Domett Avenue Hostel is a solid wooden building situated in Domett Avenue, Epsom, Auckland, and surrounded by spacious grounds. It is inhabited by some thirty Maori lads apprenticed to trades in Auckland. Organised by two State Departments—the Labour and Employment and the Maori Affairs Departments—the place has had nothing spared to provide the boys with all things necessary to a good home. Sleeping quarters, common room and dining room are all furnished in solid and attractive rimu. Beds have good-looking spreads; the dining room is pleasantly laid out, with tables for four. Bathroom, shower and laundry facilities surpass those in many private homes. If any of the boys should feel tempted to leave their apprenticeships for the lure of high wages, this comfort should help to retain them.
The boys who comprise the first hostel “family” have been chosen from lads of 15–17 years, and come from Kaeo in the winterless North to Whakatane in the south Diverse tribes, creeds and trades are represented.
The hostel was opened without a fanfare of trumpets and avid press photographers, but on January 14 and 15, 1952, the arrivals at Auckland began. They came by tram, bus, car, boat and ferry service. Arrivals began at dawn and continued till well after ‘the witching hour’.
Perhaps the most disconcerting arrival was that of the Whangarei express, on January 17, when seven timid country youths were expected. Two welfare officers had been delegated to station duty, but alas and alack! when the express pulled in, ‘the blood, sweat and tears’ began to flow, for it appeared that the train disgorged every Maori in the North.
The working day for apprentices in many cases begins with early breakfast at 6 a.m. Then, with an excellent lunch already prepared for them, they set off to far distant points of the city, perhaps Otahuhu or Devonport. For an eight-hour day they ply their future trades of carpentry, mechanics, cabinet-making or plumbing, and from early reports are measuring up well with their pakeha workmates. The evening home-coming starts at 4.30 p.m., and by 6 p.m. these thirty boys are spick and span, ready for family dinner, and then, twice a week, off to night school. Friday evening is eagerly awaited—late leave until 11 p.m. A gratifying observation is that the boys are proving amenable to a discipline which is sufficient, but not abhorrent.