By Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith

Dawn Raid is the 28th book in Scholastic NZ’s ‘My New Zealand Story’ series, which brings to life significant events in our history as seen through the eyes of fictitious child diarists.

Like many 13-year-old girls, Sofia’s main worries are how to get some groovy go-go boots, and how not to die of embarrassment giving a speech at school! But when her older brother starts talking about protests and overstayers, and how Pacific Islanders are being bullied by the police, a shadow is cast over Sofia’s sunny teenage days. Through her heartfelt diary entries, we witness the terror of being dawn-raided and gain an insight into the courageous and tireless work of the Polynesian Panthers in the 1970s as they encourage immigrant families across New Zealand to stand up for their rights.

A detail from the book cover

Saturday, 10 July

Lenny asked if I wanted to go to the flicks with him and Rawiri. Charlotte’s going too. I felt a bit nervous about it because, although things have been better between me and Charlotte, I don’t know if I want to go to the movies with her and be ‘best buds’. But the movie was Logan’s Run and I really wanted to see it so I said yes. It was such a good movie too – tense and exciting, and very futuristic.

We hung out at our house after the movie, and Rawiri told us one of his friends from the hīkoi was coming to Porirua. His name is Tigilau – they call him Tigi (‘Tingy’) and he’s an Islander. Lenny said he’d met him too, after the hīkoi. Tigi and some mates stayed and camped on the steps and in the grounds of Parliament. Tigi and his wife have a little baby and he camped there with them! Man, I bet that was hard work with a baby.

“Do you think your dad would like to meet Tigi?” Rawiri wondered. We said probably not because we don’t think Dad believes in the hīkoi and stuff like that. Lenny said that Tigi is a ‘Polynesian Panther’ and that he and some of his mates are coming to talk to Rawiri about becoming a Panther too. Have to say I’m a bit worried about this. It sounds like Tigi’s in a gang and I know Dad and Mum won’t like Lenny hanging around with a gang. I hope Lenny doesn’t get in trouble.

Wednesday, 14 July

We got a new kid in our class today. He’s from Samoa and his name is Jonathan. Mr Morrison asked Colin to look after him. Luckily he speaks good English(Jonathan I mean, not Colin). He joined our rākau group so the boys had to figure out how to do rākau with 3 people. They made up their own routine. When Mr Parker came to do more Māori stuff with us, Mr Morrison told him about the rākau my Dad made. Mr Parker really liked them. “Ka pai,” he told me. Then he showed us some patterns we could use to decorate them and told us what they mean.

I think I’ll use the Hei Matau (fish hook), coz it means prosperity or good fortune – so maybe it’ll get me a job. Mr Parker watched our rākau routines, and said we’re doing great. Mr Morrison said maybe we could show our routines in assembly. NO THANKS, Mr Morrison, I’ve had enough of doing things in front of people! But of course we have Colin in our group and he loves showing off so he was keen as anything.

“How about we give Jonathan a chance to settle in before we ask him to get on stage in front of the whole school?” said Mr Morrison.

“It’s okay, sir,” Jonathan said. “I don’t mind.”

He’s a good sport. Tania and I told the boys they can do it.

Thursday, 15 July

Mr Morrison is reading us a chapter book. When he got to a bit where someone was beckoning to someone else, he asked who could put ‘beckoning’ into a sentence. Jonathan (the new Samoan kid) put up his hand and Mr Morrison picked him. Jonathan said “In the beckoning, God created the Earth.” We looked at each other to see if we thought Jonathan was serious and then everyone in the class burst out laughing. Mr Morrison couldn’t hold it in either. He put the book up to his face but we could see his whole body shaking as he tried to hold his laughing in.

Jonathan must have realised what was going on and he started to laugh as well (thank goodness). Mr Morrison kept trying to apologise to Jonathan but every time he opened his mouth, all that came out was a sort of wheezing sound and he had tears rolling down his face too. Every time Mr Morrison thought he was okay to carry on reading, he would crack up again. It was nearly lunchtime so he just shooed us outside.

Our group had lunch with Jonathan and told him what beckoning meant. He’s such a good sport, he said he was happy he gave the class a good laugh. After lunch Mr Morrison said sorry to Jonathan and hoped he hadn’t hurt his feelings.

“It’s okay, Mr Morrison,” Jonathan said, “if you ever need another laugh, just beckon me over.” Haha. How cool is that. I can see Jonathan’s going to be popular.

Friday, 16 July

I almost died of embarrassment today! There was our usual crew – me, Tania, Colin, Walter and Jonathan –practising our rākau routine. We were trying something new where we all worked as one team, passing the rākau to the person beside us. Anyway, Walter got arākau in the head and we all started to laugh really hard and then . . . I blew off! Everyone laughed even harder and so did I, but that made me let off again! I went bright red and hid my face in hands.

