In the mid-1970s, people from the Pacific Islands were targeted by the New Zealand Government and scapegoated for the economic crisis of the time. The Government introduced the practice of dawn raids, allowing police and immigration officials to break into the homes of Pacific Island people in the early hours of the morning and demand proof of residency, permits, and passports. This was a terrifying and humiliating experience for many people.

This exhibition gives a brief account of the dawn raids during the 1970s and the courageous activities of the Polynesian Panthers – a political group that emerged during these turbulent times. The Panthers fought against unfair treatment, injustice, and the oppression of Pacific Islanders in their fight for social justice, as they encouraged immigrant families across New Zealand to stand up for their human rights.

Powerful and insightful, The Dawn Raids – Educate to Liberate seeks to inform and educate others about a little-known event in New Zealand history.


A Word on the Exhibitor

Coinciding with the release of her book Dawn Raid, part of the My New Zealand Scholastic series, in collaboration with the Southland Museum & Art Gallery, Pauline Smith presents the exhibition The Dawn Raids – Educate to Liberate.


A word from Pauline Smith, producer of The Dawn Raids – Educate to Liberate.

Inspiration for the exhibition came from writing the My New Zealand Story, Dawn Raid, for Scholastic Publishing.

My interest was sparked about the dawn raids when I began lecturing a Pacific Studies paper at the College of Education. Given that this was a significant event in New Zealand history, it surprised me how few of the students had any knowledge of it. It also became clear the perception was, this didn’t really affect people in the South, and, it was an event that was confined to Auckland and Wellington; which is not true. First -hand interviews with Pacific people who migrated to the South in the 1960s-1970s confirmed that they were indeed targets of police and immigration attention based on unfair Government policies.

It was a surprise for me to learn that my own father had been tracked to Invercargill, with police arriving at our front door to ask for his paperwork, which thankfully was in order.

The exhibition seeks to inform and educate about how the dawn raids affected the lives and well-being of a range of people. It considers the targeted Pacific Island people, the role of the Polynesian Panthers to address this injustice and the perspectives of police officers, who at times could also be considered victims of the practice.

Collecting stories and researching for the exhibition has been a privilege in itself. My grateful thanks to those people who willingly shared of themselves, their histories, experiences, and material.

Fa’afetai tele lava – Thank you very much.