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Submission to the Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents | by Archives New Zealand
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Submission to the Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents

Juvenile delinquency, sex, violence, and motorcycles. No, this is not a movie trailer, but 1950s New Zealand according to the Mazengarb Report, released on 20 September 1954.

 

As nzhistory.net notes, Queen’s Counsel Oswald Mazengarb was appointed by the government to chair the Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents on 23 July 1954. The committee was set up after an outcry over teenagers’ sexual and gang behaviour in Lower Hutt, and other incidents such as a milk-bar murder in Auckland and the Parker–Hulme murder in Christchurch (the subject of Peter Jackson’s 1994 movie, Heavenly Creatures).

 

The Report issued by the Committee blamed lack of parental supervision for juvenile delinquency and advocated a return to Christianity and traditional values. It was mass produced and sent to every home in New Zealand, causing widespread moral panic and a raft of restrictive laws: the Indecent Publications Amendment Act 1954, which widened the definition of ‘obscene’ and ‘indecent’; the Child Welfare Amendment Act (No. 2) 1954, which enabled the Children’s Courts to treat children engaging in sexual behaviour as delinquent; and the Police Offences Amendment Act 1954, which made it an offence to sell contraceptives to children under 16 years of age.

 

The Report provides an interesting insight into the thinking of mainstream New Zealand society in the 1950s, and as well as copies of the Report, Archives New Zealand holds all the submissions made to the Special Committee. The record above concerns the nature of comics on sale in New Zealand - according to this submission, "sexy comics" such as 'Kiss of Thunder' and 'Secret Interlude' contained "bad grammar and mis-spelling… outright sexual allusions… and incidents of violence." As a remedy it recommended Friday night at the library as a family treat.

 

Archives Ref: AAFD 7523 W4198 Box 172/ Part 1

 

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Material supplied by Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o Te Kāwanatanga

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Taken on September 5, 2013