For Marks it was the beginning of a journey through a number of state welfare institutions over eight years. It’s an experience that over 100,000 other children went through from the 1940s through to the late 1980s. Most of the children were Māori.
This childhood incarceration happened at a time when Māori were moving to the cities in increasing numbers in the post-war period. It was the first time many Pākehā had encountered Māori in large numbers. The urban shift was the culmination of land loss and economic struggle that led to a vulnerability in the new and, at times, hostile environment.
Māori were particularly targeted by police and social agencies, being picked up for minor infractions like truanting from school. Poverty also attracted the glare of state welfare institutions.
By the 1970s upwards of 80% of the children in state welfare institutions were Māori.