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An Open Letter
Calling for Restorative Justice for the 
Children of Centrepoint Community

Background

Centrepoint Community operated between 1977-2000, on the North Shore of Auckland. Its ideals were centred around a spiritual ethos and living communally. It eventually closed in 2000 having become mired in controversy concerning illicit drug manufacture, distribution and use, and child sexual abuse. This letter primarily relates to the sexual abuse and neglect of children, and the exposure of the young people to illicit drugs. It reflects the experiences, memories, and viewpoints of the authors and the signatories. 

 

The experiences of adults and children in the community, spanning over two decades, were diverse. Not all children were sexually abused. Some children had happy childhoods. Not all parents or adult caregivers failed to protect the children in their care. Many adults were safe, supportive and had appropriate physical boundaries with children. Some adults went to great lengths to protect and advocate for the community's children. However, as the children at Centrepoint were raised by the whole community, the resulting outcome was that parents were at times unaware of what was going on in their children’s lives. Because of this, many children suffered neglect.  Many children were encouraged to have sexual encounters from a young age. Children were routinely exposed to high levels of overt adult sexual activity. When the community was experimenting with drug-use adolescents were encouraged to consume untested, illicit and highly potent substances. They either sampled drugs themselves, or witnessed the effects of them on others, and often in conjunction with sexual activity. In addition, highly damaging social processes such as thought control, public confrontation designed to humiliate, threats of rejection, and manipulation through therapy were commonly used to control people. This potent mix of social control, parental child neglect, drug use, and hyper-sexuality set the scene for child abuse to occur.  

 

Bishop Desmond Tutu said “Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones is not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.” This open letter is a call to true reconciliation and restoration.

Intended Audience of the Open Letter

This letter is addressed to all former Centrepoint adults who have an interest in open dialogue about the negative impacts of Centrepoint on many of the former children of the community. These adults may have felt uncertainty or anxiety about participating in open discussion about this issue previously. 

 

The intended audience of this letter includes those adult members who were unaware of the abuse at the time it was occurring, those who knew it was happening but did not engage in it, and those who actively participated or enabled it yet now realise this was inappropriate. This letter is not addressed to those adults who engaged in or enabled sexual activity with community children and continue to believe that their actions at the time were appropriate. This letter does, however, state a concern for the wellbeing of the children of these adults, as well as their children’s children, who may continue to be exposed to the same abuse and ideologies.

Request for Action

1. Adult Centrepoint members either endorsed, or felt unable to challenge the community values which allowed the sexual abuse and neglect of children, and the exposure of adolescents to illicit drugs. All adults in the community had an obligation to protect all of the children.

 

We ask that former adult community members consider their obligations towards the children of the community. 

2. There is clear evidence that growing up in a highly sexualised environment and one where illicit drugs are being used and manufactured has negative consequences for adult life. Many children and young people at Centrepoint were pressured to engage in sexual activity well before they were emotionally ready, and to take drugs. Many felt coerced to engage in sexual activity with adults. In addition, many were physically and emotionally neglected and left to fend for themselves. Decades after leaving the community, many former child residents continue to struggle. Common consequences for adulthood include; feeling stigmatised and ashamed of their connection to the community, confusion about the nature of their childhood sexual experiences, addiction, mental health issues, and ongoing relational difficulties. Even if a child or young person didn’t experience sexual abuse or take drugs while at Centrepoint, the consequences of living in a highly sexualised environment and being exposed to widespread drug use are considerable. For many, these negative impacts have also directly affected the lives of their own children.

 

We ask for acknowledgement from former Centrepoint members of the harms caused to many of the children who lived at the community, and recognition of the resulting social, emotional and psychological difficulties many continue to experience as adults. 

 

3. We recognise that this is an enormously complex process. We know that there are multiple barriers to resolving these issues. We acknowledge that adult members of the community themselves may have experienced extreme pressure to conform to the ideals which have caused harm to many of the children. While we understand the factors at play that have resulted in the lack of resolution, we also live with the reality that we have suffered significant harm as a result of our experiences, and we need to find a way forward.  

 

We ask you to hear our voices. We ask you to set aside your complex feelings surrounding this issue, and acknowledge our realities. 

 

3. Facing and acknowledging truths, particularly difficult truths, has a powerful impact on restoration and healing.

 

We advocate for an organised, public*, and collective response by former members to acknowledge and address the past which damaged the children of the community. We ask that you work with us to find ways to enable healing and restoration of the history.

*Public here does not mean "in the public eye" as many have assumed. It means transparent and open (as compared to secret, private or closed).

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We, the undersigned, have a history of close connection to the Centrepoint Community. We either lived there as adults, or lived there or visited as children. We support the assertions and the intentions of this letter.  * Indicates a pseudonym has been used. The identity of the signatory is known to the authors of the letter.

