For 88-year-old Guinevere Eves-Newport, Jacinda Ardern's words yesterday had a deeply healing effect.
"Everything is forgiven," Eves-Newport said after the Prime Minister made a formal apology for the Dawn Raids at the Auckland Town Hall yesterday afternoon.
Eves-Newport was one of hundreds who listened to Ardern express the Government's "sorrow, remorse and regret" over the Dawn Raids from which she said members of New Zealand's Pacific communities continue to "suffer and carry the scars".
Eves-Newport is of Sāmoan descent and received an Order of Merit in 2007 for her services to the Pacific community during the Dawn Raids.
She was the first Pacific Island community worker in New Zealand and helped Pasifika communities navigate the time of the Dawn Raids, which began in 1974 when the then-Labour government, faced with an economic downturn, clamped down on people overstaying their work visas.
"Mum, being in her position, she was able to help people through the Dawn Raids," proud daughter Cherie Newport said.
"Being here today has been very emotional for her."
"Everything is forgiven. I was in tears when they did the ifoga, when they covered [Jacinda Ardern]." Eves-Newport told the Herald.
She was one of the founders of the Sāmoan Women's Council and has represented the Council on the Christchurch Branch of the National Council of Women of New Zealand.
Eves-Newport left Sāmoa in 1959 and, by 1968, she assisted with an integrated framework to help Pacific families settle into New Zealand.
While she was primarily based in Christchurch during the time of the raids, she says the ripple effects of the damage it caused was enough for her to want to protect Pasifika communities.
Among the families impacted by the raids, were dignitaries, community groups like the Polynesian Panther Party, young Pasifika activists and Government officials.
A blanket of emotion covered the room as the opening ceremony for the apology played the sounds of families in fear, dogs barking, people beating on doors, and crying children, with the audience reflecting on the terror of the raids.
While the Dawn Raids began in 1974 under the then-Labour government, they were continued by the National Party. A study a decade later showed Polynesians had made up only a third of overstayers at the time but more than 80 per cent of all prosecutions for overstaying.
Ardern said it was very clear that the "immigration laws of the time were enforced in a discriminatory manner and that Pacific peoples were specifically targeted and racially profiled when these activities were carried out".
The memory of the raids remained "vividly etched in the memory of those who were impacted by them", she said.
"It lives on in the disruption of trust and faith in authorities, and it lives on in the unresolved grievances of Pacific communities that these events happened and that to this day they have gone unaddressed," she said.
"Today, I stand on behalf of the New Zealand Government to offer a formal and unreserved apology to Pacific communities for the discriminatory implementation of the immigration laws of the 1970s that led to events of the Dawn Raids," Ardern said.
"The Government expresses its sorrow, remorse and regret that the Dawn Raids and random police checks occurred and that these actions were ever considered appropriate," she said.
The Government conveyed its "deepest and sincerest apology".
Ardern said that in many cultures - includes Pacific cultures - words alone are not sufficient to convey an apology.
Ardern hoped that a series of offers from the Government would be accepted "to pave a new dawn, and a new beginning for the Pacific peoples of New Zealand".
These included the development of a history of the Dawn Raids for use in schools where members of the community would be able to share their experiences.
"May this opportunity help future generations gain knowledge and understanding that will help them ensure the mistakes of the past are not ever repeated again," she said.
The Government will also offer $2.1 million for education scholarships and fellowships to Pacific communities and $1 million in Manaaki NZ Short Term Training Scholarships for young leaders from Sāmoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Fiji.
Princess Mele Siu'ulikutapu Kalaniuvalu Fotofili of the Kingdom of Tonga said the Government's apology was a step in the right direction after an era of racist and unjust immigration policy.
"They targeted my people at dawn. And to raid them was a policy-driven initiative," she said.
"The trauma and impact of the dawn raids has been intergenerational. It has haunted my community for years. It will be for years to come, if we are not going to do the right thing."
She also asked the Government to consider the petition for pathways to residency for overstayers
Alec Toleafoa, a founding member of the Polynesian Panthers, said it was a very special moment for the party.
"The call and the stand against racism over the span of 50 years has put many of our members at risk of their freedom.
"But we have been privileged to stand for those who cannot speak for themselves. We have been privileged to represent, in this case, the survivors of the Dawn Raid."