Dawn Raids apology: petition handed to parliament calling for education campaign to follow

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, co-leader of Te Paati Māori, receives a petition from Benji Timu, supported by Josiah Tualamali’i (left). Photo / Michael Neilson

An education campaign must follow the government’s apologies for the Dawn immigration raids that racially targeted Pasifika in the mid-1970s, say those who submitted a petition to Parliament.

It comes as the official apology originally planned for this Saturday in Auckland has been postponed due to Wellington’s shift to Alert Level 2, meaning politicians, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, could not have been there. assist.

Ardern had announced the apology this month, saying it would be consistent with previous government apologies and would not consider any issues of amnesty or compensation.

It has not committed itself to specific educational policies either.

On Wednesday, Josiah Tualamali’i and Benji Timu presented their petition calling for an apology for the dawn raids and allowing education in Aotearoa about them, with nearly 8,000 signatures.

The petition was part of a larger campaign, including by the Polynesian Panthers, for the government to apologize for the immigration raids of the mid-1970s that disproportionately targeted people of Pasifika origin, suspected of having exceeded their visa.

A study carried out a decade later showed that Polynesians accounted for only a third of time overruns but over 80% of all time overrun lawsuits.

Tualamali’i said that although it was “huge” to get an apology, they would continue to push for resources for education.

He also welcomed the news that there would be a general debate next Thursday in parliament on the dawn raids, giving politicians the chance to have their views recorded in history.

“It will help a lot to hear those words. We hope this is the start of more to come, for a legacy fund for education to follow.”

He said he supported calls for an investigation into the dawn raids and the broader identity of the Pasifika in Aotearoa, but that was not their current focus.

Te Paati Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, who accepted the petition, said the apology should be “the beginning and not the end”.

Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio announced the apology.  Photo / Mark Mitchell
Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio announced the apology. Photo / Mark Mitchell

She reflected on her own whakapapa in Taranaki and the “uprooting” of their people and culture, and four mokopuna of Samoan heritage.

She had been pushing for debate in the House next week and said it would be another step in establishing the facts on this “shameful” chapter in Aotearoa’s history.

“It brings responsibility. You can’t apologize and expect this to be the end.”

She supported the idea of ​​an investigation and said funding must be provided to ensure that dawn raids are taught in schools.

Pacific Peoples Green Party spokesman Teanau Tuiono said the apology was an important first step but had to be accompanied by education.

He said the curriculum review was the perfect opportunity to make sure that happened.

He also reiterated his calls for a broad amnesty for extended stays and for immigration changes.

Timu said that since the apology was announced, four of his family have shared their experiences of the dawn raids.

“I’m 27, grew up in Auckland and only heard about Dawn Raids in general two years ago.”

He hoped more and more stories would come out as a result of the apology.

“Peoples of the Pacific, we are easily humiliated and embarrassed, especially those who lived in a country that did not want it.

“Maybe they didn’t have the capacity to see it as a race issue. But young people now, 50 years later, are able to think back. It’s about spreading the stories.”

Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio, who recently shared a moving account of a dawn raid his family experienced, said he had heard calls for the apology to be accompanied by further action, but urged people to wait until after the apology.

The delay was disappointing, but more for those willing to share their stories, he said.

There was no new date decided yet.

The dawn raids began in 1974 when the then Labor government, facing an economic downturn, cracked down on people exceeding their work visas.

Samoans and Tongans – welcomed to New Zealand with open arms in the 1950s and 1960s to alleviate a huge labor shortage – have become the scapegoats for rising unemployment and have been the main targets.

Police officers with dogs were breaking into homes at dawn across the country; The people of the Pacific were randomly stopped on the street.

The election of a national government at the end of 1975 was followed by a new wave of raids against communities in the Pacific Islands.

The opposition, led by Pasifika community groups including the Polynesian Panthers, slowly grew, and in 1977 immigration procedures were changed.

Announcing the apology last week, Ardern said the raids were “systematically severe, with demeaning verbal and physical treatment,” and targeted racially-motivated Pasifika.

They were accompanied by racist checks in the streets of Pasifika and other people of color, including Maori.

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