Topic: ANZAC

Willie Apiata VC addresses the public at dawn service

By Heeni Brown
  • Auckland

He is the only living New Zealander, who has the Victoria Cross pinned above his heart.

Willie Apiata is one of only three Māori recipients of the highest award for Gallantry in the face of the enemy for bravery under fire.

At the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Willie Apiata VC described what ANZAC meant to him.

He may not have agreed to speak on camera, but Te Kāea went all out to speak face-to-face with the people.

“It was extremely important, you know, he's a national icon, better yet he's Māori, a very humble guy speaks so quietly, it was a such an honour,” said Lamar Hayes (Ngāti Porou).

“As a child coming into the world it's hard to grasp the concept of war and what it means to be a Kiwi and to be a young Māori in New Zealand, so Willie Apiata is a real inspiration and role model definitely,” Elle Carstens told Te Kāea.

Earlier today in a non-televised speech, Apiata spoke of his ANZAC Day experiences and what ANZAC meant to him.  

He reiterated, through a proverb, what the most important thing is to him and that, "It is people, it is people it is people."

Only two New Zealand Māori have been recipients of the Victoria Cross, and Dr Monty Soutar has long followed the first Māori recipient, Te Moananui a Kiwa Ngārimu.

Dr Soutar will be a part of a group of descendants relating to those who were in battle at Tunisia.

Next week, a group of more 50 people will head to Tunisia, Dr Soutar says he'll be delighted that young people on the journey will be able to retain the history of those places, and by the time of the 100th Commemoration, they'll be the ones who know stories we cherish ever so dearly.