Utopia Lost

Anke Richter's article on the abuse at the Centrepoint community in the 1980s takes a more serious and sensitive look at the damage done to young girls than we have previously seen in the media. I am shocked and horrified, even though I was a resident there. I lived in the community for most of its controversial life. I find it staggering that I knew so little of what was apparently happening around me. It's almost 25 years since the demise of the community, yet the article exposes outrages on clearly vulnerable people I cared for. These revelations hurt me deeply.

Quite rightly, much information remains confidential, and its only when brave and suffering victims like those in the article choose to tell their stories that we learn of the true horror. Centrepoint was meant to be their utopia, an ideal childhood of freedom and learning. But it was turned by a segment of misguided and menacing adults. Most of the people, adults and children, lived wholesome, safe lives at Centrepoint. For much of the time, it was a great place to live. Born of the post-hippie days, it was a social experiment in freedom following the New Age and psychology fashions of the day; gestalt, transactional analysis, neuro-linguistic programming, a bit of Rajneesh and others. We were on the road to greater awareness, maybe enlightenment, and it was exciting.

The key was honesty - we should be totally open in our living together and strive for honesty in our words and emotions. On reflection, I was naive, but I believed everyone was striving for that honesty. I did not know there was a dark side, a group who were intent on betraying the community and exploiting it for their own means. It wasn't just the sex - the deceit also carried over into drugs. It's only been in recent years that I've heard that there was a secret laboratory built, but probably never used, under Bert's house. If so, it was never discovered by the police. So much for openess and honesty.

Resurrecting the whole sordid affair, as Richter's article does, will be hurtful for many people. Adults now who were children growing up in the community and never confronted with abuse may again have the finger unjustly pointed at them, parents may struggle with pain and guilt and victims may be retraumatised. But that has to be weighed against any benefit the victims quoted in the article can claim. Here they are, more than two decades down the track, still struggling and deserving to be heard if that is their choice. They are still special to me and I treasure good times with them. They are good people.

Simon Horrocks, Nelson

Letter to editor in North & South

October 2015

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