Nov 11 2012

Beyond the Darklands: Bert Potter and the Centrepoint Community

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I’ve just watched Nigel Latta’s excellent documentary on Bert Potter and the Centrepoint community. In a mix of archival footage, revealing comments by Potter himself, interviews with members and ex-members of the community, and commentary by Nigel Latta , it shows how what began as a therapeutic community became controlling and manipulative, what began as a movement of sexual liberation for consenting adults turned into exploitation of children to satisfy adults’ sexual needs. What began drug-free ended up manufacturing, using, and selling drugs. (There has also been a helpful report on the community, summarised by the NZ Herald  here.)

Although Centrepoint shows many features of religious cults, it interestingly was not ‘religious’ in any ordinary sense; it grew out of the human potential movement and the counterculture’s aspirations to create authentic communities as an alternative to the traditional family structure. Nigel tended to portray Potter as a criminal paedophile from the beginning, creating Centrepoint and learning therapeutic techniques just so that he could have sex with children. With all due respect to Nigel’s long experience with sexual criminals, I don’t find this believable. Rather, I think he genuinely wanted to help people, at least initially, but increasingly blurred the distinction between what felt good for him and what actually helped others.

The new atheists tendentiously portray religions as intrinsically or exclusively evil and their solution is to abolish, or at least thoroughly discredit religion. They seem strangely blind to abuses carried out by the non-religious.  The terror after the French Revolution, purges by communists in Russia persecution by Chinese communists of non-violent Buddhists in Tibet are held to be completely unrelated to atheistic ideologies. The Centrepoint experience indicates that the problem is broader than religion and is somehow intrinsic to the dynamics of groups and their leaders, religious or not.

6 responses so far




6 Responses to “Beyond the Darklands: Bert Potter and the Centrepoint Community”

  1.   Richard Fokkenson 03 Jan 2013 at 6:13 pm

    I new some CentrePoint People. I think they were New Age People and generally not particularly interested in Christianity, although many came from a Church upbringing. I visited on an Open Day and could not understand why there were no doors on the toilets, being a little modest. It was an absolutely beautiful place. I do not think the people of Albany would of liked it being there. The big lounge area with lots of bean bags was interesting. I new about Bert’s therapy groups and probably would of struggled with them as well. There were lots of New Age movement people around Auckland outside CenterPoint who were keeping their clothes on. I wonder what I would think about it now? I personally think Bert Potter really believed in helping people but like Nambassa, CentrePoint really would not of been a good environment for children. When people take their clothes off it alters everything and sensibility goes out the window.

  2.   mayaon 30 Mar 2013 at 11:34 pm

    Bert Potter had no intention on helping anyone but himself
    Classic predatory nature feeding off others vulnerabilities esp little
    children. he was also a very selfish agressive person and
    children were severely neglected.

  3.   samon 18 Sep 2013 at 6:30 pm

    I am now married to a former centerpoint child…………now at age 32 he still struggles to deal with the horrible things that happened at centerpoint and suffers post traumatic stress.

  4.   jack johnsonon 01 Jan 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Sounds like it was a cult from the beginning

  5.   Caton 23 Jan 2014 at 2:25 pm

    I am a Centrepoint child. I believe that the place was incredibly damaging to the children. The children were neglected, sexually abused and not give the boundaries and social skills they needed to cope with the outside world.

    I believe Centrepoint was a cult. Bert was basically God, and there was a strong spiritual element. I can’t understand how you could possible call it anything but a cult.

    I agree with the above comments about Bert simply being a predator. He would decide he wanted to have sex with someone and then manipulate the situation in his favor. He was incredibly manipulative, passive aggressive and just generally an evil person who cared only about himself. I don’t believe he ever really wanted to help other people. I think it was all just a way to help himself. He deserved a lot worse than he got for all the lives he destroyed.

  6.   Zoeon 06 Feb 2018 at 5:25 pm

    There are still a lot of women out there who have not reported historic abuse by Bert Potter. A lot were attending his eight day workshops — that were recommended by doctors and psychiatrists at the time (late 70’s). The case should be reopened so we can get an accurate historic record of the number of women and children he raped and abused.

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