Skip to the content

Kristin Alumni - Kim Morton

Kim Morton

Kim Morton - Foundation Pupil

Kim was a first day pupil at Kristin when it opened in 1973 and she spent three years at the Campbells Bay campus, which she says had a big impact on her life.  Kim went on to study law, and to work in community law and social justice, specialising in welfare law and access to justice for beneficiaries.  She is the founder and Director of Ōtautahi Creative Spaces, an innovative arts and mental health organisation in Christchurch.  Kim is a strong advocate for the powerful role that art, culture and creativity can play in health and recently investigated arts on prescription with the support of a Churchill Fellowship. Kim has two adult sons, lives in the port town of Lyttelton.  Kim loves immersing herself in the hills and the sea around Lyttelton and is always up for an adventure. 

This is Kim’s address to our community at Kristin’s 50th Jubilee Alumni Cocktails Event.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa 

My sister Hilary and I have the honour and privilege of being among the children who were at Kristin School on that first day in 1973.  I was 6, my sister 8.  Just ten days before the school opened, our father had spotted an ad in the local paper for the new Kristin School at Campbells Bay – my mother wrote: ‘more or less on impulse we had a look around and enrolled the girls there. It is very much in the nature of an experiment – we shall see.’ 

I think we can safely say, 50 years down the track, the experiment was a success. 

Coming from Takapuna Primary, Kristin School felt more like a family.  We were too young to understand the alternative thinking behind this fledgling school, but we were richly rewarded in the opportunities we had. 

An article in the Women's Weekly in May 1973 beautifully illustrates the vision Roy and Marion Munn had for the school – small class sizes, art and music at the forefront, and nature woven throughout. 

The photos show the halcyon days of Kristin in its first few months, as I remember them.  There were no uniforms - children playing recorders outside, playing the xylophone, and making art. There’s a group of girls building a hut in the bush. 

This is my overwhelming memory of Kristin – building magnificent huts with thatched roofs of ponga, and mats on the floor. Although my school reports show we had regular classes, my recollection is that we spent hours and hours in the bush. The sense of freedom we felt!

Our school campus extended to Campbells Bay beach at the bottom of the hill. We’d pile into Miss Stubbs’ car and head down to the beach to explore the coastline. 

We had incredible adventures beyond school which truly broadened our horizons. In our second year at Kristin Hilary and I went on a week-long trip to Napier. This took in Fantasyland, Marineland, Lilliput Railway, the Apple and Pear Marketing Board and even a tour of the Rothmans cigarette factory.  Imagine the excitement of this trip for an eight year old! 

Later that year, Hilary was part of the trip to the marae at Moerewa, in Northland. Kristin’s inclusion of Te Ao Māori in its school programme was unusual at that time – at least wasn’t part of my experience at the other schools I went to.

Kristin was distinctive in another respect: Kristin families were deeply involved in the development of the school. There were working bees, galas at the Holdaways, meetings to help shape the future of the school – alongside Kristin’s staff and governors, families were literally building the school from the ground up. 

So I come to this celebration with deep gratitude because the four years I had at Kristin had a big impact on my life. I’ll touch on a couple of things I’m especially proud of. 

I founded and lead an organisation in Christchurch which uses the power of creativity to respond to mental distress and trauma. Set up following the devastating earthquakes, our approach is to support people to redefine their mental health journey as practicing artists – there’s evidence this not only changes lives, it saves lives. We’re part of a movement to reimagine the mental health system, because medication and counselling are not in themselves enough for people to thrive. It’s groundbreaking work and such a joy to be involved with – and I believe the early focus on art and music at Kristin had a part to play in my passion for this mahi. 

After studying law at the University of Otago I worked in areas of law that receive little attention in the profession.  First consumer law and later welfare law, including a role reviewing decisions by Work and Income. The imbalance of power between people receiving benefits due to adverse life circumstances and the might of the Ministry of Social Development led me to initiate a research project investigating beneficiaries’ access to justice, and how the community law centre movement could better focus its free legal help towards the needs of beneficiaries. Looking back, my commitment to social justice aligns strongly with Kristin’s values.

Kristin propelled me towards a life of adventure.  The highlight was joining a four-month expedition to remote Raoul Island with the Department of Conservation.  Raoul Island was a stopping place for Polynesian navigators travelling across the oceans to Aotearoa, and later there were settlements, and coast watching and weather stations. An active volcano, our job was to comb through the bush to spot and eliminate weed outbreaks.  With just 16 people on the island, little contact with the outside world, and mail arriving by air-drop, it was an amazing experience to be immersed in this landscape steeped in history.  Building those huts in the bush at Kristin sparked my love of the natural world and a desire to help preserve what is left.   

What I’m most proud of – of course – is my two sons, who grew up in the port town of Lyttelton. I chose an alternative education in Christchurch for them, Hagley College, a special character school centred around diversity and life-long learning. They’ve grown up to be independent thinkers and young men who have vision, integrity and love, and they’re pursuing study they’re passionate about – journalism and criminal justice. 

Kristin – the radical experiment - opened up a world of possibilities for me. 

Thank you so much to everyone involved in the first four years – Mr and Mrs Munn, the Jobers, The Williams, and all the founding families who got stuck in because they believed there was a better way.  Nga mihi maioha ki a koutou. 

No reira tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. 

Come and visit Kristin

Step inside our gates and see for yourself what makes Kristin so unique. We invite you to take a tour and observe a typical school day. Take the opportunity to engage personally with student guides and staff.