60 Years of Outward Bound NZ - The Story So Far - Outward Bound

60 Years of Outward Bound NZ - The Story So Far

News from Anakiwa

Outward Bound was founded in Wales during the Second World War by Kurt Hahn, an educator, and Lawrence Holt, the owner of a shipping company. The original aim of the programme was to instil values of initiative, tenacity and compassion into young British sailors during the war.

'Outward Bound' is the nautical phrase used to describe a ship leaving harbour to head for open seas. In many ways, it also signifies the daily journey that each of us face as we go about our lives.

Outward Bound was founded on the assumption that:

  • your love for life increases when you have experienced it in very real and dramatic terms,
  • through successful experiences in an elemental setting, you can learn self respect,
  • from respect of self can flow compassion and concern for others,
  • from compassion for others you can develop a commitment for service to humanity,
  • in genuine service to the benefit of others you begin to best express, on a day-to-day basis, reverence for life itself

Over the decades, Outward Bound has developed a unique educational approach that engages participants through learning and challenge in an outdoor environment.

Since the first Outward Bound School was established in Wales, over 40 schools have been established in more than 30 countries worldwide.

Outward Bound New Zealand has run courses at Anakiwa since 1962, touching the lives of over 70,000 participants. The mountains, bush and waterways of this special part of Aotearoa offer the opportunity to help individuals reflect, step outside their comfort zone, and find their future direction in life.

This article will give you a deeper insight into the history of Anakiwa, the story of Kurt Hahn and his philosophy, and how the Outward Bound NZ school was established.

Anakiwa - A Brief History

Tōtaranui (Queen Charlotte Sound) has been home to generations of Māori prior to the arrival of Pākehā. Some of the iwi (tribes) and hapū (subtribes) who occupied Tōtaranui were Ngāti Māmoe, Ngāti Tumatakōkiri, Ngāi Tara, the Ngāti Kuri hapu of Ngāi Tahu, Rangitāne and Ngāti Apa.

Between 1828 and 1832 an alliance of tribes from Kawhia and northern Taranaki, led by Te Rauparaha, launched major assaults on Te Tau Ihu (the northern South Island). Te Ātiawa from Taranaki, under their paramount chief, Te Manutoheroa, assisted by other chiefs including Huriwhenua of Ngāti Rahiri, attacked the Tōtaranui area and conquered pā and kāinga (villages) then occupied mainly by Rangitāne and Ngāti Apa. Most of the survivors either fled or were captured.

After the conquest, many Te Ātiawa relatives moved from Waikanae, Wellington and Taranaki to occupy the valuable lands won by their warriors; Ngāti Rāhiri were allocated lands in Tory Channel and here at Anakiwa. At Arapaoa, in November 1839, local Te Atiawa chiefs signed a Deed of Sale of land which purported they had sold Te Tau Ihu to the New Zealand Company, and six months later 27 local chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi when it was brought to the Sound.

John Salisbury, a visitor to the area in 1853, described Anakiwa, then occupied by Ngāti Rāhiri led by Hoera Nikorima and Maraini Huriwhenua:

At last the head of the Sound was reached, known by the name of the Anakiwa Pah, and in those days quite a populous place, and picturesque in the extreme. Dark huts clustered together on a rising ground, one more imposing than the rest, being the church or chapel, the whole Pah being enclosed by a stout palisade. Stiles were fixed at different corners by way of fortification against the visits of the Waikatoos (sic) who might perchance pay an unexpected visit’.

Unfortunately, Ngāti Rāhiri land at Anakiwa was not reserved for the residents as it should have been during the Crown’s land purchases of 1855 and 1856. The Government instead included Anakiwa lands in its grant to Joseph Thoms, and it was later sold to Messrs Hood and Beth. In consequence, Ngāti Rāhiri left Anakiwa in 1859, prompted by requests from relatives for support in the escalating conflict over land sales in Taranaki, where Ngāti Rāhiri supported Te Teira Mānuka and the Government.

Although Ngāti Rāhiri departed from Anakiwa, other hapū and whānau of Te Ātiawa have maintained manawhenua (authority over the land) throughout Tōtaranui and Tory Channel to the present day. Outward Bound and Te Ātiawa recognise the diverse history of Anakiwa, and actively work together to protect the uniqueness of the area.


Kurt Hahn - Educator and Founder of Outward Bound

Kurt Hahn’s name is widely known and highly regarded within outdoor education circles but somewhat interestingly he never set out to be an outdoor educator – certainly not in the way that we understand the term today. He was first and foremost an educator-in the classic sense of the word. He saw the inherent goodness in his students and sought to encourage them and allow them to develop to their full potential. He was in this sense very ‘student centered’.

He regarded the task of education to encourage enterprise and curiosity, to take a positive and enthusiastic attitude to life, to be determined, to recognise that there are times when it is more important to put the interests of others ahead of your own, and to value compassion and service to others. In this way Hahn’s legacy to education is timeless. 

