Government apology needed for Dawn Raids

Government apology needed for Dawn Raids

June 9, 2021

The Human Rights Commission endorses the calls for a government apology for the Dawn Raids in recognition that the discriminatory actions of the state at that time breached the human rights of Pacific peoples in Aotearoa.

The social justice movement, the Polynesian Panthers, has recently called for a government apology over the Dawn Raids of the 1970s. The Chief Commissioner, on behalf of all the Commissioners, has written to the Prime Minister and Minister for Pacific Peoples fully supporting that call. 

“The racism and discrimination of the Dawn Raids, with their disproportionate targeting of Pacific communities when most ‘overstayers’ were British or Australian citizens, is not in dispute. An apology is sorely needed.” Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said. 

Along with a request for a government apology, the Polynesian Panthers’ are seeking Pacific peoples’ history, including the Dawn Raids to be taught in school with a focus on racism and colonisation, including Pacific peoples’ experiences. 

“The Commission supports the request for Pacific peoples’ history, including the Dawn Raids, to be taught in schools,” Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon said.

“We recognise the importance of the education system being embedded in a local context and encourage the current histories curriculum be to refreshed to include a wider range of stories covering the full history of New Zealand.”

International human rights law provides that States have duties to provide effective remedies when human rights are violated under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - which the New Zealand Government has ratified and is bound by. 

“It follows from acknowledging the discriminatory actions of the state that the government also has a duty to provide a remedy,” Hunt said.

In the letter to the Prime Minister the Commission urged a collaborative engagement process and approach be undertaken with those affected by the Dawn Raids to discuss their perspectives and identify effective remedies.

“This will ensure that the apology and actions to support the apology are meaningfully based on human rights and Te Tiriti o Waitangi which may give better recognition to the collective needs of our Pacific peoples in Aotearoa,“ Hunt wrote.

Photo: RNZ / Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor