Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Fringe of Darkness

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  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    environments for acting on their paedophilia, so would have instantly recognised communes as easy pickings.

    And then, how many cults and communes are there of this nature?

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    And then, how many cults and communes are there of this nature?

    Comparing the TVNZ doco on Centrepoint – and the more recent doco on Gloriavale (although both lead by convicted paedophiles) there seem to be significant differences. In particular Gloriavale seems to provide separate accommodation for individual family units, whereas Centrepoint was a far more ‘poor’ commune and thus did not have the infrastructure to do that (bearing in mind that new social benefits, such as Working for Families, did not exist in the Centrepoint days).

    That said though, a lot of similarities as well – such as a small contingent of senior, older members being given this sort of ‘leader protector’ type role and the emphasis/drive for younger members to procreate (discouragement of family planning/birth control). Both places I imagine have/had birth rates way in excess of the wider population.

    Also worth noting that both profess/ed to be religiously-based communal places - charity status et.al.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    And as often as history shows, excommunication. If everything is strawberry pie, why cant those that leave say anything about the places they come from. The leavers at Gloriavale all seem deeply upset.
    Also back in my youth, 60's 70's, peace love dope, "poor" was acceptable. Hippies joined forces. I know my parents had to, to make their business work. A combined effort allowed many to flourish. Today that business still exists and, mum gone, dad is still a hero in his field.
    I also know now the freedom they experienced and sexually, and more so, family in the States really did have a freedom sexually. I am happy that my life has been what it is. So where is the line? the line is kids. Kids get to choose when they want to investigate their sexuality. Parents don't get to decide. Even if they think they should or can, kids will find their own moment.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen,

    Reading the post and the comments in this thread is hard. What is clear is that some really abhorrent acts were carried out in CP, with the passive and active support of many of the members.

    I was extremely discomforted by the jump to blaming the mothers, it felt a lot like victim blaming, gender specific victim blaming.

    One thing that strikes me about CP is that it is very much the same as many many other cults. One or more very strong personalities leading a group of people into bahaviour that society find intolerable. From the outside it is extremely hard to understand how those in the cult could either participate in or accept the abhorrent acts.

    Yet such cults occur again and again. It does no good to blame the cult members who allowed this to happen. The point is that it's pretty clear that for some people the need to be led/guided allows evil people to abuse that need. It does no good to ask "how could they let themselves be fooled?", the fact is that again and again through history (recent and deep history) people are led into evil behaviour.

    What can be done is to recognise that this shit does happen and the key to limiting the damage is to actually respond promptly and thoroughly into the warning signs that a cult group is doing harm. For CP the reports and warning signs were there long before the police finally stepped in.

    There are freedoms and rights in play here that deserve protection but hiding behind those rights to harm children should not be allowed to happen as often as it does.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Anke Richter,