Colin said, “Don’t worry, Sofia, that’s nothing – listen to this,” and he leaned over and did a huge fart. That started a chain reaction and Walter farted too. We all fell about laughing until my stomach ached. I have brothers so I know boys can blow off on demand, but I never thought they’d do it at school! School has been fun this week.

A detail from the book cover

Sunday, 18 July

Today was AMAZING. Lenny took me and Lily with him to a meeting at Rawiri’s house, and I got to meet Rawiri’s friend, Tigi, and his baby Che (pronounced‘Shay’). There were some other people from Wellington there as well as Tigi’s lot.

When Tigi and the others arrived, Charlotte shrieked, and that’s when I realised that her mum and sister were with them. There were lots of hugs and kisses and some tears as well. Charlotte was so pleased to see her mum, she didn’t seem to care about us seeing her cry. Her mum even gave me a kiss on the cheek and a hug. It was a tight hug and I could feel that she really meant it, it was nice.

While everyone was having a cup of tea, I got to hold baby Che and he fell asleep on my knee. Cute! Then Tigi started telling us about the dawn raids. Apparently, the raids started in 1974 and it was called ‘Operation Black Pot’. It was exactly like what Rawiri had told us – the police were breaking into Pacific Islanders’ houses in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning, which is why they’re called ‘dawn raids’. Mr Muldoon’s government have stepped up the dawn raids again because the economy is in bad shape and Islanders are getting the blame. They’re being harassed on the streets and in the pubs and billiard halls, just because their skin is brown.

Tigi reckons it doesn’t matter if you’re Samoan or Niuean (like him), Tongan or Māori, the Police would ask you to produce your passport or identification papers.

“Bloody thugs,” one of the older guys said.

Tigi said some police officers don’t want to do it but the government are making them blitz the Islanders. Lenny wondered how the Māoris feel, being treated like this in their own country. Tigi said they’re angry too. It’s a fascist government, he says. (I have no idea what that means but it doesn’t sound good.)

One of the guys there told us that he and his friend were at the pub playing darts and the police came in and asked for their papers. He said one of the cops had a South African accent so his friend said to the cop, “How about you show us your papers first? I’m Māori and I was born here,” and he carried on, speaking in Māori. The cop got angry and told him to speak properly. He said, “I am. It’s not my fault you’re too ignorant to understand the language of the country you’re living in.” They both got arrested.

Charlotte surprised me when she said, “Sofia – you know who he’s talking about, don’t you?” I had no idea. “Uncle Piripi – I mean, Mr Parker.”

Man, I was so shocked! Poor Mr Parker, he’s such a nice man. He shouldn’t be treated like that. No one should. Tigi says we’re all part of the revolution and we need to stand up and fight back. Ummmmm, I’m not sure Dad would agree with that!

Tigi has a huge afro. I expected him to be a scary gang member but it turns out the Polynesian Panthers aren’t like that. Tigi told us some of the things they do, like starting homework clubs to help kids, helping old people with their gardens, and teaching people about their rights, especially if they get bullied by the police. Sometimes they hold demonstrations to protest against stuff. Tigi said the Panthers have tried to avoid violence, focusing instead on people’s rights, helping them to have a better life. He said the panther is an important symbol for their group because a panther only attacks if it’s attacked first. Fair enough.

After the meeting, me and Charlotte went outside.We found some fizzy drink bottles stacked up at the side of the house and Charlotte asked her aunt if we could go cash some in. Her aunt said we could have a few each so off we went to the store. We got 4 Goofy bubblegums for each bottle. On the way home we opened a few and read the jokes. They were a bit dumb but the bubblegum was good.

“What about those dawn raids?” I said to Charlotte. “How mean is that?”

She said it’s good that people like Tigi are helping Islanders stand up for themselves. Lots of them have spent days in jail cells because they couldn’t show their paperwork.

That reminds me, I still need to ask Dad if he has his paperwork sorted. Charlotte knows a lot about what’s going on with Māori and Island people. Her whole family does. I wonder if Dad would like to meet them?

Once we got back from the shop, we had to go home coz Lenny had to do his milk run. I told Lenny I really wanted a milk run and that I would work hard. He said he’d ask his boss but he was pretty sure he would say no, coz I’m too young.

We all watched the Sunday night Disney movie called ‘Now You See Him, Now You Don’t’. It was funny, I really liked it – about a teenager who invents an invisibility serum. Man, I’d love to have some of that!

I love the song at the start of all the Disney movies,which goes: “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are . . .”

Today was a good day. Lots of fun things happened.

Reproduced from Dawn Raid (My NZ Story) by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith, published by Scholastic NZ, 2018

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Dawn Raid (My New Zealand Story)

By Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith

Published by Scholastic NZ

RRP $17.99

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