Our History

Hawkes’ Bay Children’s Holding Trust has roots that run deep in the Hawke’s Bay community. It exists to preserve and put to use resources that good hearted people have set aside for our vulnerable children and families.

The Trust resulted from the merger in 2004 of 3 organizations – Hawke’s Bay Children’s Home, Family Care Hawke’s Bay and Birthright Napier. Each of those organisations had a unique history but shared a kaupapa of care and support for our tamariki and whānau. 

Hawke’s Bay Children’s Home was formed in the late 1800’s to provide support for families in crisis. Destitution, the effects of alcohol addiction and other difficult circumstances were seen as ills that children needed protection from.

Amelia Randall, a niece of Napier entrepreneur Henry Tiffen and a highly capable businesswoman in her own right – helped found the first Hawke’s Bay Children’s Home in 1892 and left a substantial bequest to continue that charitable work.

Over the years, the institutions operated by Hawke’s Bay Children’s home were:

  • Bethany Receiving Home (1896-1978), Napier 
  • St Mary’s Receiving Home,(1915-1940) Napier
  • St Hilda’s Orphanage (1918-1958), Otane
  • Abbotsford Home (1926-1961), Waipawa
  • Hawke’s Bay Children’s Home – Randall House and Gordon House (1892-1966), Napier
  • France House (1924-1973), Eskdale
  • Hillsbrook Children’s Home (1947-1988), Havelock North

These homes provided a short- or sometimes long-term home for thousands of children and young people who were orphaned, illegitimate, abandoned, or in other serious need.

The experiences of some of those children and young people are chronicled in Who Cared? Childhoods within Hawke’s Bay Children’s Homes and Orphanages 1892-1988 a book by academic historian and Eastern Institute of Technology research professor Kay Morris Matthews.

Changing social attitudes and government policies meant that by 2004 there was little demand for the kind of institutional care that Hawke’s Bay Children’s Homes had been established to provide. The homes had been sold and the Trust’s resources comprised an early childhood centre – Swinburn House, which continues to be operated by Birthright Hawke’s Bay Child and Family Care and investments which the Trustees managed.

In 2004 these were social service organisations, struggling to provide support to Hawke’s Bay children and families in a sustainable way. Demand was high and increasing, funding was limited and uncertain.

The first Birthright Society was formed in Hastings on 23 November 1955 by Peter Gifford and the Hastings Junior Chamber of Commerce. Mr Gifford’s aim was to form a voluntary organisation to support and care for the children of one-parent families in the community. The loss of young men to WWII created many single parent families struggling to cope.

Birthright Hastings became an Incorporated Society in March 1956.

From then, Birthright grew to be a national body throughout New Zealand, with dozens of regional affiliate “branches”. Each branch operated independently and each responded to the need in its community in its own way.

By 2004 Birthright Hastings had become melded into Family Care Hawke’s Bay, which provided social service support to primarily Hastings families.

The work of Birthright Napier focused on working with high need youth – including operating “Magic House”, a short-term residence for at-risk 12-15-year-old young men. The work was no longer limited to working with single-parent families.

A more detailed history of Birthright and its work can be found on its website www.birthrighthb.org.nz. 

In 2004 Hawke’s Bay Children’s Home had at its disposal the community resources it managed but little operational structure. Family Care and Birthright Napier had well-skilled and in-demand operational teams but few resources or financial security. 

The complementary strengths of the organisations became obvious and it was decided to merge them.

The merger was completed by Order of the High Court. The founding Trust Deeds record that the three organisations, “….resolved to pool [their] resources by transferring them to a trust designed to preserve protect and make those resources available to assist in achieving the common objects of each of the parties and for that purpose making available to Birthright (HB) Child and Family Care Trust and any other body within Hawke’s Bay of a similar nature and with similar objects to Birthright HB.”

The merger resulted in the creation of the two bodies that operate today:

The Hawke’s Bay Children’s Holding Trust is responsible for protecting and safely putting to work the community resources that had been held by the three organisations. According to the objectives in its founding Deed, the Trust’s funds are, “…. held, protected, preserved and utilised for the benefit of the children and young adults in Hawke’s Bay…”.

Birthright Hawke’s Bay Child and Family Care is responsible for carrying out the merged operational activities of the three organisations. According to the objectives of its founding Deed it is to operate “….for the benefit of children and young adults in Hawke’s Bay.”