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Rutherford hosts the Polynesian Panthers

Talofa lava, Malo E lelei, Fakalofa lahi atu and Kia Ora,

In light of the Black Lives Matter movement that has sparked international response, it’s a good time to look and understand the oppression suffered by many in our own country. On Tuesday, 23 June, Rutherford College was extremely privileged to be joined by Dr Melani Anae, Tigilau Ness and Rev. Alec Tolefoa, founding members of The Polynesian Panthers. The Polynesian Panthers arose in response to the marginialisation and discrimination suffered by the Pacific immigrant community in 1970’s, in particular the Dawn Raids.

The opportunity presented itself as a unique learning process for the diverse body of students present, who unknowingly have the privilege thanks to the actions the Polyesian Panthers took. All Pasifika students, senior History students and Year 10 students listened in awe of our guest speakers. As representatives of the Panthers, the trio travel New Zealand shedding light to the dark past that’s buried deep within New Zealand roots. We got to hear about that past from people who lived and suffered it first hand. Stories about racial tension, dawn raids, overstayers, stereotyping and basically what it was like to be a ‘brown person’ living in NZ in the 70’s, were shared.

The curiosity of the students further developed our talanoa with the trio as questions were asked and answered, making for a more meaningful experience. It represented how it was sparking conversations within the wider Rutherford community and as a generation who will continue to eliminate the effects of racism within this country, acknowledging and educating ourselves is a good start to putting in our 50%.

Footnote: Atavilana’s Level Three History research into the Dawn Raids Achieved with Excellence and was viewed with delight by our guest speakers, who presented her with a signed copy of a book about their history.

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