War medals for New Zealand entertainers

By Semi Holland
  • Auckland
  • Wellington

A group of New Zealand entertainers has been awarded medals for risking their lives to provide entertainment for allied troops during the Vietnam War. The request for the medals was initiated by the late Herewini Charmum Rawiri who felt it was unfair that Australians entertainers were awarded medals but New Zealanders were declined.

The late Herewini Charmum Rawiri was instrumental in having NZ entertainers recognised through this awards ceremony. His partner Katrina Werahiko received his medal for New Zealand General Service. 

“Sadly Selwyn passed away in 2013 and a couple of months before that he asked me to carry on which I did as I believed that it was possible for all the show band members from NZ to receive a medal,” says Werahiko.

Herewini Charmum Rawiri was a member of the Māori Volcanics. Before he passed, he questioned why the Australian Government had recognised the Australian entertainers who served in Vietnam, when the NZ Government had not.

The New Zealand Governor-General Jerry Mateparae says, “It was a time of their lives when they were you know they could have been making really good money and some of them were elsewhere but equally they thought that that was their contribution to New Zealand and Australia.”

13 New Zealand entertainers received medals including another Māori Volcanics member, Mrs. Mahora Peters. She toured Vietnam three times.

Peters says, “They are really warm beautiful memories when we finished the show in Vontow we were heading back out onto the helicopter which the Americans had supplied for us and all the Māori guys came out bare wasted and did the haka there was about 100 strong. We had prince Tui with us then and all the other guys. We were on tour we done all of the Asia we were heading after that for Europe across the Middle East and then to Belfast.”

Paul Naera was a lead drummer in the Māori HyMarques in the 1970s. He was a major supporter of Herewini Rawiri's crusade for recognition and provided the research needed to identify members of the showbands.

Naera says, “We were just looking for adventure and we sort of didn’t worry about our welfare and we just went there to entertain and enjoy ourselves.”

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