Of British descent, I was born and raised in a pioneering farming community on the East Cape of the North Island, Aotearoa-NZ. My parents, Peter & Joan Wood, owned and farmed Mohau Station, originally Te Kani land, in the Waikura Valley, where my grandparents Rakau (Dick ) and Kitty Wood, managed the neighbouring Matarau Station leased by Mason Chambers from Te Kani whanau. Raukumara is the mountain, Whangaparoa is the river. My grandfathers and great grandfathers on both sides were men of enormous energy, skill, and enthusiasm, committment who contributed significantly to their communities . The grandmothers and great grandmothers were women of great strength, courage, and competence, and unfailingly loving. This is their legacy to me and my descendants, two daughters, two sons, 5 mokopuna.
In this isolated corner of the world I grew up with my younger sister, firmly believing this to be the centre of the universe, and identifying strongly with the resilient, self-reliant pioneer culture, and closely connected with the seasonal rhythms of the land. My role models were the neighbouring hard working and capable women and their energetic, and sometimes eccentric menfolk. My own parents provided the security and example of their loving relationship. Their courage, as my mother struggled under the burden of being an ‘outsider’ and a ‘townie’ from Auckland, and as my father disregarded, and overcame totally, his disabling war injuries and loved and encouraged us unfailingly, has been a lifetime inspiration. My playmates, apart from my sister, were the animals, and my favourite activities were riding out with Dad and helping him on the farm, growing a garden, building huts, exploring the out doors. Indoors I loved reading, playing with my dolls (believing at one time that if I cared for them well enough they might come ‘alive’), sewing, crafts and cooking. All this blended seamlessly with schooling by correspondence. Although our parents worried about our lack of opportunities to socialize with other children, we did not at that time feel at all deprived. It seemed an idyllic existence.
Just before my 12th birthday, I went off to boarding school at Nga Tawa, an Anglican ‘school for young ladies’, at Marton. This was a major shock to my system, in spite of having been mentally prepared for leaving home over many years. The first year remains a black hole. I did not know what a noticeboard was so never knew what was going on or how to find out. Group dynamics were a complete mystery to me, as was the very female culture. In hindsight, the conditions were appalling, and would probably cause a riot in today’s prisons. Going home for the holidays was a 2 day trip, no phone calls allowed, letters censored, no emotional support from adults at all. We used to queue for ages to see the School Nurse on any pretext we could find, just for a moment of attention. One or two 'exeat' days out a term were dependent on the goodwill of other families and girls who lived nearby.
Crisis & Turning Point
In my 5th year a fellow pupil, who was even more isolated from her family than myself, committed suicide. I was devastated by this as I saw it as serious neglect by the adults in her life when it had been obvious to all how miserable she was. When the Bishop (who was a figure we regarded as next to God) came to support the school in this crisis, he told us that this suicide was ‘God’s Will’. For me, this shattered a strong faith which had been well nurtured by my early home and school experiences and started me on a new direction in life as I strugled to regain my faith and later to find new ways of giving meaning to life.
I had at this stage begun to develop academically and intellectually and to get some encouragement from the deputy principal about my abilities. I abandoned plans to go nursing, resolving to leave school and go straight to University from the 6th form (year12) as I would not stay at school any longer.
I left school, met the young man who would become my husband in 3 years time, enrolled at Auckland University in a BA programme. In this environment I remained lost and uncertain, but loved the learning, especially human development and psychology which strongly influenced my developing world view.
I married at almost 20yrs, and with my degree incomplete, went to live in the country again where my childhood role models served me well. We had four children and I became involved in the Playcentre Movement. Still carrying a deep distrust of the mainstream education system, Playcentre became my place to stand. Here I found a philosophy that matched the developmental psychology I had learned, and a sub-culture that supported my own development as well as that of my family. I learned deeply about human development, group dynamics, working in a team, the joy of learning, leadership, non-violence, and much more. I had opportunities to grow and eventually to help others on their journeys. This formed the foundation for my professional career that would develop as my children grew older.