Jacinda Ardern gives moving formal apology for New Zealand's historic Dawn Raids
Jacinda Ardern continues to set an example for leaders around the world
New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has issued a formal apology to the Pacific Islanders on behalf of the government for the 'Dawn Raids' which took place during the 1970s right up until the early 1980s.
This dark moment in Kiwi history saw NZ administrations (both Labour and National) targeted the Pasifika population, accusing thousands of overstaying, despite the majority of those whose visas had expired being from the UK, Australia and South Africa.
Homes were raided with dogs in the middle of the night, people were stopped in the street; many were pushed into police vans for questioning and often deported, leaving their children to be placed in state care homes.
Yesterday, after decades-long calls for recognition and reparations were finally heard back in April, Ardern attended a ceremony at Auckland Town Hall, where she not only issued a touching "formal and unreserved" apology but was forgiven in a traditional Samoan ceremonial gesture known as the ifoga ritual.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern formally apologised to Pacific communities for the racially targeted “Dawn Raids” that took place in the 1970s pic.twitter.com/7GTzVNvC0f
— TRT World (@trtworld) August 1, 2021
As you can see in the clip, Ardern is draped in a large, white, woven mat in a traditional, before having it removed by members of the Pacific community. This gesture denotes forgiveness, as those responsible for offended another are subjected to supposed 'public humiliation' in return for being absolved by those who were wronged.
New Zealand's Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, was himself a victim of the Dawn Raids as a teen. Speaking to the New Zealand Herald back in June, he said that memory of "someone knocking on the door in the early hours, flashlight in your face, disrespecting the owner of the home, with an Alsatian dog frothing at the mouth" will be etched into his memory forever.
It was clearly a deeply moving and spiritual experience for everyone, with Ardern firmly embracing as an Islander the second the ceremony is over. In her speech, she spoke of the New Zealand government's "sorrow, remorse and regret" for the discriminatory immigration laws that led to a significant stain on the country's modern history. Hope you're listening, Priti.
All that being said, it's not often you see a statesperson step up to the plate and handle themselves so admirably. Jacinda Ardern has already garnered a reputation as one of the more likeable world leaders in politics right now, but she continues to show that she is much more than that. The phrase 'Ardernism' has even been coined to describe her less-about-labels brand of politics.
Ardern persists not only in being a progressive politician - increasing minimum wage and taxes on the rich, reforming gun control and euthanasia laws, just to name a few - but in sustaining two key traits: compassion and, most crucially, accountability. They're rarer commodities in the modern world than we'd hoped, especially when it comes to politics.
As alluded to in her address, this public act of taking responsibility for New Zealand's past and their treatment of Pacific people is not only on behalf of the nation, but also "the Crown that wronged" these people while still exercising the legislative influence of the Commonwealth (until 1986). They're not just owning up to their stuff but ours as well. Talk about social responsibility.
Take note, Boris — and the rest of 'em.