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Former National minister Alfred Ngaro.



'We had forgotten': Former MP urges for more involvement in honouring Pacific soldiers on ANZAC Day

NZ-born Cook Islander and former National MP Alfred Ngaro spoke on the significant Pacific contributions to WWI and WWII.

As the nation turns its attention to commemorating ANZAC Day, a former National MP is urging Pacific peoples to remember their ancestors who fought too.

Niuean and Cook Island communities across the motu will host commemoration services tomorrow for their soldiers' contributions.

NZ-born Cook Islander and Former National MP Alfred Ngaro says it was in Parliament that he realised there were stories of the Cook Islanders' contributions to the war effort that the community was unaware of.

Ngaro says although NZ has acknowledged the considerable contributions by Niue, Fiji, Tuvalu and Kiribati, the Cook Islands' contributions were forgotten.

"The Cook Islands came through with the Māori Pioneer Battalion so they sort of got lost inside of that," he says.

"It's important to me because we're able to ensure that we remember and that's what the whole process and importance of ANZAC.


"It's entitled 'lest we forget' and the truth is that we had forgotten their sacrifice and service."

He says at the time the Cook Island soldiers would have fought for "God and country", and that remembering those stories is important for Cook Islanders as "it's a foundation of our history and heritage to who we are as Pasifika people".

A service in light of Cook Island's contributions will begin at 2pm on Anzac Day in Māngere.

Ngaro says attendees share vital stories at the annual commemoration, where one woman even spoke on the contributions from the Cook Islands homefront.

"A lot of our soldiers went to places in which they had to reacclimatise.

"They came from a Pacific Island climate of warmth and so having to go to places like Europe and France they needed that support.

"[That] woman actually sowed the garments and the gloves. So we told stories of our mama's back home who part of their role was to make food and send those sorts of supplies."

Poster for tomorrow's commemoration in Māngere.

Photo/Cook Islands Development Agency

Additionally, in July this year, previously unattested coastwatchers from the Cook Islands will be recognised, and their families presented with certificates at Government House in Wellington. Families will also be able to attach service plaques to headstones, and an online historical record of their service will be published online.

Other Pacific coastwatchers were recognised in 2022, with the then Minister of Defence Peeni Henare saying “this is long overdue recognition of the Pacific Island coastwatcher and the important role they played in our early warning system in the Pacific”.

Ngaro reiterates the importance of actively engaging with the legacy of Pacific Island soldiers and honouring their memory. He encourages people to learn the soldiers' stories, attend commemorative services and to help younger generations get amongst it.

"The reality is they fought for our freedom, so what are we doing with that freedom?

"I don't think that we do enough of exploring that not just as a conversation or talanoa but as a practical outworking of that.

"So, let's take up that, let's be then that people that honour their memory.

"Let's do that in our own lives. Let's make our family proud of who we are as a people."

Watch the full interview via 531pi's Facebook page below:

Details for tomorrow's Cook Island soldiers' commemoration, available via the Facebook event:

Date: Wednesday 25 April, 2018

Time: 2.00pm - 4.00pm

Venue: 283 - 289 Kirkbride Road, Mangere, Auckland.

For more information, contact the Auckland Cook Islands Consulate Office on (09) 261 0015.