Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith


Goodfellow postgraduate chair in General Practice, Auckland University



Her Albany home


Her history is as colourful as gradma's quilt

We arrive at Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith's house and wonder if we're at the right address. There are a lot of shoes on the front step. A campervan in the drive makes the place look a little like a backpackers' lodge.

But a few seconds later, Dr Goodyear-Smith opens the door. She takes us upstairs to a living room stacked with books, artefacts and souvenirs. Wooden decks offer a view over bush-clad hills.

We are here to discuss Dr Goodyear-Smith's recent appointment as the Goodfellow post

graduate chair at Auckland University's department of general practice and primary health care.

The Goodfellow unit opened in 1978 at the university's Tamaki campus. It provides lifelong learning and postgraduate courses for general practitioners.

Dr Goodyear-Smith has been involved with the unit for several years. Her appointment means she will have more time to concentrate on research in lifestyle issues, mental health and immunisation - areas that have led to more than her share of headlines.

Google her name and you'll get 43,200 answers in 0.5 seconds. The word "controversial'' will crop up in many of the precis, usually centred on her belief that many allegations of child sex-abuse are false, based on a presumption of guilt.

The 57-year-old says she fell into academia. "When I met my husband, I was busy working as a GP and needed to make more space for my family.''

She completed her master's degree from Otago University by correspondence, following it with a thesis on recovered memories - a type of psychotherapy that assumes problems like bulimia or depression are caused by repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse.

"This ideology was imported from America and the memories are not always necessarily real ones. There was a belief that abuse was widespread and a lot of people were getting large ACC payments.''

In response to the increasing number of false allegations made at the time, Dr Goodyear-Smith formed the Casualties of Sexual Allegations group in the early 1990s. The group offered advice and support for people involved in false accusations. "This made me very unpopular in some circles,'' she says.

In its heyday, the group had about 350 members. Nowadays, it has scaled right down and operates only in Christchurch.

Dr Goodyear-Smith spent several years working as a police doctor with victims of sexual abuse and still appears as an expert witness in rape cases. Her book,

First Do No Harm

, challenges many of the assumptions about sexual abuse.

Other medical ventures and adventures include time as a ship's surgeon aboard a cruise liner and two years in the 1970s at a health centre in Jamaica. "I'd just finished a winter in London and loved reggae music. The country had a socialist government and was not Americanised. There was a lot of need and very friendly people.''

For 15 years she was also a locum at Mt Eden Prison. "I like that sort of clientele. They call a spade a spade, have real problems and are very likeable.''

She is still a locum at a medical centre in Browns Bay and with the Auckland City Mission.

Mid-conversation, her husband, John Potter, walks in to tell his wife he's popping out, and kisses her on the cheek.

HIS appearance brings us, perhaps inevitably, to another topic. John Potter is the son of Bert Potter, convicted sex offender and spiritual leader of Albany's controversial Centrepoint commune. Bert served a 9-year jail sentence in the 1990s for perjury, child sex and drugs charges.

His son also spent time in prison for indecent assault of two underage girls at Centrepoint. He was about 20 at the time. It's time for more probing questions.

Dr Goodyear-Smith cringes and rolls her eyes as if to say, "Do we have to?''. Aloud, she says, "It's old history. I've talked about this so many times.''

She never lived at Centrepoint, but visited often. "It was an idealistic community of people that wanted more than a nuclear family. The 1970s' free love got out of hand. It's not a major part of who I am. I just happen to have a husband that's branded for life.''

Dr Goodyear-Smith met John, four years her junior, through mutual friends about 20 years ago. His children then lived at Centrepoint.

When Bert and his second wife were jailed, Dr Goodyear-Smith took custody of his three

children. Now 86, Bert lives in a small pensioner flat with his cats. He has Alzheimers and Dr Goodyear-Smith sees him about once a year. It's hard to decipher her feelings about him.

She became spokesperson for Centrepoint when the land it had owned, administered by the Public Trust after the commune fell apart, came up for sale in 2008.

"Nobody else wanted to be involved with the stigma of the place,'' she explains.

"I grew up on the North Shore and really wanted the North Shore City Council to buy the

land so it would be protected.''

The 7.6ha bush-clad property on Wright Rd has since been sold to Wellpark College on

Natural Therapies. This is a real shame in Dr Goodyear-Smith's view.

John has been a house-husband, looking after the couple's only daughter. He built the house they live in. Nowadays, he designs websites and runs a men's rights website, MENZ.

The family goes on regular tramping and backpacking holidays. They are planning a trip to Nelson Lakes National Park.

The interview over, we take a walk around the property. There's a large vegetable patch, chickens and leafy gardens. A steep driveway leads to a sleep-out, which is rented out to friends. From the campervan its occupant waves as we depart.