Embracing cultural awareness through the history of the dawn raids

Issue: Volume 103, Number 2

Posted: 22 February 2024
Reference #: 1HAfCb

Discussing the 1970s dawn raids and how to teach this culturally sensitive subject has been the focus of kaiako capability building in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland – showcasing how to localise curriculum and make learning more meaningful for ākonga.

Workshop participants at Wymondley Road School in Ōtara.

Workshop participants at Wymondley Road School in Ōtara.

"It’s a very hard topic to discuss; how to teach it poses a lot of questions,” says Pacific education advisor Darius Apulu of dawn raids history in Aotearoa New Zealand.

But Darius is eager to help kaiako tackle the topic with sound knowledge and sensitivity in 2024. He is tasked with enabling kaiako to deliver empowering education to their Pacific ākonga, and he has been sharing new resources and enriching classroom experiences by sharing learnings through the Tapasā framework.

“It’s important to look back before we can move forward,” says Darius.

“That includes talking about difficult subjects like the dawn raids. These were the start of a chapter in the context of how Pacific people came to be here and what happened to them.”

Darius’ grandparents were born in Sāmoa and were first generation immigrants to Aotearoa. Although a former teacher aide with Te Kura, most of his experience comes from being part of a proud Pacific Island community.

He is pleased to be sharing the stories of his grandparents’ generation to enrich cultural identity and, ultimately, aid students to achieve.

Looking back to look forward

New Ministry of Education video resources share accounts of the dawn raids in the 1970s, as told by a young Pacific Island presenter.

Darius Apulu, Robyn Wills, Renu Sikka and Fleur Petelo.

Darius Apulu, Robyn Wills, Renu Sikka and Fleur Petelo.

The videos narrate the struggles of a real family’s experience, and pose questions around how this knowledge can be used positively for greater understanding, encourage discussion, reflection and explore lessons learned.

It’s a powerful and personal platform, providing relatable perspective through the school-aged storyteller.

“We may not be able to change the past, but we can work together for a better future,” the video narrator concludes.

The dawn raids resource is being developed by South Auckland-based provider Bright Sunday, with funding from the Ministry. The three-part series is complemented by teacher support material which is still being developed and is expected to be released early this year.

Darius explains the three Turu that sit within it, saying, “These are about being culturally relevant and capable with students and their families, being collaborative between teachers, families and community groups, and pedagogical teaching methods that research shows work well with Pacific students.”

The resources are designed to be intentionally broad, so the videos can be used across different learning areas such as social science, English and drama.

“I hope that teachers will feel comfortable to use the resources and continue considering how Pacific students can learn about other topics in a culturally responsive way too.”

Respectful conversations

Curriculum lead Renu Sikka and Darius collaborated on Teacher Only Day workshops last year at both Edmund Hillary and Wymondley Road schools in South Auckland.

Darius Apulu and Renu Sikka led discussions at Wymondley Road School.

Darius Apulu and Renu Sikka led discussions at Wymondley Road School.

Throughout these sessions, Renu emphasised the imperative need for healing without assigning blame or resorting to shame. Reflecting on the experience, she expressed how incredibly insightful it has been, acknowledging personal growth and learning.

Renu also emphasised the importance of using the dawn raids resource as an entry point to teach and integrate historical narratives into the Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories curriculum, recognising its significance in teaching history comprehensively.

Teaching staff and leadership at Edmund Hillary School engaged in respectful, yet emotionally charged, conversation when addressing these topics.

“Pacific people came over here for jobs. We looked different and we spoke differently. There was a lot of misinformation spread that Pacific Island people were taking other people’s jobs. People still have a long way to go in their understanding of what happened during that time,” says associate principal Elisapeta Leitu.

Increasing that understanding is the aim of the resources, as Darius explains, “We don’t want people to be marinating in the past trauma … But we do need to give context that can sit behind the way people think.”

Concerns around the sensitive subject matter were not ignored, with discussion diving into age-appropriateness and depth of sharing.

“We have children who are not ready to deal with these things at a Year 6 level,” felt one workshop participant.

“But this gives the foundations and provides students from Year 7 with the basic facts. We have to prompt students to think whose perspectives we are looking from in this, we have to validate who gave us this information.”

Empowering kaiako

Darius appreciates the nuances involved in teaching such history.

“It’s hard because none of these facts are without bias. It’s not about me telling you how to teach, but building confidence and relationships, not only with Pacific students but with their families.

“We must accept that this is not only a Pacific Island history issue; it’s a New Zealand history issue.”

A Year 7 teacher at Edmund Hillary School, Lorraine Makutu welcomes the resources as a teaching tool and a basis for deeper discussion.

“When we first heard that we were having to teach the dawn raids, we felt this topic is daunting. Teachers can be unsure how to go about teaching this. Students need to be encouraged and to be able to validate where facts and stories have come from.”

New teacher Zoe Martin says she feels the weight on the shoulders of those in her profession when educating young minds.

“As a teacher, we have so much responsibility, especially when we are teaching topics students know nothing about. I don’t want students’ first impression of the dawn raids or Te Tiriti o Waitangi to be wrong, so we have a lot of responsibility when teaching these topics.”

Darius wishes to empower teachers to use the resources as they feel best befits their students.

Discussions on teaching the dawn raids at Edmund Hillary School in Papakura.

Discussions on teaching the dawn raids at Edmund Hillary School in Papakura.

Empowering ākonga

Robyn Wills has been teaching at Wymondley Road School for seven years. She sees many benefits of tackling this topic, with the ultimate goal of inspiring her students to know their identity and strive to achieve their potential.

“In order to help our students, we need to make sure they are strong in their cultural identity. Their past can help them understand people’s perspectives and navigate them.

“Our families want their children to be happy, first and foremost, and have good values. It’s important to ask, ‘are you a valuable member of society contributing to making the world a better place?’”

Lorraine at Edmund Hillary School agrees, saying, “One of the great things we can do as teacher, I feel, is to find the culturally responsive practices and normalise them.”

Wymondley School principal Fleur Petelo in workshop discussions.

Wymondley School principal Fleur Petelo in workshop discussions.

Connecting current events to the past: Dawn Raids

The dawn raids story is part of a wider narrative about the settlement and experiences of Pacific people in Aotearoa New Zealand and the exercise and effects of power. Kaiako and ākonga can use this story as an entry point for learning about:

  • the migration experiences and settlement stories of Pacific people
  • how immigration policy has been used to exclude some peoples and to restrict conditions for entry and citizenship
  • the social action led by the Polynesian Panthers and other groups to contest power and address injustices
  • our collective and diverse identities as New Zealanders.

Aotearoa histories website(external link)

Fakailoga Tino

Fakailoga TinoA unique Professional Learning Development programme tailored for teachers across Aotearoa New Zealand, Fakailoga Tino was developed and co-designed by teachers, principals and Pacific leaders to address racism concerns highlighted by Pacific parents, learners, and teachers.

The programme is delivered by Polynesian Panthers and Vasa Consultancy over 12 sessions providing teachers with a thorough understanding of:

  • Pacific migration to Aotearoa.
  • Tangata Whenua relationships.
  • Institutional racism.
  • Tools for how teachers can be cultural disrupters.

Fakailoga Tino has successfully been piloted in 7 schools across Auckland and is now offered to 11 schools through 2024 to 2025.

Talanoa AkoTo register your interest for the Fakailoga Tino programme, email talanoa.ako@education.govt.nz(external link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:57 am, 22 February 2024

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