Anzac Day saw Bubbles all around New Zealand stand at dawn. By the mailbox. In gardens. In lounges. Physically distant but united. Reflecting. On life. On loss. On war. On history.
Less than 20 years after the 1881 invasion of a peaceful Parihaka, NZ entered its first international conflict. Natives were officially excluded from fighting. But when WW1 broke out, some Māori leaders challenged the exclusion, seeing Māori involvement as an opportunity to strengthen claims for equality.
Others gazed across confiscated and occupied territories – and linked it to growing poverty within. Princess Te Puea defended Waikato against a Māori conscription policy targeting her own. Rua Kenana – arrested for sedition – one of the longest trials in New Zealand’s legal history. Fighting for freedom doesn’t always include the freedom not to fight.
2227 Māori and 458 Pacific Islanders served in WW1.
Maori veterans, after proving themselves more than equal on the battlefield – lauded for their bravery, discipline and hard work — and therefore earning what they thought was the right to be treated equally at home – returned to find not only a pandemic, but almost as heart-breaking, after everything they’d experienced, to find themselves treated as second class citizens once again in the country they’d fought for.
Imagine what that must have been like. They expected this monumentally life-changing experience to transform the way the country viewed them. They came back, battle-hardened and worldly. After having faced death down so many times, they were right back where they started. Not even allowed to drink with their mates in the pubs.
As we come out of Anzac Day, it’s worth remembering this. Especially in the middle of a global crisis – laying bare all the inequities and weaknesses and injustice of the systems we’re living under. That unless we make a conscious, concerted and active effort to learn the lessons its offering us….nothing will change.
Now is the perfect time to stop, breathe, think, and truly reimagine our future.
Te Ao with MOANA screens on Māori TV 8pm Mondays