crowd of kids who he told me were going off to health camp. Then he asked if I would like to go to health camp. My answer was no way. I was dragged kicking and screaming onto the bus and cried all the way to health camp.
My clothes were forgotten in all the confusion, I believe dad had some in the boot of the car for me and when I spent the whole six weeks wearing ill fitting lost property and clothes that the nurses provided.
It gets worse; I was molested for my birthday and molested for Christmas. The nurse and the Sister, whose names I remember, but will not disclose here, threatened me with hidings and paid special attention to my genitals and the interior of my anus when I was washed by them. I was always showered alone. The other , older boys in my dormitory would go off to the showers first and then I would be taken when they returned, wearing their pyjamas. I was sodomised. Impure and simple, by adults who the state and my father trusted.
I had my two front teeth accidentally knocked out by a swing, at some stage and it was the worst six weeks of my life.
To add to the psychological abuse I suffered, I was not told why I was there, how long I was going to be there, nor whether I would ever see my family again. I felt like I had just been dumped there like a little piece of unwanted rubbish.
My family left New Zealand in 1973 and I have never returned. I have no desire ever to return. Any country and government that can sanction child abuse of such a degree, doesn't belong on this planet.
I have had many ups and downs in my life, but nothing even comes close to the dark days I suffered in that Concentration Camp.
I was scarred for life. The pain is still there, until this day.


Posted: 14 Dec 2013

i went here when i was a child now only in my mid 20s i have some memory of my time there it was hell no place for anyone i was put on a plane one day shipped off and from the moment i got there was bulled i remember running away a bring brought back don't think i got to far

Not skinny now

Posted: 29 Oct 2013

I was around age 8 or 9 when sent to the Otaki Health Camp, along with my oldest sister. I don't know who was responsible for sending us there but remember being told it was because we were too skinny (same as previous poster). I spent an extra week there due to contracting Mumps a day or two before we were due to be sent home. I remember being very homesick and crying in the first few weeks. It was run like a military academy - except we were just kids.

I have been trying to get copies of my records, both the case file and the educational file.

The Ministry of Education in Wellington did answer my letter and I think I will be able to get copies of my education file. But, it is the case file that I really want to get a copy of and the Corporate Records Manager, Ministry of Health, P.O. Box 5013, Wellington, has not replied to my letter. Probably just tossed it away. It is my file and I have a right to view it. I doubt that it is going to happen though without hiring a lawyer or flying back to NZ to deal with it in person.

Wayne Rex Burley

Posted: 14 Jan 2013

Oh what a horrible place the Otaki Health Camp was. I was born in Upper Hutt in 1948 and attended Silverstream School. When I was about 7 years old a woman from the dept. of health came to school ( she looked like the flying Nun). She told me I was too skinny and looked under nourished. A few weeks later I was put on a bus from Senio Road Trentham and sent to that rotten place in Otaki. I came to hate this place, was treated badly, was so homesick. every day we had to endure cod liver oil liquid, were disciplined, endured afternoon sleeps in that dormitory. I hated this place I ran away twice, only to be brought back again kicking and screaming!
If those in charge thought they did good then they were wrong. My mother was wrong to allow me to be taken away. To this day I still recount the most unpleasant times I had at this institution.
Now in early retirement and living in Perth, Western Australia I often reflect how cruel the "do goddess were" and that this place of evil still exists.
Shame on those who thought they knew best, shame on my Mother for going along with the "flying Nun".
Some may think this is a rant, but some who attended that 6 week hell-hole may also have similar views.
Still today, when I tell of my experience at Otaki Health Camp ( and I recall vividly) people are unbelieving.
I have much much more to reveal about what happened to me there.

Wayne Burley
Ravenswood. Perth WA 6208.