Once a Panther Always a Panther” 

On Tuesday the 19th of March our Year 9 students had a special assembly. Three Polynesian Panthers Tigilau Ness, Dr Melani Anae, and Reverend Alec Toleafoa came to our school and did a presentation about why they joined the Polynesian Panther movement. The Polynesian Panther movement was formed in 1971 by Pacific Islanders in their teens and early twenties, mainly Samoans, Tongans, and Cook Islanders, along with a handful of Māori. Most were from low-income family backgrounds, with homes in Auckland’s inner suburbs, Ponsonby and Grey Lynn. Their main reason for forming was to reduce discrimination carried out against indigenous Māori and Pacific Islanders in Auckland and New Zealand.


The Dawn Raids were when Māori and Pasifika in New Zealand faced the most discrimination. In the 1970s the New Zealand police went to the homes of Pacific peoples who they believed had overstayed their visas or work permits; they were particularly controversial since Pacific Islanders made up only a third of the overstayers but accounted for 86 percent of those arrested and prosecuted when the majority of the overstayers were actually from Great Britain, Europe and the United States.


Something very hard to grasp and understand is the fact that people from Polynesia were invited with visas for three to six months with the promise of having better jobs that would provide twice the amount of pay, higher quality education, healthcare, and improved housing. But upon arrival, the housing that was available was “ in unbelievable living conditions” (Reverend Alec Toleafoa). After doing all the dirty work and manual jobs that no one else wished to do,  people began to look down on the Pasifika community for taking jobs away from other New Zealanders. Later they became the scapegoats for all of the country’s economical faults.


As a student, having the opportunity of meeting three of the original Polynesian Panthers was amazing. I found it awesome to meet the Polynesian Panthers in person especially as our current JSS topic is on Polynesian migrants. I learned so much about the organisation and it was a great experience overall. I also found it amazing to be learning about the history of our own country from the people who were there during this period. Our senior Pasifica students were also very fortunate to be able to do a workshop with the Polynesian Panthers. Thank you to Yasmine Chai for organising this special visit to our kura.


Leah Arvidson & Moziah Kolo