Mary Johnson

Being Dominican

The first school for the deaf in the world to be fully Government funded opened in 1880 in Sumner, Christchurch. From that time until the early 1940’s Sumner was the only State-run school for deaf children  in New Zealand. During World War II the school was required for army training accommodation and most students were relocated to Lopdell House in Titirangi.  In 1943, when the army moved out, some of the children returned to Sumner. Due to several Rubella and Polio epidemics in the 1930’s and 1940’s the number of children born deaf had increased. The St Dominic’s school for the deaf was established in 1944, joining two other schools for the deaf – in Titirangi and Sumner. Due to falling numbers St Dominic’s closed in May 1989. Today the Kelston School for the deaf only has boarders for four days a week so children can maintain more contact with their families.  Children are deaf today mainly because of birth difficulties causing lack of oxygen, congenital deafness or multi-handicapped disabilities. Fortunately immunisation has prevented the Polio and German Measles epidemics of the past from reoccurring.

For further information, read “We see what You mean… A History of St Dominic’s School for Deaf Children and the Catholic Deaf Ministry in New Zealand”  by Dorothy Pilkington, published in 2008. Please contact Paula on 021321988 if you would like to borrow a copy of this most interesting book.

Thanks to Paula Scandle for giving us permission to share this article.

by Paula Scandle
The Veritas, Parish Magazine of St Dominic’s Blockhouse Bay
Vol 15, Issue 4, 6 September 2015