He was the founder/headmaster of two world renowned schools (Salem in Germany and Gordonstoun in Scotland); co-founder of Outward Bound, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and the United World Colleges; and the inspiration for several other schools in Britain, Europe, Africa and America.  Hahn’s influence on modern western education (both private and state) has been profound, emphasising the education of the whole person.


Kurt Hahn

Kurt Hahn was born in 1886 into a wealthy Jewish family in Berlin, where his father had a large steel business. He attended several German universities and he also studied at Oxford University. While at Oxford he suffered a severe attack of sunstroke which left him permanently afflicted and unable to endure bright sunlight. The experience was to cause him to have a very real concern for the health of his pupils and to personally experience how to make a disability an opportunity. Hahn’s sayings are not those of a man removed from the reality of turmoil and struggle – they are the wisdom based on experience.

Two days after his return from Oxford, Great Britain declared war on Germany. He was assigned to the German Foreign Office as an advisor on English affairs and eventually he became private secretary to Prince Max of Baden, the last Imperial Chancellor.

Prince Max persuaded Hahn to found a school and in 1920 he provided space for a school in his castle of Salem on the shores of Lake Constance. Hahn set out to train young people to have moral independence, an ability to choose between “right and wrong,” and an improvement in their physical health. Salem flourished and Hahn’s ideas spread both in Germany and abroad. Unfortunately, during this period Germany saw the rise of Adolf Hitler and National Socialism.

In 1932 there was a particularly brutal murder committed by a group of Nazis. Before their trial, Hitler sent them an open telegram of support and demanded their immediate release. For Hahn, this act defined the hour when men of honor must declare themselves. Hahn replied with a telegram to all former Salem pupils demanding they break either with Hitler or with Salem. "It was the bravest deed in cold blood that I have witnessed," said a Briton teaching at Salem at the time. Thereafter Hahn was to make open criticism of the Nazis in public speeches and the press.

He was struck by the similarities between his training methods and code and those of the Hitler Youth – fitness, initiative, self discipline etc.  It led him to ask what the difference was.  What was the essential ingredient in the Salem code that distinguished it from the Hitler Youth code?  His answer to this was concern for others and the need to act with compassion in the service of all.  “We need to be able to feel that as a people we are just and kindly. On this consciousness depends our inner strength.”

It was inevitable that once Hitler came to power Hahn would be arrested and imprisoned. Influential friends and colleagues, many of them former associates at Oxford, objected strenuously to his arrest. Following pressure from the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald and other eminent people Hahn was released and he moved to England.   

In the first months of his exile he was profoundly depressed. At the age of forty-seven he had lost his homeland, his school, the battle for German youth. Once a man of means, he had overnight become a penniless refugee. Worse, his spiritual resources were depleted. When he was asked to found a new school along Salem lines, he lacked the will to do so.

Discouraged and emotionally exhausted, he decided to return to Moray in the north of Scotland, where he had recovered in the summer after a sunstroke suffered in his Oxford years. He met old friends among the fishermen and crafters in the district. On the wharf in Hopeman Harbor, he listened to fisherman Danny Main tell tales of common men who displayed uncommon courage against forces of the sea. His fortitude began to return. With another friend, he inspected the partially empty castle at Gordonstoun, badly in need of repair. As a possible site for a school, its vistas seized his spirit and he knew again in his own experience the truth that he would so often summon in guiding others: “Your disability is your opportunity.” Less than a year later, in April 1934, Gordonstoun opened as a school for boys.

During the Second World War, the British military requisitioned Gordonstoun and Hahn moved the school to Wales, and it was here in 1941, in association with Lawrence Holt, chairman of the Blue Funnel Line, that he co-founded the first Outward Bound School at Aberdovey. Holt had been very worried by the inability of young seamen to survive in lifeboats once their ships had been sunk by German U-Boats, while older seamen with more life experience held on. Holt felt that Hahn’s physical training methods coupled with the emphasis placed on initiative, tenacity and compassion could help young men prepare themselves for such an ordeal. Thus began Outward Bound - an educational endeavour not just for those in the military, but for young men from all walks of life. (In the early days it was a male-only enterprise.)

In 1946 the Outward Bound Trust was formed and since then Outward Bound schools have been set up in many parts of the world.  Hahn retired as headmaster of Gordonstoun in 1953 and received an Honorary Degree from Edinburgh University.

1956 saw the inauguration of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. The basic concept for this was the Moray Badge Scheme, which Hahn had started at Gordonstoun before the war when Prince Philip was a pupil there. Then in 1962, at St Donat’s Castle, in South Wales, Atlantic College was founded.  This was the first of a chain of international sixth form colleges now known as the United World Colleges.

Service at Gordonstoun 

Outward Bound at Aberdovey 1952

Hahnian Philosophy

Plus est en vous. There is more in you was a Latin inscription by Pintar found on the wall of a family home in Belgium before World War II. It became the motto for the school Kurt Hahn founded in Britain, Gordonstoun, and the theme of his philosophy: that each of us has more courage, more strength and more compassion than we would ever have fathomed.

