The Spring­bok tour:

Be­hind the scenes of TV’s West­side and on the front line with John Minto

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

It was the year that changed our in­ter­na­tional iden­tity, when New Zealand rose in protest against the Spring­bok Rugby Tour. It is also the era for the cur­rent se­ries of TV drama West­side. Ni­cola Russell finds out how fact merges with fic­tion in the lat­est sto­ry­lines from the out­ra­geous West family.

WEST­SIDE, the pre­quel to pop­u­lar se­ries Out­ra­geous For­tune, hit Kiwi tele­vi­sion screens with a bang last year. Set in the 1970s, it tracked the ori­gin of the no­to­ri­ous fic­tional West family, who were at the heart of Out­ra­geous For­tune’s six-se­ries sen­sa­tion.

The sec­ond sea­son of West­side takes us back to the early 1980s in New Zealand. A time of big hair and bold eye­liner, mous­taches and tight pants, the mu­sic of Dave McArt­ney & The Pink Flamin­gos, shrimp cock­tails and a gov­ern­ment led by the can­tan­ker­ous Rob Mul­doon.

It was also an era when New Zealand ex­pe­ri­enced its great­est civil un­rest since the 1951 wa­ter­front dis­pute. The pro­duc­ers of West­side couldn’t truly rep­re­sent the time with­out cov­er­ing the in­fa­mous protests of the 1981 Spring­bok tour, when thou­sands of New Zealan­ders rose up against the de­ci­sion to host a rugby team whose gov­ern­ment sup­ported apartheid.

The show’s sto­ry­line is rich with the drama of that tour, us­ing clev­erly in­ter­spersed his­toric footage of the Hamil­ton pitch in­va­sion (which shut down the sec­ond game of the tour) and the Eden Park protest where flour bombs were dropped from planes.

It was just 56 days in our his­tory, but those days marked a ma­jor mile­stone for New Zealand. They have been de­scribed as the time New Zealand first took re­spon­si­bil­ity for its place on the world stage. More than 150,000 peo­ple par­tic­i­pated in more than 200 demon­stra­tions in 28 cen­tres, and 1500 were charged with of­fences as­so­ci­ated with the protests.

Core West­side cast mem­bers An­to­nia Preb­ble and So­phie Ham­ble­ton each have a strong family con­nec­tion to the protests – sto­ries they share with The Aus­tralian Women’s Weekly. And ac­tivist John Minto talks about be­ing at the fore­front of the civil dis­obe­di­ence.

John Minto joined HART (Halt All Racist Tours) in the mid-1970s in Napier. In 1977 he moved to Auck­land and be­came sec­re­tary of the protest group. He was a piv­otal force in the or­gan­ised move­ment against the Spring­bok tour.

I got in­volved in [anti-Spring­bok tour ac­tion] be­cause it was an im­por­tant is­sue and one in which I thought New Zealand could punch well above its weight. We had the most im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional link that white South Africans wanted – rugby and the

All Blacks, and we knew we could make a dif­fer­ence.

We started the plan­ning and or­gan­is­ing al­most two years be­fore the Spring­boks came. Ini­tially we fo­cused on shift­ing pub­lic opin­ion. By the time the Spring­boks ar­rived, we had moved pub­lic op­po­si­tion to the tour from about 15-20 per cent to 45 per cent. That was through ed­u­ca­tional work, film screen­ings, pub­lic meet­ings, pe­ti­tions, pub­lic events and dep­u­ta­tions. When it be­came ob­vi­ous the tour was go­ing to go ahead, all of the plan­ning went into the protests.

Early in the year we had a train­ing camp in Auck­land where peo­ple came from all around the coun­try to do some ba­sic civil dis­obe­di­ence train­ing. We had men and women and peo­ple of all ages on those marches – from ba­bies in prams to grand­par­ents.

