Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister took to Instagram to issue a formal apology on behalf of the New Zealand Government for the “dawn raids” of the 1970s. She participated in a Samoan forgiveness ritual and spoke in detail of the racial injustice many faced.
Dawn Raids targeted people who overstayed their visas, but it was much more than that. It specifically targeted Pacific people – referring to those who have migrated from the Pacific Islands or who identify with the Pacific Islands because of their ancestry or heritage.
Today I was humbled to offer these words- an apology that has been a long time coming. Many of you will know this story. To those who don’t, please read on. During the economic boom of the 1950s, New Zealand encouraged significant migration from the Pacific region to fill labour shortages in the manufacturing and primary production sector.
In the 1970s, after the downturn of the economy, many looked for someone to blame. This changed how Pacific people were viewed in New Zealand, overnight, as many blamed migrants for jeopardising their financial security.
The migrants who became the focal point and scapegoat for these fears were largely Pacific peoples, and when Police and Immigration enforced immigration laws around overstaying, not everyone was targeted. Instead, Police and Immigration officials overwhelmingly conducted raids on the homes of Pacific families.
Raids were conducted by officials, accompanied by dogs, at the homes of Pacific families, early in the morning or late at night. Some wrongfully detained, and others forced to turn up, in court, in pyjamas that they were picked up in.
Today, I stand on behalf of the New Zealand Government to offer a formal and unreserved apology to Pacific communities for the discriminatory implementation of the immigration laws of the 1970s that led to the events of the Dawn Raids.
Read her full apology here:
In addition to this, the government of NZ has decided that it will also incorporate the dawn raids into the history curriculum. They will also support Pacific artists and historians to create an official record of the mistreatment, so this does not get overlooked.