Hahn saw around him a society suffering from what he called the modern declines. Declines in: fitness, due to modern transport; initiative, due to the widespread disease of what he called ‘spectatoritis’; skill and care, due to the weakening tradition of craftsmanship; self discipline, due to the availability of stimulants; memory and imagination, due to the confused restlessness of modern life; and, above all, the decline in compassion, due to the unseemly haste with which modern life is conducted. Whilst many of these ‘declines’ are couched in rather old-fashioned terms we can see that they are still relevant to society today.

To address these declines, he made use of several devices which at the time were fairly revolutionary. To foster self discipline, pupils were encouraged to follow a so-called training plan – a simple set of routine tasks such as a short run followed by a shower every morning.  There was also a great deal of trust placed in them with very few checks, and the older ones were expected to look after the younger ones.

Then there was the daily break from the classroom for athletic training to encourage fitness.  Remember that when Salem started, Germany was shattered by the First World War and many of Hahn’s pupils were in poor condition. Today, PE is a regular part of many education systems.

There were the regular expeditions which encouraged the spirit of adventure and exploration. At Gordonstoun there was the seamanship scheme to encourage sailing and group work skills, as well as other projects which all pupils undertook.  It was a basic Hahnian principle that local skill and tradition should be made use of as much as possible.

But perhaps the best known feature of Gordonstoun was its rescue services: the Coastal Watchers, the Fire Service, the Mountain Rescue, the Surf Life-savers and, later, the Community Service. Possibly the most salient feature of Hahn’s theory was his belief that young people would display their best qualities in service to others; it gave a justification for the other qualities of fitness, skill, initiative, etc; and above all, encouraged compassion which he maintained was the essential difference between his code and those of totalitarian state youth movements. But any service had to be for real – playing at it was not enough – hence, the services had to be integrated into national organisations. 

It was in the Rescue Services that those not gifted academically or athletically could shine.  And here Hahn emerges as the champion of the ‘non-achiever’ and the late developer. At Salem and Gordonstoun, athletic and academic prowess was removed from the pedestal on which they were placed in most English public schools. This is not to say they were denigrated – Hahn himself was a keen athlete and hockey player, encouraging team sports – but there were no cups awarded and no marks or prizes given for academic work. Instead, each pupil always carried with him a chart on which were recorded grades awarded for work relative to industry and ability. 

There was a staff meeting once a month at which every pupil in the school was discussed and awarded an overall grade. Hahn was constantly looking for fields in which those making slow progress could achieve. There was one small boy at Gordonstoun who seemed quite hopeless at everything until Hahn discovered he was quite good at woodcarving. Hahn had great faith in this lad and eventually persuaded an Oxford college to accept him despite his complete lack of academic qualifications. He later became one of Britain’s leading brain surgeons.

Hahn's Legacy

The spirit of Kurt Hahn is embodied in the motto of Outward Bound: “To serve, to strive and not to yield.” Hahn believed that the virtues of fitness, skill, initiative and self discipline count for little by themselves. Their true value is to be found in how they are exercised in the compassionate service to others. Hahn’s philosophy is still very much in evidence today and his key principles and leading values guide Outward Bound New Zealand at both the philosophical and programme levels.

Outward Bound NZ - Founded 1962

In the early 1960s a number of dedicated people were instrumental in the formation of the Outward Bound Trust of New Zealand, based on the ideals of educator Kurt Hahn. It was a dream of the then Governor General, Lord Cobham, who in turn challenged Woolf Fisher, Warren Johnson, Fergus Taylor, Hamish Thomas, Alex Black and Sir Roy McKenzie to make it their dream too. A committee was formed and for over 18 months they searched New Zealand to find the most suitable location to establish the Outward Bound School.

What attracted them to Anakiwa and the Marlborough Sounds – its relative remoteness, natural  beauty and closeness of the sea and mountains – are the same features that Captain Cook found so appealing on his five voyages tothe area in the 1770s.

Where the Outward Bound School dining hall currently stands was a 20-room guest house belonging to the Hazelwood family, descendants of Craddock Beauchamp, who owned the property from 1864. The Beauchamp family home was extended into a guest house in 1928.

In 1962 the property was purchased and transformed under the watchful eye of Hamish Thomas, the school’s first warden. It was then that New Zealand’s first and only Outward Bound School was born. Governor-General Lord Cobham opened the school on 1st September 1962 and shortly after thirty-six young men were welcomed on the first course. October 1973 saw Outward Bound welcome female students to Anakiwa for the first time, followed by the innaugural course for physically disabled New Zealanders delivered in 1978.

Over the years the school in Anakiwa has grown significantly with the original guest house being replaced with new buildings in 1980 and the addition of a new watch house, new staff accomodation and a new safety launch from 2018 onwards as part of Project Refresh, a major building campaign to future proof the school.

60 years on, Outward Bound NZ continues to use the same mountains, bush and waterways of this special part of New Zealand to help individuals reach their full potential. Through challenge and adventure, participants are given the opportunity to reflect, step outside their comfort zone, and find their future direction. Outward Bound welcomes people of all ages, cultures, abilities and backgrounds to the school at Anakiwa.

Outward Bound NZ 1962

Outward Bound NZ 2022