New Plymouth, September 28, 2017
Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy has paid tribute to three young women who have changed New Zealand history by making sure we remember our shared history. She also urged whoever formed the nations next Government to do the right thing and initiate an inquiry into historic state abuse.
The following is an extract of her speech at the Annual Conference of the Mori Womens Welfare League in New Plymouth today.
A few years ago, Otorohanga College students – Rhiannon Magee, Tai Jones and Leah Bell – were on a class trip and were devastated to learn a massacre had taken place during the New Zealand Land Wars only half an hour from their school.
They questioned why they were taught about wars fought thousands of miles away but not those that happened on their own doorstep.
The students launched a petition to recognise the New Zealand Wars. After gathering a staggering 130,000 signatures, next month the New Zealand Wars will be marked officially for the first time.
Making sure that we know our own history is crucial to good race relations. As we can see from the United States right now, we ignore our shared history at our peril.
By making us face our own history, these three amazing young women have helped change the fate of Aotearoa.
Pressure on Government
I urge New Zealanders to keep the pressure on future governments for a national apology and public inquiry into the abuse of children and disabled adults held in state care.
Another part of our nations history we need to face up to is the horrific, inhumane abuse of our children and vulnerable adults in state institutions. Mori children were more likely to be taken from whanau for little or no reason at all: some state homes reported 80 to 100% of youngsters held were Mori.
Childrens homes were little more than a pipeline to prison, the institutionalisation of tamariki Maori was the real start of the systemic and mass imprisonment of Mori New Zealanders.
I urge whatever Government took power in coming months to Do the right thing. Do the moral thing. Its never too late for justice: our children are worth it.