Dawn Raid victims accept Government's apology on behalf of those who've passed away

The Government has formally apologised for the wrongs committed during the 1970s Dawn Raids in an emotional ceremony at the Auckland Town Hall.

The Prime Minister expressed "sorrow, remorse and regret" over the raids, saying members of the Pacifika community continue to suffer as a result.

Manase Lua was raided when he was about four years old. His family had come from Tonga to Auckland's Grey Lynn, his dad working multiple jobs to create a better life.

"He worked at AFFCO freezing works on Princess Wharf but he had three other jobs - cleaning, worked at the morgue. He did all the work that nobody wants to do," Lua says.

But they overstayed their visa and were raided by police.

"They gave us three-month permits to come over and then expected us to go back after that - it just didn't seem fair. You know, we come here, do the work that nobody wants to do," Lua says.

"That's not what you do to your cousins. We're relatives, you don't invite your cousins over and then after three minutes tell them to go back while they're cleaning your house."

Today he accepted the apology on behalf of his late dad.

"My dad's not here anymore but I'm doing this for him. He sacrificed for us and I've never forgot that. I wish my dad was here to see this day," Lua says.

Tongan Advisory Council chair Melino Maka accepted the apology on behalf of his aunty, Telisia Topping, and his friend Motuhifonua Lutui who have both passed away.

"I want the apology to honour her memory because she suffered three times with the raids in the 70s."

Maka and his friend had arrived from Tonga to work in an Auckland factory and stayed with Maka's aunty in Onehunga. They weren't overstayers but were still raided three months after arriving here.

"My aunty was screaming. She wasn't containing herself because she was so upset," Maka says. "Van here, they had the dog. Dragged us outside."

He and his friend promised never to speak about the raids because of the shame it would bring on their families, but his friend died swimming in the Waikato River two weeks after the raid.

"I also want to say sorry that I broke our promise to talk about it but I think it's the appropriate time to break that promise so we can remember his memory too," Maka says.

Forty-five years later, Maka only recently told his wife and children what happened.