The protest in Hamil­ton [when pro­tes­tors stormed the pitch and stopped the game] was quite de­lib­er­ate – we knew we could get large num­bers of peo­ple there from Auck­land. I went down with a group of peo­ple first to look at where we might be able to break into the ground. Then on the Satur­day we brought bolt cut­ters, ropes and clipons to break through the fences but in the end peo­ple just grabbed hold of the wire mesh and peeled it away like a ba­nana.

After the game was called off it be­came ab­so­lute may­hem. Peo­ple on the field were be­ing at­tacked as they left – I got hit in the head by a full can of beer and knocked un­con­scious. A pen­sioner who lived across the road from the park brought 15-20 of us into his house with­out a sec­ond thought – there was a big ugly mob out­side, bay­ing for blood. I walked out with a towel over my bleed­ing head wound to get into an am­bu­lance and some­one yelled, “There’s Minto – let’s get him!” We had to go back in­side and have the am­bu­lance come back an hour later. Every­body sat on the floor be­low the win­dows so we wouldn’t pro­vide any provo­ca­tion. It was pretty scary.

Peo­ple were bashed willy-nilly around Hamil­ton that night – any­one who had a ‘Stop the tour’ sticker on their car was stopped at traf­fic lights and dragged out of their car. We had our own med­i­cal team and the ve­hi­cle they were us­ing was at­tacked and a cou­ple of peo­ple were dragged out of the back of it. We were in­cred­i­bly lucky no one was killed.

We had been on the field chant­ing “The whole world’s watch­ing, the whole world’s watch­ing” and hop­ing like hell that they were – but the im­pact in South Africa was far more than we had an­tic­i­pated. It was the very first time ever that a rugby game was tele­vised live from New Zealand. South Africans got up in the mid­dle of the night to watch the game and all they saw was pro­tes­tors – white South Africans were fu­ri­ous and black South Africans ju­bi­lant.

Nel­son Man­dela, who was imprisoned on Robben Is­land at the time, later told Dame Cath Tizard that news of the game be­ing called off be­cause of anti-apartheid protests went around the prison like wild­fire. They grabbed the bars on their cell doors and rat­tled them right around the prison. He said it was like the sun came out – here was a lit­tle coun­try on the other side of the world where peo­ple were cre­at­ing a huge blow to the apartheid regime.

It rocked New Zealand out of com­pla­cency about in­ter­na­tional events. We saw our­selves as a small, in­su­lar coun­try at the bot­tom of the South Pa­cific, not be­holden to any­one, but we were forced to re­alise we were part of a much big­ger in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

And it knocked our com­pla­cency about race re­la­tions in our own coun­try. By 1985 the New Zealand Labour gov­ern­ment gave The

Wai­tangi Tri­bunal the power to look at his­tor­i­cal treaty griev­ances and that started off a whole process, which I think has been a very healthy one for New Zealand. The de­bate that took place at the time was a big part of mak­ing that hap­pen.


An­to­nia Preb­ble, 32, plays Rita West. Her mother, Ni­cola Rid­di­ford, was in­volved in the march to par­lia­ment in Wellington on July 29, which turned vi­o­lent. In Auck­land, An­to­nia’s grand­par­ents set up a makeshift hospi­tal out­side Eden Park dur­ing the Septem­ber 12 match, to care for in­jured pro­tes­tors. At that match smoke and flour bombs were dropped from a Cessna air­craft in­side the grounds and po­lice and pro­test­ers came to blows out­side.

My fa­ther’s par­ents lived re­ally close to Eden Park. My grand­fa­ther, Ken­neth Preb­ble, was an Angli­can min­is­ter and the vicar of St

Paul’s on Sy­monds Street, and my grand­mother, Mary Preb­ble, was a nurse.

There were some ter­ri­ble in­juries in­flicted on pro­tes­tors dur­ing that Auck­land match and my grand­par­ents set up a ca­su­alty clear­ing sta­tion on their front lawn to tend to them. They were lib­eral peo­ple and very into so­cial jus­tice. I am so proud of them, and I am so glad they were on that side of the fence.

