TEU member Cherie Chu-Fuluifaga is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at Te Herenga Waka | Victoria University of Wellington. Here, Chu-Fuluifaga responds to news the New Zealand Government will make a formal apology for the ‘Dawn Raids’.
Each year in my university Pacific education, I start one of my lectures with an introduction to the 1970’s Dawn Raids. I show past news stories showing the clear images of Pacific people being ‘Dawn Raided’ and there is always an expected silence from the class. Their eyes are fixed on the screen with very little movement as they watch the story unravel.
Sometimes a student will flinch or close their eyes as they see disturbing scenes, and some will gasp in utter disbelief. We then talk about what the Dawn Raids meant and has represented in the migration story of our Pacific peoples. Our emotions are stirred and shaken, in ways that make us uncomfortable in spirit and in heart, because in so many ways the Dawn Raids is part of the narrative of discrimination and racism that has been perpetuated in New Zealand society and education, consequentially.
Through viewing the historical event with our own eyes, we are set up well as a class, pushing us to challenge the status quo, to move forward with passion and commitment to change and to be present with altering the course of racism. With a new trimester, the other day we started the lecture with the Dawn Raids topic, but instead I got to show the media clip of Minister William Sio describing the Dawn Raids’ impact on his own family as he announced the government’s intention to apologise for the Raids. Yeah, it was personal for him. It was personal for so many people watching the clip.
I stared at the television, with a combination of feelings – anger, sadness, happiness and confusion. This apology is big, and it should be big, because the trauma that runs through our veins is one that is felt in all of our Pacific peoples’ generations.
We have started bantering on social media about what the apology means for us in New Zealand, and what it could mean for the future ahead. It is personal for so many of us because as relational peoples, we feel the pain and hurt that has been encrypted into our migration journey.
The New Zealand government apology is coming – and it’s a point of some clearing on the path and it gets us as Pacific peoples to keep stirring the pot of challenge.