by Tim Atkinson

#They Are Us

Over 700 years ago my tupuna came to New Zealand on one of the seven Great Canoes, the Takitimu, and made their home in Tauranga moana.

550 years later, my great great great grandfather, an English trader, made landfall in Tauranga moana too, and called it his home.

45 years ago, my father boarded a Qantas airliner from Malaysia to New Zealand, and turned an opportunity to study in Aotearoa, into one beautiful wife, five naughty and nice children, and seven delightful grandchildren.

Syrians, Malaysians, Pakistanis, Turks, Jordanians, Somalians, Egyptians, Iraqis, and many more, they all came from beyond the shores of Aotearoa, and migrated here.

They are us, doesn’t mean that they look the same, speak the same and believe the same as me or everyone else. And nor should it, because we are all so richly diverse and beautiful in our own right.

They are us, because like you, like me, they came to this whenua, grasped Papatuanuku in their hands, inhaled Rangi in their lungs, and felt his wairua; the wairua of rangimaarie, a heavenly peace.

They saw New Zealand as a land of peace, a land of safety, a land of opportunity to have a better life - enticed by the welcoming kindness of everyday New Zealanders, in their diverse communities. They hoped for better, believed for better, lived for better, but in the end, they received no better.

However, this is not where their story will end. For even though better didn’t come their way, it will come. It will come as we realise that all deserve better. As we realise that all have value. All have mana. All New Zealanders have the right to live here in peace, despite our differences, our diversity, our uniqueness.

And it is up to us to carry their story with us, so that we are spurred on to write love in the skys, on the land, and in the hearts of people.

So that their family, and friends, and all of us left behind, can live in the better that they so innocently died for.

They are us, just as, we are them. Aotearoa is just as much their home, as it is ours.

Tuhia ki te rangi (Write it in the sky)
Tuhia ki te whenua (Write it in the land)
Tuhia ki te ngākau o ngā Tāngata katoa (Write it in the hearts of all People)
Ko te mea nui (The most important thing)
Ko te aroha (Is love)