Editorial: Better late than never

New Zealand Minister for Pacific peoples, Sio and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday the government would formally apologise for an infamous part of the nation’s history known as the Dawn Raids.

It’s when Pacific Island people were targeted for deportation in the mid-1970s during aggressive home raids by authorities to find, convict and deport overstayers. The raids often took place very early in the morning or late at night.

Sio became emotional as he and Ardern discussed the apology at a news conference. We felt as a community that we were invited to come to New Zealand. We responded to the call to fill the labor workforce that was needed, in the same way we responded to the call for soldiers in 1914,” Sio said. But he said the government then turned on the Pasifika community when it felt those workers were no longer needed.

Ardern said that at the time, people who didn’t look like white New Zealanders were told they should carry identification to prove they weren’t overstayers, and were often randomly stopped in the street, or even at schools or churches. She said Pacific people were often dragged before the courts in their pajamas and without proper representation.

Not only were they targeted, they were targeted using a process and a practice that was really dehumanizing, that really terrorised people in their homes, Ardern said. She said that when computerised immigration records were introduced in 1977, they showed that 40 per cent of overstayers were either British or American, groups that were never targeted for deportation. The raids, and what they represented, created deep wounds, Ardern said. And while we cannot change our history, we can acknowledge it, and we can seek to right a wrong. The formal apology will be held at a commemoration event on 26 June in Auckland.


NT Bureau