This month last century: November 1919

93 years ago the first health camp opens at Turakina (25 November 1919)

New Zealand’s first health camp was founded by Dr Elizabeth Gunn.  The first group of 55 children stayed in tents for three weeks. Gunn had been a military doctor, and brought this experience with her to the running of the camps.

Poster, ’Help promote Health!’, 1930, Wellington. W.A.G. Skinner, Government Printer. Purchased 2001. Te Papa

Poster, ’Help promote Health!’, 1930, Wellington. W.A.G. Skinner, Government Printer. Purchased 2001. Te Papa

The camp was set up to boost the physical welfare of children, believed to be in danger of degeneration in the early decades of the twentieth century. The health camp idea spread around the country.

Otaki Health Camp children, 1945. From the portfolio: PhotoForum - John Pascoe, 1945, Otaki. John Pascoe.

Otaki Health Camp children, 1945. From the portfolio: PhotoForum - John Pascoe, 1945, Otaki. John Pascoe.

In the 1930s, their administration was taken over the government. The camps were a plank in social security legislation implemented by the First Labour Government.

Publicity photograph for Health stamps, 1931, Wellington. Gordon H. Burt Ltd, Maker unknown. Te Papa

Publicity photograph for Health stamps, 1931, Wellington. Gordon H. Burt Ltd, Maker unknown. Te Papa

Stamps to raise funds for the camps have been sold since 1929. Many of the stamps were designed by notable commercial artists and feature strong  graphic elements.

Read more about early 20th century concerns for the health and welfare of  children on the Slice of Heaven exhibition website.

See Te Papa’s collection of Health stamp posters on Collections online

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