Sex, Drugs – and a Guru called Bert
Centrepoint opened in 1978 on the outskirts of Auckland’s North Shore. Founded on a philosophy of open sexuality and fringe psychotherapy, it intrigued and scandalised middle New Zealand – and won many supporters – before finally collapsing in 2000 after a string of child sex abuse and drug-dealing convictions.
Over the past 18 months, award-winning journalists Adam Dudding and Eugene Bingham have investigated the story of New Zealand’s most controversial cult. They’ve interviewed dozens of former Centrepoint members as well as some of the outsiders who opposed – or defended – the community.
The Commune is a 12-part documentary podcast series about New Zealand’s notorious free-love community. It’s the most comprehensive account of the Centrepoint saga to date – a roller-coaster story of sex, drugs – and a misguided guru called Bert.
The project came about in part because Stuff’s Podcast Director Adam Dudding went to school in Albany with a bunch of Centrepoint kids, so it’s his journey of discovery too.
“I remember being curious about these commune kids and the unconventional life they had away from the classroom,” says Dudding. “Revisiting it as an adult has been fascinating… and also disturbing.”
“We’ve set about trying to understand what happened and why – and importantly, why it wasn’t stopped. How did we as a society allow this to happen?”
Early concerns about the goings-on at the commune were raised with police, but investigations went nowhere or were shut down. Bert Potter and other leaders were finally charged with child sex offenses and sent to prison 14 years after the commune began.
Many of the voices and stories in The Commune have never been heard in public before. It’s the chance for some to share what happened in their own words, and in doing so, to gain some perspective and closure.
The result is a powerfully moving inquiry into how well-meaning people can talk themselves into doing terrible things and why, even decades later, the battles over Centrepoint’s true legacy continue.
But the podcast is not all grim horrors, it’s also a peek into the ‘ordinary’ life and times in the commune as well.
“There are as many stories about Centrepoint as there are people who ever had anything to do with it,” says Dudding.
All 12 episodes of The Commune are available now on all podcast platforms, and also at stuff.co.nz/thecommune. Scan the QR code below to explore interactive content and access the podcast.