15 Dec 2022

Dawn Raids apology a stand-out moment for outgoing politician

8:26 am on 15 December 2022
Aupito William Sio, his wife Jean and his son in-law and three of his 10 children.

Aupito William Sio, his wife Jean and his son in-law and three of his 10 children. Photo: Supplied/Aupito

After more than a decade in the New Zealand Parliament, Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio is retiring.

"I mark 15 years next April and I have dedicated that time advocating for Pacific communities.

"I've left everything on the field and I think it's my time. I've got young Pacific MPs in my caucus that are raring to go and I've got every confidence in them," Aupito said.

Aupito said the decision to bow out at the next election - likely to be held in late 2023 - was an easy one to make.

"I made that decision. It's 15 years as a Member of Parliament but also seven years in local government. That's 22 years in public life," he said.

As well as being Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito served this term as Minister for Courts, and Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs.

"I've got other responsibilities as a matai of a really strong extended family across the region, so I've got to pay attention to that side of my life and I've got other challenges that I want to get stuck into," Aupito said.

Dawn Raids apology

"I think one of the single stand-out moments is the Dawn Raids apology.

"It really helped people to begin the healing process," he said.

Aupito spearheaded the apology in 2021, where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern formally apologised to Pacific communities impacted by the 1970s raids.

"Pacific peoples, Māori and other ethnic communities were specifically targeted and racially profiled during the Dawn Raids, which was wrong and should have never happened," he said.

Aupito's father was the chairperson of the second Samoan-speaking parish in Otara who dealt with the injustices in the raids. He explained how he watched his father support families who were being deported or who were in prison as a youngster.

It was in those early days where his parents showed him what hard work is. Everything they did was always about serving the community, he said.

"I try to live by those values that both my parents have instilled in me," Aupito said.

Aupito William Sio with his sisters and baby brother in 1969, one year after they arrived in New Zealand from Samoa.

Aupito William Sio with his sisters and baby brother in 1969, one year after they arrived in New Zealand from Samoa. Photo: Supplied/Aupito

Not done yet

Aupito insisted that while his time in Parliament is wrapping up, there is still work to be completed.

"I'm still the minister, I'm not going away quickly. I still have a budget that I am working through. The continuation of more funding for the Pacific.

"Budget 2023 is an absolute, and yes we've got the commitments that we made during the Dawn Raids which includes matters around immigration so we're working on that. I'm holding the Pacific Education Ministers meeting next year and of course I've got to launch the Dawn Raids vaka of stories," he said.

It is not just Pacific issues that he said needs his focus. On that list are improvements which need to be made to better access to the court system and there is coronial reform to oversee.

He said he hopes it can all be "completed by next year".

"I am going to transition from Parliament back into the community and will continue my Pacific advocacy work in the community where I started."

Aupito has not firmed up his next steps just yet, but he said he plans on taking a break and is going to Samoa over the summer.


"This life is all consuming. It's relentless, you can't do everything, the sacrifice is for my family," he said.

The Chiefly title of Aupito was bequeathed upon him in 2016 by his father. He says the first title that was given to him was an orator title in 1990. He said many other roles and responsibilities have been bestowed on him over the years.

"These titles are roles and responsibilities that extend to a number of family clans who were originally based in Samoa," he said.

He wants the freedom to carry out his roles and responsibilities that he is not able to do in his current role which he described as, "non stop and unrelenting".

"Not being around when family members pass away and not being able to perform my maitai duties," he lamented.

Before he broke the news to his family over zoom, he had been talking to his father, Aupito Sr for some time to assure him nothing was wrong.

"He is very proud I am Pacific Peoples Minister in the New Zealand Government.

"He has been my unofficial campaign manager, if I wanted it or not," he said.

His mother Sene passed away in 1999. At that time he was living in Samoa but he returned in 2000 to be around his father. He then stood for Manukau City council in 2001 with Len Brown.

"You are given this task by the community and I like to think that I have given my best.

"I am not leaving the people of South Auckland, I'm still going to be living in Mangere, the gateway to the nation, the land of the young, the beautiful and the gifted and our world champions," he said.

Aupito William Sio and Aupito Senior with other Aupito family matai's.

Aupito William Sio and Aupito Senior with other Aupito family matai's. Photo: Supplied/Aupito

Fight for our lives

As he prepares for a life out of Parliament, Aupito called on the next generation of leaders is to stand up and be heard.

"Don't put up with injustices, don't put up with racism and discrimination, speak out," he said.

Aupito's message to current leaders is to listen.

"They want a better country, they want a country where they can see everybody, accept diversity and recognise that as a strength of Aotearoa New Zealand.

"I am going to rev up that next generation to have a fight for their lives," he said.