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NZ: Lest we forget our Pacific soldiers


Friday, April 24, 2015

Item: 9236

WELLINGTON (Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs/Pacific Media Watch): Sometimes Mele Nemaia looks at the photo of her grandfather and imagines what her great grandfather, who died in World War I, would have looked like.

Private Hatu Taumataua left Niue in 1915 with 150 other young Niueans, and never returned home after fighting in the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion.
 
Instead, the 21-year-old was buried in Auckland shortly after returning from the battlefields of Egypt and France, where he had become gravely ill.
 
Taumataua’s son, pictured here, never got to know his father who left for war when he was a baby.
 
But now, two generations on, Hatu Taumataua’s descendants will get together for breakfast on ANZAC Day, watch the Otahuhu parade and visit his gravesite to remember him, in what’s become an annual tradtion.
 
Mele Nemaia says ANZAC Day is a time to uphold and praise the sacrifices of previous generations.
 
“My past is my present and my future and it’s important for my children to know where we came from and to be aware of all the hard work our ancestors did for the young generations and how we’re blessed today,” she says.

500 Pacific warriors
About 500 Pacific people served overseas with the New Zealand forces in World War I.

They were part of the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion, which included soldiers from the Cook Islands, Niue, Fiji, Kiribati and Tahiti.
 
Our Pacific soldiers faced unique difficulties during the war. Most spoke no English and many struggled to adjust to the army diet.
 
The greatest danger, though, was European diseases, especially in the cold climate of northern France.
 
Many Pacific people made the biggest sacrifice and we remember them this ANZAC Day, along with the significant number of Pacific peoples who have served in subsequent conflicts.
 
The ministry is working with partner agencies to ensure the Pacific contribution to New Zealand’s World War I campaign is acknowledged.

The ministry is in the early planning stages of a long term project with the Ministry of Culture and Heritage to establish a Pacific memorial at the new Pukeahu Memorial Park in Wellington.

The Memorial Park is a place for New Zealanders to come together on ceremonial occasions to reflect on our history of involvement in conflicts and the role that has played in shaping our national identity.

In April, the ministry also facilitated a meeting to explore opportunities for a Pacific World War 1 memorial at the Auckland Museum.   

More information.

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence.

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Pacific Media Watch

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Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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