Acquiring a Pacific Consciousness: Pākehā Pressure Groups and Pacific Issues in 1970s Aotearoa New Zealand
The late 1960s and 1970s in New Zealand saw the formation of new pressure groups by mainly middle-class Pākehā that sought to address concerns with race relations, including a growing number of issues confronting Aotearoa’s Pacific peoples. Focussing principally on the Citizens’ Association for Racial Equality (CARE), the New Zealand Race Relations Council (NZRRC), the Auckland Committee on Racism and Discrimination (ACORD), and Amnesty Aroha, this thesis addresses questions surrounding three aspects of these pressure groups: their differing tactics and the practical aspects of their often multifaceted advocacy; their roles in assisting the percolation of ideas concerning cultural pluralism and racism in New Zealand during this period; their responses to a series of crises affecting the Pacific community between 1974 and 1976—notably the first and second “Dawn Raids”, the creation of the Auckland inner-city police “Task Force”, and the Third National Government’s “overstayer register”.
The groups in question were usually motivated by government policy (or non-policy) that was perceived as detrimental to positive race relations. While much of that policy initially related to sporting contacts with South Africa, issues surrounding Pacific migration to New Zealand became more acute during the 1970s. The activists that composed the groups were perceived—usually accurately—as belonging to a radical fringe of New Zealand’s public. Individuals on this fringe often moved fluidly between groups and issues concerning race, with the result that the Pākehā pressure groups frequently collaborated with one another, as well as with the urban Polynesian groups Nga Tamatoa and the Polynesian Panther Party. Throughout their existence, the groups examined often provided platforms for Māori and Pacific peoples’ points of view, and Māori and Pacific peoples (and groups) frequently became important conduits of knowledge and experience for the Pākehā groups. A shared commitment to cultural pluralism made education a key preoccupation of all the groups.
Yet the pressure groups differed in a number of ways. They did not uniformly promulgate transnational conceptions of racism. Differences in structural make-up caused distinct changes to emerge in their advocacy, both in regards to Pacific issues and their routine activities; groups at various times were accused of inaction and sincere but ineffective liberalism. What emerges through a study of Aotearoa-based Pākehā pressure groups and their actions vis-à-vis Pacific issues from CARE’s genesis in 1964 to the fallout surrounding the second Dawn Raids in 1976 is a picture of increasing concern for Pacific issues both within and outside of New Zealand, increasing consciousness surrounding contemporary notions of racism, and continued commitment to humanitarian values and activities, both at the mundane local and frequently controversial national levels.