Updated: May 21, 2021
Adam Dudding, a journalist who works for Stuff, has started development of a new podcast project about Centrepoint. Adam grew up in Torbay, in the North Shore in the 1970s and 1980s, and attended Long Bay College. He was friends with some Centrepoint teenagers when he was at high school. He and his producer, Eugene Bingham, started work on this project this month, and will be gathering material and embarking on interviews over the next few months. The team are looking to talk to anyone who had any connection to Centrepoint during its years of operation; neighbours, teachers, community members, parents of friends, adult children of the community - anyone connected to the community. The series will be around 6 or 7 episodes.
A podcast series offers an opportunity for a degree of anonymity to those who participate. It offers a chance for those who would like to share some of their experiences - whether good, bad or neutral - a chance to get their voices into the history record. There has been a lot of shame and stigma around the Centrepoint story, and some voices have been more prominent than others. Here is a chance for those who have not had voice to offer something of their story. There is personal and social power in telling one's story.
Many people remain very concerned or even angry about what NZ media has done with the Centrepoint story, how the media has twisted it and used it salaciously for their own purposes, to the detriment of those involved and those who have to live with the consequences. This media attention has contributed to the ongoing sense of shame and social stigma associated with connection with Centrepoint. So, why contribute to yet another project? Because the content that is gathered for this project will be viewed in the future as history, and unless this project has a wide number of voices involved, this 'history' will not represent the truth. It will be unbalanced, filled with limited perspectives, distortions and simplistic answers. It will fail to recognise the complexity, the tangled nature of the experiences and the fact that people can be both victims of harm and perpetrators of harm all in one person. It will not be nuanced, it will not cause people to stop and think, and it will contribute to the ongoing stigma and shame.
I have communicated with Adam on several occasions about his motivations for making this series and I have digested some of his previous works. After reading his book and listening to two of his podcast series, and through discussions with him, I have come to believe that he is a skilled professional with integrity, and I think, a good guy. I don't believe this project is about creating scandal or feeding titillation. He has already shown himself to be a skilled craftsman, and a sensitive story-teller with his previous projects.
His 2018 podcast "Out of My Mind" was nuanced, compassionate and powerfully pushed back against the social stigma and shame which exists for people with mental illness in this country. He tackled hard to talk about topics, such as the Maori experience of mental health in a biased and racist health system, and the judgement mothers who neglect their children face. As someone with both professional and personal experience of this complexity, I believe his handling of this topic was excellent, and he genuinely added positively to the discussion. Centrepoint is part of New Zealand history, and it is judged and poorly understood by the New Zealand public. It is easy to view this history simplistically without looking deeply into context. The treatment of the personal stories in "Out of My Mind" has shown me that Adam knows how to dig deep into hard stuff, and to do so with compassion and sensitivity. You can listen to the podcast here.
Adam's earlier work, the podcast "Gone Fishing", is also an excellent listen. This series delves deeply into the complex world of murder, intrigue, innocence and lies surrounding the trial of Gail Maney for the 1989 disappearance of Deane Fuller-Sandys. He does an excellent job of exploring multiple views, and uncovering the confusion behind perspectives which shift and change, testimonies which conflict with one another, and the mind-fuck that happens when one tries to understand a story when there is powerful incentive to cover it up. He cleverly unpacks a narrative that is not cohesive and does not make sense. He does not pretend it is simple, linear or straight-forward. He tells a complex story compassionately and intelligently and he does not cut corners in an attempt to deliver a nice package for his audience. In the Gail Maney story, there is no nice package and he does not pretend otherwise. This parallel with the Centrepoint story - one which is also filled with shifting perspectives, cover-ups, and truths which blatantly conflict - is striking. You can listen to all episodes of "Gone Fishing" here.
And finally, Adam has written his own story of growing up in the North Shore, the youngest child of a large chaotic family in Torbay. His memoir of his father - his attempt to come to terms with the complicated man that he was - is filled with nostalgic memories of childhood in the North Shore in an era which I remember fondly. His family setting was not straightforward. It was loving but complex, filled with challenges and craziness. He reveals a great deal about himself and his family in this book, his uncertainty, his losses and his coming to terms with his history. He makes himself vulnerable, and he exposes himself. In this memoir of his childhood he does what he asks his interview subjects to do - open up, expose himself, and take risks. And to be honest, it was a gripping read. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. He writes skilfully, and he tells a good story. A review of the book can be found here, and an adapted audio version of this family memoir can be found here.
So, he is asking for anyone who is interested in participating in the podcast to contact him. Even if you would simply like to understand his purpose, or to make sense of what he is trying to achieve, please consider making contact. If you do not wish to contribute to the finished product but simply want to provide further context, or understand the project in order to let others know about it, then please talk to him. If you feel you have a story about Centrepoint that has not been heard, or you have yet to share and this medium is attractive, please contact him. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The podcast will be in development over the next several months so now is the time.