The Poll Tax on Chinese in New Zealand: what’s it all about?
The Public History Talks are hosted by the Ministry for Culture & Heritage History Group at the National Library of New Zealand. They are usually held on the first Wednesday of the month from March to November.
- Date: Wednesday, 6 November, 2019
12:10pm to 1:00pm
Free event. You don't need to book.
Te Ahumairangi (ground floor), National Library, corner Molesworth and Aitken Streets, Thorndon
- Contact Details:
Formal apology for the poll tax
On 12 February 2002, in the Grand Hall in Parliament in front of specially invited guests including members of the Chinese New Zealand community, the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, formally apologised to Chinese New Zealanders for the poll-tax imposed on them between 1881 and 1944. In her speech she said, ‘the government has decided to make a formal apology to those Chinese people who paid the poll tax and suffered other discrimination imposed by statute, and to their descendants.
While the governments which passed these laws acted in a manner which was lawful at the time, their actions are seen by us today as unacceptable. We believe this act of reconciliation is required to ensure that full closure can be reached on this chapter in our nation's history.
Poll tax historically and symbolically significant
Since that time much has been said about the poll tax, what it means historically and what it means today. The poll tax is both historically and symbolically significant. The poll tax is symbolic because it was the first time that restrictions were put on immigration to New Zealand and was part of the project of the creation of New Zealand’s national identity. For many Chinese New Zealanders, the poll tax symbolises all the legal discriminations that were imposed on them, and by extension, all the racism they have had to endure over the past 100 and more years.
This talk will discuss what the poll-tax was, why the Prime Minister apologised for it 58 years after it was repealed, and what the poll tax means to New Zealand today.
Free public history talk
These free public history talks are a collaboration between the National Library of New Zealand and Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage. They are usually held on the first Wednesday of the month March to November.
About the speaker
Nigel Murphy has studied Chinese New Zealand history for over 35 years and has published and given numerous lectures on the topic of the poll tax. He was involved in the 2002-2003 consultation process with the Chinese community that followed the official apology; being seconded to work with the Office of Ethnic Affairs on achieving a suitable form of reconciliation. He worked as a research librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library for over 25 years and as a report writer at the Waitangi Tribunal