Skip to content
Volume 2, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2050-4039
  • E-ISSN: 2050-4047



Focusing on the 1950s and 1960s, this article is concerned with the role of the Lepers’ Trust Board and its most famous representative, P. J. Twomey, in the formation of unofficial voluntary and philanthropic relationships between the people of New Zealand and the South Pacific. The origins of the Lepers’ Trust Board lie in the charitable outreach of Benjamin Pratt and Pat Twomey to the leprosy patients isolated on Quail Island in Lyttleton Harbour, New Zealand. On Pratt’s death, Twomey continued the work initiated in the 1920s and became known throughout New Zealand and the South Pacific as the ‘Leper Man’. This article draws on the theory of social capital to help explain the diversity and dynamic of philanthropic networks linking the Lepers’ Trust Board in Christchurch, New Zealand, to the leprosy sufferers of the South Pacific. It foregrounds the importance of the marginalized and isolated leprosy communities in providing an ethical and emotional focus for the forging of personal relationships between peoples of New Zealand and the Pacific islands. This article contributes new research and interpretive insights into the history of welfare in New Zealand, arguing that the fundraising activities and donor response to Twomey, and the leprosy-affected people of the South Pacific, became a means of developing a micro-economy of personally and financially invested intra-Pacific networks.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a success
Invalid data
An error occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error