condensed discuss document expanded export feedback print share remove reset document_white enquire_white export_white report_white

A Decade of Days – Auckland through Robin Morrison’s eyes

Springbok tour protest at Eden Park

discuss document export feedback print share

Springbok tour protest at Eden Park

Behind the wire, 1981, Kowhai Intermediate, Mount Eden

Behind the wire, 1981, Kowhai Intermediate, Mount Eden

Permission of Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira must be obtained before any re-use of this image.© Robin Morrison, 1981

Throughout 1981, plans by the New Zealand Rugby Union to host a rugby tour from apartheid South Africa faced growing public opposition (New Zealand prime minister, Robert Muldoon, had helped to draft the 1977 Gleneagles Agreement, where all Commonwealth countries pledged their commitment to oppose apartheid in South Africa by discouraging all sporting contact).

Despite calls for the tour to be scrapped, the all-white Springbok team arrived in July. The anti-apartheid demonstrators responded by mobilising a mass protest movement to disrupt the tour.

Single file, 1981, Mount Eden

Single file, 1981, Mount Eden

Permission of Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira must be obtained before any re-use of this image.© Robin Morrison, 1981

The games were played against a backdrop of escalating battles between demonstrators and riot police. By end of play, a nation was divided.

A pitch invasion by protestors stopped the second tour match in Hamilton, leaving tour supporters enraged and baying for blood. The police adopted more severe tactics at the next game, in New Plymouth, and protesters experienced the first police baton charge of the tour. Many more would follow.

By the time Robin Morrison photographed the third and final test match in Auckland the protestors wore helmets and body armour. The heavy policing ensured the rugby was played, but the country had come close to what felt like a civil war. New Zealand would never be quite the same again.

Facing off, 1981, Mount Eden

Facing off, 1981, Mount Eden

Permission of Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira must be obtained before any re-use of this image.© Robin Morrison, 1981

One of South Africa’s leading anti-apartheid activists Archbishop Desmond Tutu said news of the protests was a huge boost: "You really can't even compute its value, it said the world has not forgotten us, we are not alone."

“I was very torn,” Robin said in 1993, “I had to photograph the demonstrations but I wanted to be in amongst it as well. So sometimes I was behind police lines, sometimes in front, but always wanting to be part of the demonstration…I got some good photographs and got a great sense of satisfaction out of doing the photography but again, I was on the side of the demonstrators rather than being neutral, as I suppose a good journalist would be.”

Crossing the lines