Plunket Society

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Plunket Society
Formation May 14, 1907; 108 years ago (1907-05-14)

The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society is an incorporated society[1] in New Zealand which provides a range of health services to healthy babies and young children. The Plunket Society mission is "to ensure that New Zealand children are among the healthiest in the world".

The society is most commonly referred to in the community as "Plunket".


MP Hilda Ross (left) and Mrs Gilmer, president of the Plunket Society, at the opening of the 1950 Karitane Fair, Wellington

The meeting which led to the foundation of the society was held on 14 May 1907, in Dunedin, by Dr Truby King. King was a medical superintendent and lecturer in mental diseases. He believed that by providing support services to parents, the society could ensure children were fed on a nutritious diet, and therefore reduce child mortality rates. He also believed that this would improve adult health as the children got older.

Originally called the Royal New Zealand Society for the Health of Women and Children, Plunket got its name from an early patron of the Society, Victoria Alexandrina Plunket mother of eight and wife of then Governor of New Zealand, William Plunket, 5th Baron Plunket.[2][3]

Within a year, the society had first opened The Karitane Home For Babies in Dunedin, and then opened centres in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

The society laboured for many years under the false perception that it was set up cater only for European women and their babies, this impression was reinforced by the fact that the Department of Health operated a Native Health Nurse Service specifically for Maori in rural areas.[3]

In 1912, King made a lecture tour on the Plunket Society. In these tours he was highly successful in attracting support for the society, partly because he exaggerated the effect on infant mortality rates.[3] As a result of his tour, 60 new centres opened around New Zealand, each employing a nurse. The centres were badged as Plunket Rooms, however they are now referred to as Plunket Clinics. King published several manuals, among them Feeding and Care of Baby (1913), and The Expectant Mother and Baby's First Months (1916). This latter publication was given to every applicant for a marriage licence.[2]

Plunket today[edit]

Many changes have been made to Plunket teaching and organisation over the years. The initial strict parenting regimes have given way to more flexible care and support, and Karitane Hospitals were replaced in the 1970s with Plunket Karitane family centres. 1981 saw the introduction of a car seat rental scheme, and in 1994 a telephone advice service, PlunketLine, was inaugurated. Special training schemes have been initiated for Māori Health Workers to give culturally appropriate guidance where necessary, and Plunket is also seeing an increase in the number of Pacific Island families enrolling.[2]


  1. ^ Charities Commission website
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ a b c Sullivan, Jim (2007) I Was a Plunket Baby: 100 Years of the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, Auckland: Random House ISBN 9781869418984

External links[edit]