My mum was six or seven months preg­nant with my [older] sis­ter at the time of the Wellington protests. She wanted to be in­volved be­cause she felt so strongly about it, but she was also very aware of putting her un­born child in any dan­ger. She marched most of the way there, but as things got more ag­gres­sive she pulled out, in case it erupted into vi­o­lence. She said it was a pretty charged at­mos­phere and a crazy time to be in New Zealand.

My char­ac­ter in West­side, Rita, is not po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated at all – she is more in­ter­ested in how she can take ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion for her own gain, but I’m 100 per cent sure I would have protested if I had been there. Apartheid is hor­rific and it would have been an op­por­tu­nity to stand up against some­thing that I fun­da­men­tally dis­agree with. There is that say­ing that evil hap­pens when peo­ple do noth­ing, and I be­lieve if you have an op­por­tu­nity to stand up to some­thing you be­lieve in, you should – par­tic­u­larly if it is on your doorstep.

I have never been in­volved in any­thing like that, so I don’t know how I would have coped with it – I can’t imag­ine I would have got into any fight­ing, but who knows!


So­phie Ham­ble­ton, 31, plays Carol O’Driscoll. Her aunt, Tulip Ham­ble­ton, was on the march that took place on Au­gust 29 when 7000 pro­test­ers gath­ered in cen­tral Wellington and blocked ve­hi­cle and pedes­trian ac­cess to Ath­letic Park.

My Aunt Tulip was on the march against the Spring­boks that blocked the up­per mo­tor­way in Wellington. She re­mem­bers look­ing around her at the crowd and feel­ing re­ally proud and in­vig­o­rated that so many peo­ple thought this was an im­por­tant enough is­sue to phys­i­cally at­tend. She told me how united they were as a col­lec­tive. She said the vi­o­lence and chaos that erupted didn’t come from the pro­test­ers orig­i­nally; they were just try­ing to stop the games from hap­pen­ing, which they did.

I guess at the time they didn’t think they were be­ing par­tic­u­larly brave

– they were a mass group of peo­ple tak­ing ac­tion on an is­sue they be­lieved in, but so many peo­ple did get in­jured. I would have been ter­ri­fied.

My West­side char­ac­ter Carol rep­re­sents a small por­tion of New Zealand that the Spring­bok Tour passed by, or maybe no one both­ered to ask her opin­ion – she was much more in­ter­ested in the royal wed­ding of 1981!

I acted re­cently in the tele movie Rage, about the protests, and played a young pro­tes­tor who was ba­toned by the po­lice in one of the marches out­side par­lia­ment. It was such an emo­tion­ally fu­elled is­sue – peo­ple pan­icked, the po­lice pan­icked. We are a coun­try so ob­sessed with rugby – it is so im­por­tant to peo­ple that grown men cry and our do­mes­tic vi­o­lence rates in­crease around Rugby World Cup time.

My mum was liv­ing in Syd­ney at the time of the protests and when she came back to New Zealand at the end of 1981 she was mor­ti­fied – she’d had no idea how much peo­ple had been protest­ing and what was hap­pen­ing in New

Zealand at the time. Now we have so­cial me­dia and the in­ter­net and we know ex­actly what is go­ing on in the world pretty much as soon as it hap­pens. Back then, she was iso­lated from what had been go­ing on and said she felt she had missed this huge move­ment that still re­ally de­fines us.

It does that in a sim­i­lar way to our nu­clear pol­icy – we are such a small coun­try and the fact that a por­tion of our pop­u­la­tion could af­fect change is re­ally in­cred­i­ble, and still some­thing that is talked about in­ter­na­tion­ally. For my aunty, be­ing in­volved in one of the big­ger marches cre­ated a real sense of pride. They did stop games and they were able to have their voice heard in­ter­na­tion­ally. We roared loud for a small lion.

West­side screens on Sun­day evenings at 8.30pm on TV3.

Tour pro­tes­tors broke through

fences at the match at Rugby Park in Hamil­ton.

John Minto voic­ing his protest to the Spring­bok Rugby Tour in 1981.

This scene from West­side re-en­acts the protests.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.