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New Zealand's First Refugees: Pahiatua's Polish Children

The Prime Minister's decisions

The Prime Minister's decisions

At a meeting on 1 June 1946

Present were Prime Minister Peter Fraser, members of his department, the camp commandant and Mr Zaleski, the new Polish Delegate. The meeting confirmed that the New Zealand Government accepted full financial and administrative responsibility for the Polish children in New Zealand.

The original intention was that the children were to remain in New Zealand for the duration of the war and a reasonable time thereafter, and then return to Poland. It was on this understanding that the camp at Pahiatua was page 317established as a Polish centre. With the emergence of the present government and the great change of affairs in Poland, the position has altered and it may be that a large proportion of the children will not wish to return to their native country.

The Prime Minister confirmed his previous assurance that those who elect to stay permanently in New Zealand will be welcomed, while those who choose to return to Poland will be given every assistance to do so. Though the camp will be maintained as long as the interests of the children require, it was desirable to consider the date on which it will be abandoned, but will remain open for a further two years.

The Prime Minister said it seemed unlikely that a return to Poland could be contemplated, in view of the internal situation in Poland, at any time in the near future. Therefore, it is very much in the children's interests if they could henceforth be trained to take their place on equal footing with the New Zealand children. This would safeguard their interests if they elected to remain here permanently.

Mr Zaleski, the Polish delegate at the meeting, was asked for his views on the future of the children. In his opinion:
  • • The children would be able to return to Poland at a later date
  • • It was desirable, in the children's interest, that the camp be kept open until all the children completed their primary education
  • • The Poles themselves did not desire the adoption of Polish children by New Zealand foster parents
The Prime Minister approved the following general policy for the future:
  • 1. Though the camp would be maintained as long as the interest of the children require, it was desirable to consider the date on which it should be abandoned. It appears that in any event it must remain open for the further two years.
  • 2. The Army Department will be responsible for the routine administration of the camp but questions of policy will be referred to the Prime Minister's Department for decision.
  • 3. The camp commandant will be responsible for the Army Department.
  • 4. The Polish Delegate will represent all the Polish interests to the camp commandant.
  • 5. Polish employees will be regarded as employees of the New Zealand Government.
  • 6. Their salaries will be at comparable New Zealand rates.
  • 7. Polish children's pocket money will be the same as for New Zealand children.
  • 8. Parents of Polish children will take over the care of their own children.page 318
  • 9. The Polish employees will be subject to normal taxation rules.
  • 10. A board of guardians may yet be appointed.
  • 11. It is to be decided if the Child Welfare Branch, or someone else, is to supervise the children who live away from the camp.
  • 12. The question of secondary education is to be examined by the Education Department. If it is impractical for the children who have completed their Polish primary education to be absorbed into Roman Catholic or sate secondary schools, consideration will be given for additional secondary school facilities in the camp and to bring the existing school in line with New Zealand secondary school standards.