    Apologies for the long silence – I have been away. A lot has come up in those last days that I’d like to reply to. Will try and sum it up. Emma has already done a great job.
    1.The mothers/women at CP: There were many predatory women at Centrepoint. And that’s a loaded label alread and doesn’t do everyone’s experience justice, as there were also teenage boys who seemed happy to have relationships with older women and had no regrets, like Angie’s brother Karlos Meiklejohn. It’s a grey area. There were also boys who were sexually abused by women (and might have only realised that later on in life, not at the time) but no charges could be laid because that wasn’t a “sex crime” at the time. The law has since changed. Most of those women were mothers themselves but didn’t necessarily abuse their own children. I think it’s safe to say that many of them were not paedophiles as such. I am reluctant to get deeper into the paedophilia subject because it brings up all the complex questions around this topic which lead to knee-jerk reactions. And because they’re so complex and I have no easy answers to them, I had to stop the book. So whatever I add here would be inadequate.
    2. Angie is doing fine and has fully recovered. She had her surgery in the end. She is an amazing woman who will go on doing more for those who want to heal their CP past. I am sure she appreciates feedback via the email at the end of my story.
    3. The “wanking comment” guy: Yes, the police had been notified by the parents and are aware of him. My article only has 6000 words, my manuscript already had 80,000, and yet that didn’t even cover all that I knew and have unearthed. I could only give little glimpses of my research as to not overwhelm the reader.
    4. Hippies? No, CP wasn’t a hippie commune to start with – it was very middle-class, and its founding members were doctors, psychologists, lawyers. They weren’t “eco” or green either, not even in later years when that was the way of most alternative communities. Many people ended up at CP because they were in need of therapy and couldn’t cope – like Angie’s mum, who was undiagnosed bipolar. Or Louise’s mum, who was suicidal. Many others were curious about the new-agey therapies coming from Esalen and Poona where Bert Potter had studied. And about the sexual exploration the workshops offered. Back in those days, most counselling was only available through the churches.
    5. Gloriavale: Yes, many similarities indeed. In fact, Barri Leslie – the brave older woman in my story who fought so hard to shut CP down – made me aware of Gloriavale and the sexual abuse there early in my research. When those who left Gloriavale told how they found it hard to cope on the outside - not being used to doing mundane practical things by themselves, like shopping or opening a bank account - I was also reminded of Barri and Louise's accounts of how they struggled after they left CP. And how they had been told on the inside how hostile and screwed up the outside is - and then found it to be exactly the other way around. The family sleeping quarters at Gloriavale also make it more common for children to witness their parents having sex. And there is/was this similar emphasis on the women being there for the men to procreate and fulfill their desire.
    CP was a patriarchal place in that way, although quite a few women told me how much sexual freedom it gave them and that they didn't have to hide their libido but could come on to the men - quite different to what they had experienced in normal society, and therefore liberating for some.

    Lyttelton • Since May 2007 • 25 posts Report

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to Anke Richter,

    Hippies? No, CP wasn’t a hippie commune to start with – it was very middle-class, and its founding members were doctors, psychologists, lawyers.

    Well, you would know better than I, but I wonder if your idea of what a hippy is is the same as mine? The people on my commune were pretty middle-class in origin too. The paedophile was a doctor. Other commune members were teachers, academics, as well as builders and so forth. But they were still hippies, because being a hippy was about outlook, attitude and aesthetics rather than profession or origin.

    As far as I recall, some people on my commune knew people at Centrepoint - I think I visited there once, but possibly later, in the early 1980s. When I see photos from Centrepoint in the 1970s, and even the 1980s, I see people with a hippy aesthetic. There was acceptance of psychedelic drug use, encouragement of sexual experimentation and multiple partners, and "new agey therapies". And it was a commune at a time when, except for fundamentalist Christian communities, there was pretty much no such thing as a commune that wasn't a hippy commune by NZ definitions, because the decision to live communally is a hippy decision. That all says hippy pretty firmly to me.

    Ultimately, though, the "hippy" label isn't really important. I could rephrase my earlier comment to just say "commune" rather than "hippy commune"; and "peace and love" or "escape and understanding" rather than "flowers and love" and the point would remain.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 585 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald,

    FWIW...the impression I got of the "hippy movement" (with some peripheral family involvement) was that there were few or no 'rules' per se. Necessary decisions were supposed to be by general consensus. There was not supposed to be anyone 'in charge'. Folk did their own thing...man.

    No so with CP. Bert was the Boss...

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    the decision to live communally is a hippy decision.

    Interestingly, that TVNZ doco gives some insight into this hippy or not question. I only watched it once (warning there for others as it is quite disturbing) but my overall impression was that, aside from what are likely the older/original members (i.e., the not-of-hippy-generation) – many of which were those charged and convicted of child sexual abuse – the other residents only discussed the communal aspects of living there in either a reluctant (not-so-sure) or negative sense.

    They had one whole community meeting where the guy doing the laundry for the community didn’t like his assigned job. He was critical of all the waste associated with the over use of clothing by some members. So a volunteer was sought to take this work over. No volunteers. So it was then put to the community that perhaps there could be found a volunteer to just give the guy a short break/holiday from that work. No takers. So it was put to the group that maybe more than one person was needed to do the job on a full time basis – any volunteers to job-share? Nope. So they talked about it for another two hours .. and in the end they decided that for a period no one would do the laundry for everyone and they would see how that went.

