Recent events in the US prompt NZ On Screen’s Nicky Harrop to re-examine some chapters in New Zealand’s immigration history.

While the eyes of the world are turned to America right now, our own immigration stories reflect a background of fluctuating attitudes. Documentary makers have captured many of the proud and not-so-proud moments from our history.

In 1944, 734 Polish children were adopted by New Zealand as WWII refugees. Filmed 20 years later, this moving documentary recounts their experiences. Many speak of a harrowing exodus from Poland, Siberian labour camps, malnutrition and death. Others recall being greeted by Prime Minister Peter Fraser on arrival in New Zealand, and the process of re-establishing their lives here. Seventy-three years on, it serves as both a reminder of our moral code and our potential for growth - the number of children taken in being almost identical to that of our annual refugee quota today.

Watch The Story of Seven-Hundred Polish Children here:

Directed by actor Sam Neill, 1978 short New Country - New People focuses on our non-British European immigrants, visiting German, Dutch and French settlers while painting a picture of our cultural diversity. Tellingly, Neill also drops in the Babich family of Dalmation winemakers, perhaps seeking inspiration for his future foray into winemaking.

Watch New Country - New People here:
New Country - New People
Dawn Raids chronicles a controversial passage in New Zealand race relations: the mid-70s police raids on the homes and workplaces of alleged Pacific Island overstayers. Charting a shift in attitude from the full-employment of the 1960s, to the tougher times of the 70s, the documentary illustrates the full impact of policy and actions that have continued to have a long-term effect on our Pacific Island community.

Watch Dawn Raids here:

Children of the Migration shares the stories of the next generation of Pacific Island New Zealanders, featuring interviews with Tana Umaga, David Tua, Oscar Kightley and Teuila Blakely among others. Early experiences of cultural isolation are contrasted with a more recent shift towards New Zealand identifying as a Pacific nation.

See excerpts from Children of the Migration here:

Pacific Solution follows a group of young Afghani refugees given the chance to live in New Zealand after being rescued from near-drowning (and denied entry to Australia) during the Tampa affair. Blending observational and historical footage, the documentary casts a critical eye on the sociopolitical context of the global refugee crisis.

See excerpts from Pacific Solution here:

New Faces Old Fears reflects on prejudices against Asian immigrants in New Zealand, both historical and current. Colonial xenophobia and the 1881 poll tax inflicted only on Chinese migrants are examined, as are the challenges faced by present day migrants.

Watch New Faces Old Fears here: