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Protest! Shaping Aotearoa by Mandy Hager


Mandy Hager is a force of a writer. Her eloquence and her turn of phrase sets her apart from so many other writers for younger people. Over the years she has really made so many elements of the curriculum more accessible for students and Protest! Shaping Aotearoa is certainly no different. Not that this is specifically aimed at students - it's not - but I can imagine that many history and social studies teachers will be clamoring over each other to begin using this with the new curriculum coming in.


The book is a homage to the fighting spirit of the New Zealand psyche. The perpetual underdog in almost every situation, we have shown a strength of united belief in ourselves and a willingness to present our grievances in a way that is noticed and respected. New Zealand has always had a place of difference about it - from the suffragette movement, to anti-whaling, to Treaty land settlements, to the anti-nuclear stance. We punch well above our weight in these areas.


Social equity and anti-war demonstrations feature highly on our list of protesting feats identified in the book. We are a generally peaceful bunch here in God’s own, but push us and we show teeth pretty fiercely. Look at the infamous Springbok tour if you needed any more convincing.

The topics covered in the book are certainly wide ranging and it is really pleasing to note the respectful and thoroughly researched approach that she takes to some very controversial issues in our past - perhaps even some things that we are less proud of. Being released in 2021 there are a number of modern issues such as Ihumatao and the school Climate Change movement (the fires of both are still fresh and smoking) mentioned and developed with root causes suggested.


There is just so much in this book from which students of any age can appreciate the lengths that our fellow compatriots have gone to in shaping our national image. It is something to be proud of, and something to share with our young people to give them some idea of where we have come from, and where we should be going.


Protests bring change. This book is proof of that.


Reviewer: Chris Reed

One Tree House, RRP $40.00