Getting to Know Melani Anae

Polynesian Panther, Melani Anae, secretly left her parents Grey Lynn home to attend a meeting of the Panthers when she was 17. Founded fifty years ago, Auckland's Polynesian Panther Party has been shining a light on oppressive and racist regimes ever since.

Dr Anae is the author of The Platform, the latest BWB Text to tell the personal and political story of her own political awakening and the Party's commitment to the fight against discrimination. Here she joins us for our weekly Journal interview.  

We first published this interview in November 2020. We contacted Dr Anae when we heard that there would be a formal apology from the Government for the Dawn Raids of the 1970s and have added her response. 


What is your day job?

I am a Senior Lecturer in Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland.


What is your connection to Vic Books?

Joining your online community. 


Yesterday the Government announced they would formally apologise to the Pasifika community for the dawn raids. What does this mean to you and is it enough?

The intent of the Polynesian Panthers’ call for an apology is that an apology is a necessary step to the healing and restoration of trust and relationships between the Pacific peoples and families who were impacted adversely by Government actions, and the Government.   We see that the pathway to healing and restoration lies in a substantive educative focus.

Racism, race relations, history, the Dawn Raids and educational aspirations should be permanently embedded in the Aotearoa New Zealand education curriculum across all sectors. In this way, the apology would be honouring the intergenerational voices of those who were traumatised by the injustice of the Governments’ actions during the Dawn Raids and ensuring that the terror of the Dawn Raids will never happen again.

The apology and what the Polynesian Panthers are calling for holds the future of race relations in Aotearoa and will lead the way for the rest of the world.


What are your latest publications?

ANAE, M., 2020. The Platform: The Radical Legacy of the Polynesian Panthers. Auckland: BWB Books.

ANAE, M., PETERSON, I. (eds.) 2020. A Handbook for Transnational Matai. In Special Issue Pacific Dynamics Journal of Interdisciplinary Research. University of Canterbury.

ANAE, M., SCHOEFFEL, P., (eds.) 2020. Women, power and place: articulations from Samoa and Aotearoa, New Zealand. In Special Issue Pacific Studies Journal, Brigham Young University, Laie, Hawaii. In press.

ANAE, M., PETERSON, I. 2020. ‘I am who I am: enhancing teaching, learning and research success for Pacific students in higher education’. A chapter in Themed Supplement in Mai Journal based on CLeaR Fellows 2018 programme ‘He vaka moana: Navigating Māori and Pasifika student success’, pp.38-48.


When writing The Platform was there one thing that stood out for you as being particularly relevant to the world we're in in 2020?

The need to eradicate racism.


Next year is the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Polynesian Panthers. What do you hope Pasifika youth today will take forward from this history?

That the legacy of the Polynesian Panthers and their platform will inform and guide them in their revolutionary journeys.

Melani Anae at the front left.

The Platform also contains a lot about your family history. What was it like for you to reflect on that and write about it?

It was at once painful and beautiful, and a reminder that to know true happiness and understanding is to endure the painful memories as well. Those of us who were born in the 1950s, were the first of the first - the first generation of NZ-born Pacific peoples from the first wave of Pacific (Samoa) migrants who came to New Zealand in large numbers in the 1940s/50s. I am proud of how our parents fought for a better life for us, their children and how we fought against the dominant forces which sought to oppress us.


Some quick fire book recommendations please!

ANAE, M., 2020. The Platform: The Radical Legacy of the Polynesian Panthers. Auckland: BWB Books.

SMITH, P., 2018 Dawn Raid. Auckland: Scholastic New Zealand Limited.

ANAE, M., with IULI, L., TAMU, L., (eds.). The Polynesian Panthers: Pacific Protest and Affirmative Action in Aotearoa New Zealand 1971-1981. Wellington: Huia Publishers, 2015.


What are you reading at the moment?

Totally ensconced in the academic readings and publications which have only just been completed this month (this book, and two edited books). Totally enjoying reading Dawn Raid by Pauline Vaeluaga Smith about Sofia's escapades to my moko though.


Favourite coffee?