    All I could think was that the reason this community was so dysfunctional was because it was never conceived/developed by Bert Potter and his cohorts with a hippy intention or ethic. The property was purchased as a vehicle – a means to an end – and that end was sexual predation.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to ,

    I would be happy to write a thousand words.

    I'd be very interested. Grew up in the States during the 60's and so it would be really interesting to get an outside US take on it. I was less interested/exposed to the hippy movement and more a part of the civil rights movement (although of course many hippies were involved in that as well). What surprised me about NZ, was I married a NZer and moved here in 1978. My partner is 7 years older than me - so right in that 18 yo 'sweet spot' the year Woodstock happened. He wasn't at all involved in the hippy movement here, but boy did he know the music - far, far better than me.

    Whereas Elvis Presley's In the Ghetto had deep, personal meaning for me - he, for example introduced me to all the lesser known Joan Baez songs like With God on Our Side. He seemed to have an amazing insight into the US foreign policy issues of the time, whereas having lived there I was far more attuned to the US domestic struggles.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie,

    According to John Potter's creepy apologist piece for his father, Bert Potter spent time at the self-proclaimed guru Bhagwan Sri Rajneesh's "ashram" in Poona, India. Like Rajneesh, Potter's appeal appeared to be to those of a certain generation who, for whatever reasons, had held back from joining the cultural revolution of their youth.

    Becoming a sanyasin, or joining Centrepoint, seemed to offer a packaged version of a second chance, with the guru, in return for total obedience to their teachings, underwriting the risks that had deterred faint-hearted prospective hippies the first time around. All they had to do was surrender responsibility for their own lives.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    FWIW…the impression I got of the “hippy movement” (with some peripheral family involvement) was that there were few or no ‘rules’ per se. Necessary decisions were supposed to be by general consensus. There was not supposed to be anyone ‘in charge’. Folk did their own thing…man.

    No so with CP. Bert was the Boss…

    I think that was usually true in NZ. But overseas I get the sense there were a good few hippy communes set up round a charismatic central individual. And I also think that in NZ although that was what was “supposed” to happen, there were still individuals around who liked to hope that their own charisma would just naturally make people follow them anyway.

    As for Bert being the Boss. Yes, he was in practice, but (genuine question) was he also in theory? i.e. is that what people were told when they turned up? ETA, Oh, I see that has been answered while I was typing.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 585 posts Report

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to ,

    Yes, the US history is fascinating. And the NZ history of the environmental movement is a specialist area of interest to me. I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to teach just a small slice of that history to CoS undergrads at Massey.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 798 posts Report

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to ,

    Some of the Great Barrier land coopratives fell over, because democracy doesn’t always workout.

    Indeed. My own commune had (has?) a long-term feud between different groups. Now being a shareholder, trying to maintain good relationships with all parties can be exhausting. But the land remains.

    But that's a digression.

    Having a benign leader can indeed be a good thing. The tricky part is working out whether or not someone is benign.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 585 posts Report

  • Rob Stowell,

    There's an over-view of NZ communes at Te ARA.
    When my parents emigrated from the US to NZ (in 1962) we lived for a time at Beeville. Early days for hippies. But hippies come in all shapes and sizes :)
    There's also a 1975 photo-and-essay book on NZ communes called 'A Hard Won Freedom' The view from 1975 was quite different.
    And a (slightly-related) wonderful read is 'The Double Rainbow' which chronicles Baxter's Jerusalem, and the aftermath.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2120 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to ,

    was a state run hippy community. Which was set up by the New Zealand government that was allocating state owned land for hippies to colonize


    To assist people in becoming self-sufficient from the land.
    To enhance people's spiritual and social wellbeing.
    To reconnect people to the land.
    To give people a chance to develop alternative social models.
    To provide a communal environment as a potential antidote "to the ills of modern society[...]" (Hayward 1981 p. 173.)
    The promotion of the virtues of a simpler life (Hayward 1981, p. 173).
    To be a place of healing for participants as well as for society as a whole.[3]

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,


    I remember someone commenting at the time that Kirk's use of the word "kibbutz" when explaining the ohu concept probably helped sell it to the wider electorate. There seemed to be an awful lot of advertising copywriters around in the 80s who claimed to have been speechwriters for Norman Kirk.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

  • Geoff Lealand, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    There is also some interesting academic writing, such as Olive Jone's 'insider-researcher' PhD at the University of Waikato (2011) and a 2o12 MA from Massey by Robert Jenkin (another 'insider' perspective).

