Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Barry Soper: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's policeman father carried out Dawn Raids as junior officer

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's father, Ross Ardern, was one of the police officers who carried out the Dawn Raids on Pacific Island families in the 1970s - something the Prime Minister said he was uncomfortable with.

Newstalk ZB's Barry Soper reported Ross Ardern's part in the raids as a young police officer, saying the Prime Minister had told him her father was a junior police officer who had to follow orders but had not believed it should be part of the job.

It follows the Prime Minister's sincere apology at the weekend on behalf of the Government to the Pacific community – and that community's emotional acceptance of the long-awaited apology - for the discriminatory raids targeting Pacific Islanders in the mid 1970s.

Ross Ardern joined the Police in 1974 and was just out of Police College when he was ordered to take part in the raids, as part of a Government-ordered crackdown on overstayers.

As a senior police officer, Ross Ardern developed strong links with the Pacific – serving as Niue's police commissioner from 2005 to 2009, and then as the New Zealand Police liaison officer for the South Pacific, based in Sāmoa, from 2009 to 2013. After he left the Police, he was appointed High Commissioner to Niue from 2014 to 2018. Ross Ardern is currently the Administrator for Tokelau.

The Prime Minister said her father would not want to be at the centre of the issue, and if she was not Prime Minister it would not be a story.

Ardern said in her apology for the Dawn Raids that the immigration laws at the time were enforced in a discriminatory manner - targeting only homes with Pacific families in them rather than other ethnicities.

She expressed the Government's "sorrow, remorse and regret" over the Dawn Raids from which she said members of our Pacific communities continue to "suffer and carry the scars".

Hundreds of people attended the formal apology at Auckland's Town Hall on Sunday, including families who were impacted by the raids, dignitaries, community groups like the Polynesian Panther Party, young Pasifika activists and Government officials, including the Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio.

During the apology, Ardern also announced a series of scholarships for Pacific students and for young leaders from Sāmoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Fiji.

A blanket of emotion covered the room as the opening ceremony for the apology played the sounds of families in fear, dogs barking, people beating on doors, and crying children, with the audience reflecting on the terror of the raids.

Asked yesterday about the apology and not following up with requiring schools to teach about it, Ardern said part of the curriculum was left to schools themselves to determine.

Questioned about giving amnesty to overstayers, Ardern said there needed to be more broad consideration.

Barry Soper is a New Zealand political journalist, and has been featured regularly on radio and television since the 1970s. Currently, Soper's main role is political editor at Newstalk ZB, a radio network in New Zealand.

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