Polynesian Panthers make history relevant

The year 12 History classes were privileged to have members of the Polynesian Panthers come into school to discuss the Dawn Raids of the 1970s, as well as issues of racism faced by Maori and Pasifika people in New Zealand today.

The Polynesian Panther Party - a civil rights group that sought to address growing racist sentiment aimed toward the Maaori and Polynesian community of New Zealand in the 1970s - was founded in Auckland by six young Pacific Islanders: Paul Dapp, Will ’Ilolahia, Vaughan Sanft, Fred Schmidt, Nooroa Teavae and Eddie Williams. Their headquarters were in Ponsonby, then the heart of the Auckland Pacific Island community. Panther members who visited the school included Dr Melani Anae, Will ‘Ilolahia, Tigilau Ness, and Alec Toleafoa.

Not only were the Polynesian Panthers activists for minority groups in New Zealand,they also operated a range of community ventures seeking to improve the social welfare and political awareness of Pacific Island and Maori people.

Students questioned the group on their view on past governments' Euro-centric policies, specifically the racial profiling of Pasifika immigrants who may have overstayed their work visas.

This is the Polynesian Panthers' second visit to the History classes of Manurewa High School, leaving students inspired that one day they may shape the History of our community and the country as a whole.
- Sam Harris, Teacher in Charge

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