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2562 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen,

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • chris, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    But it was my choice.

    Which is huge, because many justice systems might not agree with you there. In terms of sexual rights, children are basically at slave equivalency, they are dehumanised, wIth no legally meaningful right of consent and in all that gray it’s hardly surprising that adults can be easily swayed to feel fit to decide what is right for a child – a yes is as good as a no, neither are widely recognised as carrying significant (legal) power when coming from a child in a sexual context (in striking contrast to the resounding yes and no a lot of children feel empowered to offer on almost any other issue that affects them).

    Islander went to lengths to draw comparisons with the bonobo, and observation and inference would suggest that these outlying sexual expressions aren’t going anywhere, they are natural social primate practices that puritanical elements in our societies have edged to the outer – facilitating exploitation and abuse.

    What is going to happen for the foreseeable future is that people with pedophiliac tendencies are going to continue to be born, children are going to continue to be denied jurisdiction over their own bodies, shamed (power) and denied the language and knowledge to reliably express themselves on these issues by societies, legal and education systems whose default settings seem to something along the lines of F#&$ the children – no matter how many pedophiles are locked away – that’s what will continue to happen.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    At 13 I wanted to experiment . But it was my choice. That difference is acceptable.

    Also, I don't think I've ever yet come across a 13-year old who wanted to experiment with someone a whole lot older than themselves - let alone some hairy smelly "old" (by 13-year old standards) person. .

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 585 posts Report

  • chris, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    hairy smelly “old”

    When you put it like that I can’t say I’m completely surprised that you haven’t come across any individual who felt confident in negotiating the indignity of admitting that these features might turn them on. Hairy and smelly, like apes. like hirsute humans, a marked departure from anything you’d likely see in a Rexona commercial – nothing a good shower and waxing wouldn’t take care of, after all most of us watched Magnum PI for the car not the lush Hawaiian vegetation.

    In this environment children are muzzled, especially around adults, they are neither encouraged nor allowed to express any sexual preference, so we’re not going to be hearing about that anytime soon. By contrast, many adults seem comfortable admitting it takes all sorts.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Well yes ,I was interested in the spunky slightly older brother of my friend.Seeing him 38 years later was a friendly situation too. That's healthy relations.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report

  • chris, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Sorry for my snark there Lucy, this thread…

    Having taken some time to reflect, the issue I have with what you wrote is that a majority of people I have spoken to who were abused as children were abused by slightly older children. The victims were ambushed, there is extremely limited education – basically little frame of reference to provide warning signs. These crimes largely go unreported within society and families. WRT children, society’s fixation on age brackets and adults breaking the law seems to take precedence over the protection of children being abused or not as the case may be. I have strong misgiving about the way the former actress who shall not be named has been hung out to dry here.

    Secondly, I find the stereotyping somewhat haphazard in that some adult abusers are incredibly attractive, pop stars, tv personalities etc, their magnetism and ability to manipulate is problematic while their personal hygiene is a non-issue.

    If sexual acts become known at the time, children are damned whether these acts are consensual or coerced.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to chris,

    this thread…

    is very confronting.

    Raises memories and issues and is forcing some of us to travel back in time to when we were vulnerable and at risk and no-one was there to care for us the way we had the right to be cared for.

    I'm choosing not to take umbrage at the reactions of others who may have been there too.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1346 posts Report

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Chris, I understand where you’re coming from, and should have made it clear that by “hairy smelly ‘old’” I was thinking in particular of Bert Potter, and more broadly of how children describe the adults who abuse them – as adults we might not consider them hairy, smelly or old. Of course abusers come in a wide range of ages, hirsuteness and odours.

    Interesting that you say the “majority of people I have spoken to who were abused as children were abused by slightly older children”. That’s pretty much the opposite of my experience, where of all the people who have told me about being abused as children, only one of them was by a slightly older child (her older brother); the rest of the abusers were adults. Of course I accept that my knowledge is limited to those I’ve spoken to, so as I say, interesting to have it expanded.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 585 posts Report

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