April 24, 2020, 12:22 p.m.
As a result of the COVID-19 Crisis, Anzac Day services are cancelled around the country. A concern nationwide is protecting veterans, especially those kaumātua who are particularly at risk of complications from COVID-19.
The New Zealand Defence Force and Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association has organised the Stand At Dawn campaign, an alternative way for New Zealanders worldwide to take a moment to remember fallen servicemen.
Hon. Ron Mark, Minister for Defence said, “ANZAC is a very special day for veterans, we always look forward to gathering before dawn, and there’s always the dawn parade chat, a catch up with friends that you probably haven't seen for a year, then there's the dawn parade, the dawn service, these are all very solemn moments where all are thinking about people that we served with, the forefathers whose reputations we try to live up to, and what they gave us, what they bequeathed to us but we won't be able to do that this time.”
This ANZAC day at 6am, Saturday 25 April people are being encouraged to stand at their letterbox, front door, lounge rooms or other places while staying within their bubble, as a way to pay respect to fallen servicemen and the efforts of veterans of Aotearoa.
Hon. Ron Mark, Minister for Defence went on to say, “For me and for every other veteran we will stand at dawn at our own homes and we will remember and we will commemorate apart but together in spirit.”
Te Rau Aroha Museum at Waitangi was officially opened on the 5th February 2020. The theme of the museum’s main exhibition is the Price of Citizenship and tells the story of the Māori commitment to the armed forces. The Museum and its exhibitions are a tribute and honour to all those men and women who have risked their lives in service for our country.
Sir Āpirana Ngata of Ngāti Porou led the establishment of the Māori Battalion and believed it was an important way to enable equality in the future for Māori. While the Third Article of Te Tiriti o Waitangi granted Māori people full rights of British citizens, Sir Apirana Ngata saw fighting in the war as a way of respecting Te Tiriti o Waitangi and as a way of being able to have a say in how the future of Aoteroa would be shaped following World War 2.
When asked about the museum's main exhibition theme, the price citizenship for Māori, Hon. Ron Mark said, “One has to cast themselves back to the time when Sir Āpirana Ngāta made that speech and when he encouraged all Māori men of military age to enlist and play their part, and he wasn’t alone he was supported by many iwi leaders of the time, I guess what sometimes gets forgotten is that we had done this before, Māori had done this in the First World War, with Te Hoko Whitu a Tū, The Maori Assault Pioneer Battalion who deployed and served in the Western Front, served in Gallipoli. If I cast my mind back to that time people were looking for equality, people were looking to be treated the same, for the principles of the Treaty to be upheld and honoured.”
Out of the 3600 who joined the 28th Maori Battalion, 655 paid for their citizenship in blood, and 1949 were wounded or taken prisoner. Very few had their efforts rewarded for participating in the passage towards Aotearoa's nationhood fought in Cassino, Libya, Syria, Crete, Greece.
Only thirty-nine Maori pioneers, 1.8% of the force, were assisted to acquire land under the government’s repatriation programme, compared with about 10% of the nearly 90,000 Pākehā soldiers who returned from the war.
Hon. Ron Mark said, “One really needs to study what happened post World War 1, post World War 1, in my whenua amongst my Ngāti Kahungunu people, there are rehabilitation farms that were given out to non-Māori soldiers on their return from the First World War, there were none given to Māori, despite the fact that land that was taken was Māori. I'd like to think that we have moved way beyond that and that we will never ever see a time in history again where there will be a differentiation in how Māori service personnel are treated or how non-Māori personnel are treated, when they return from conflict, war zones and operations.”
Hon. Ron Mark went on to say,”Fast forward to today I think we can take some satisfaction that Sir Āpirana Ngata’s vision has been achieved, I mean we’ve had Māori command of the army, a Māori Officer Jerry Mataparae go on to lead the defence force, become the Governor General.”
“We have many senior Māori officers right through the services these days, and so I guess in that respect we have attained a degree of equality that Sir Āpirana Ngata believed that we should have, as Māori New Zealanders but that he didn’t quite see, and his view was that in a way you had to demonstrate and earn that right. I think Māori have done that in spades, paid a far higher price per capita of anyone else in New Zealand, in terms of demonstrating their commitment to New Zealand, to the Crown, to peace and stability world wide.
The two surviving members of the 28th Māori Battalion are Robert Gillies and Epineha Ratapu, who represent the courage of all Māori soldiers who served. Hon. Ron Mark pays special tribute to them both returned soldiers.
The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association is made up of 182 local RSAs around the country. Every year the RSA helps service personnel and their families get the support they need.The annual RSA Poppy Day collection of the has been postponed this year. Funds gathered through the poppy appeal are used to support current and ex-service men and women living in the community where the funds are raised.
Poppy Day has been postponed because of the COVID-19 crisis, but you can still give to the kaupapa of the RSA. You can donate directly to the RSA this year through the following links.