14 Jun 2021

Polynesian Panthers welcome apology for Dawn Raids, but urge action

From Checkpoint, 5:10 pm on 14 June 2021

Polynesian Panthers are welcoming an impending formal apology from the government on the Dawn Raids of the 1970s, but say measures need to be put in place to prevent a similar incident from repeating.

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Dr Melanie Anae Photo: Supplied

The government has acknowledged the raids were severe with demeaning, verbal and physical treatment.

The raids were carried out to uncover and deport overstayers and took place very early in the morning or late at night.Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the raids, and what they represented, created deep wounds. 

Ardern made the announcement today about the upcoming apology for the "dehumanising and terrorising treatment" committed during the Dawn Raids.

Dr Melani Anae, a foundation member of the Polynesian Panthers, told Checkpoint it was about "honouring the voices of those who were traumatised by the injustice of the government's actions."

"The apology and what the Polynesian Panthers are calling for holds the future of race relations in Aotearoa and will lead the way for rest of the world, and we believe firmly in that."

She said today was the first they had heard of the upcoming formal apology, after two years of lobbying for it.

"The intergenerational trauma that the terror of the Dawn Raids caused has caused a lot of harm and mental health problems for Pacific peoples."

Anae said she was happy to hear the announcement today, adding that it was a good start for the healing process for race relations between Pacific people and Aotearoa.

"We're really excited the day has come ... we were hoping it would coincide with our 50th anniversary next week but it's a bit earlier than that."

But for the apology to be meaningful, there would also need to be steps and measures to ensure something like this never happens again, she said.

Ardern would not say what the formal apology might involve, adding that more details would be revealed on the day.

"We want action, not words," Anae said. "We need to see what the government has in store for us in terms of the detail that was referred to.

"When the Panthers put their submissions to the government, we were quite clear that we were wanting a substantive educative focus on what happens after the apology.

"We're not necessarily concerned with compensation.

"The major work that needs to be done is in the education arena. One of our platforms is educate to liberate, and that's where we think the answer lies in terms of not allowing the terrorism of the Dawn Raids to happen again.

"We need to change the way we think about the world, and each other and our relationships and we think that what we are calling for will benefit the New Zealand of the future rather than just compensate for a finite number of cases."

She said the Dawn Raids left a legacy of intergenerational trauma, which she still hears about from families today.

"It has caused internalised racism, we're the stereotypes of overstaying and racist jaunts and accusations ... that is why the apology is needed, we have to stop that from happening again.

"It will always be in the memories and ways of behaving, and ways of believing who you are in terms of identity. The trauma is everlasting, it will never go away.

"It's there in the statistics in terms of systemic racism that goes on. The Dawn Raids has a big part to play in why we have those negative statistics."