  1. Dr Caroline Ansley, child resident, 1983 (author)

  2. Rachel King (Ella James), child resident, 1987-1991 (author)

  3. Dr Kate Rowntree, child resident, 1977-1982 (author)

  4. Renée Meiklejohn, child resident, 1985-1991

  5. Mike Rowntree, child visitor, 1977-1981

  6. Jemila North*, child resident, 1977-1983

  7. Maggie Murray*, child resident, 1986-1991

  8. Simon Horrocks, adult member, 1980-1991

  9. Christine Hughes, child visitor, 1980-1982

  10. Bonnie Meiklejohn, child resident, 1985-1991

  11. Louise Winn, child resident, 1977-1982

  12. Susie Spiller, child resident, 1980-1981

  13. Jo Francis (nee Benjamin), child resident, 1987-1991, child visitor 1985-1987

  14. Nate O’Callaghan, child resident, 1986-1998

  15. Suzie Harrison*, child visitor 1978-1989, child resident, 1989 -1990

  16. Angie Meiklejohn, child resident, 1985-1991

  17. Gina Adamson*, resident, 1985-1990

  18. Anne Hurst, adult visitor and resident, 1990-1998

  19. Claire Grace*, child visitor, 1977-1998

  20. Steven Jones*, child resident, 1979-1983

  21. Jesse van Noorden, child resident 1987-1997

  22. Susan Moore-Jones, adult resident 1979-1983

  23. Stacey, child visitor, 1989-1990

  24. Jade Bell, child resident 1993 and 1996-1998, child visitor 1988-2000

  25. Norman (Narayan) Kozeluh, adult member, 1977-1983

  26. Katie Williams*, child resident, 1984-1992

  27. John Fettes, adult resident, 1980-82 & 1988-91

  28. Sarah (Murray) Kelliher, child resident, 1977-1981

  29. Melissa Bucheler, child visitor, teenage resident 1981-1993

  30. Rebecca Sheat (nee Lane), child resident, 1991-2000

  31. Simon Murray, child and teen resident, 1977-1981

  32. Sarnie Foley-Albutu, child visitor, 1978-1988

  33. Monique Armstrong (nee Rijkaart), child visitor, 1978-1981

  34. Dennis O'Callaghan, adult visitor, then member, 1987-1993

  35. Willow Rowntree, child resident, 1977-1982

  36. Waveney Grace-Thode, adult member, 1977 - 1986

  37. John Thode, adult resident/visitor, 1985

  38. Laila Lambert, child resident, 1983

  39. Edward J, child resident, 1987-1995

  40. Jacob Oakes, child resident 

  41. Luke Elworthy, child visitor, 1977-82

  42. M Johnston, child resident, 1981 - 1991

  43. Nicola Jackson, child visitor, 1978-1982

  44. Pamela Milliken, child resident, 1987

  45. Karlos Meiklejohn, teen resident, 1985-1991

  46. Larissa R, child visitor, 1993-2001

  47. Agnes Borrmann, adult member, 1988 -1999

  48. Zoe Stonex, child resident, 1996-1999

  49. Barbara, adult member, 1978 - 2000

  50. Lilli Borrmann, child resident, 1988-1999

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We, the undersigned, have a history of close connection to the Centrepoint Community. We are the very close family members of children who lived at the community. We support the assertions and the intentions of this letter.  

  1. Georgia Duder-Wood, wife of child resident

  2. David Elworthy, father of child residents 

  3. Will Rowntree, offspring of child resident

  4. Joe Rowntree, offspring of child resident

  5. Harriet Elworthy, sister of child residents 

  6. Tenzin Pooch, brother of child resident

  7. Carol Robins, step-mother of child resident

  8. Peter Robins, father of child resident 

  9. Melba Bond, mother of child resident

  10. Shauna Reveley, sister of child resident

  11. Chris Ansley, husband of child resident

  12. Andrew Robins, brother of a child resident

  13. Emma Murray, step-mother of child residents

  14. Rachael King, step-sister of child residents

  15. Jake Walls, parter of a child resident

  16. Sally O'Donnell, step-mother of a child resident

  17. Paul O'Donnell, father of a child resident

  18. Elliot O’Donnell, brother of a child resident

  19. Samantha Noakes, daughter of child resident

  20. Stacey O'Callaghan, wife of child resident

  21. Greg Cantwell, partner of a child resident

  22. Yvette Le Clerc, ex-wife of a child visitor

  23. John Duder, father-in-law of a child resident

  24. Richard Cook, brother of a child resident

Open Letter Signatories

Complete this form if you wish to sign the open letter. Only people who lived at Centrepoint as adults, visited or lived there as children, or people who are close family of those who did, are able to sign the letter. 
While we appreciate others will wish to support the letter, the audience of the letter in NOT the general public, hence the general public will not be added as signatories.

Signatories need to provide a valid contact email. If we are unable to contact you to confirm your email, we will not be able to add your name. The above information is to enable your name to be added in the following format:

If lived or visited - NAME - CHILD/ADULT - MEMBER/VISITOR/RESIDENT - YEARS OF RESIDENCE

If close family of someone who lived or visited - NAME - FAMILY RELATIONSHIP TO CHILD/ADULT MEMBER/VISITOR/RESIDENT

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