Trailblazing Pacific Women feature in Queen’s Birthday Honours

posted: 11:30 am - 5th June 2018
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(Picture caption: Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban. CREDIT Pacific Screen.) 

The first Pacific woman to enter Parliament as an MP in 1999 has now become the first Samoan woman to be made a Dame.

Hon. Luamanuvao Winnie Laban has been formally invested as a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education and the Pacific community as part of the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon Aupito William Sio congratulated all of the Pacific recipients who have been recognised in this year’s Honours, including Luamanuvao and an impressive number of Pacific women.

“The recipients have made a significant contribution, whether at a community or national level, and have worked tirelessly within the Pacific community to make a lasting difference,” Minister Sio says.

“This year is particularly special because of the high number of women receiving honours for their services to New Zealand and this includes an amazing group of Pacific women.”

Luamanuvao Dame Winne Laban has always been a trailblazer - being New Zealand's first Pacific Island woman MP and first woman Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, Minister Sio adds.

“As Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) of Victoria University of Wellington she continues to advance Pacific achievement along with a number of Pacific organisations she advocates for.

“Her battle with breast cancer also saw her bring our Pacific community together to discuss health issues in an open, frank and safe environment.”

On receiving the award, Luamanuvao says she remembered her parents who journeyed from Samoa to New Zealand by boat in the 1950s, filled with hopes and dreams.

"And it is that hard work and sacrifice that for me makes me reflect on why this award is so important because it acknowledges the Pacific journey of sacrifice and dreams but more importantly bringing up a generation who must make use of the opportunities."

Luamanuvao she is motivated by a Samoan proverb for her life of leadership and service.

"We have a saying in Samoan, ‘E so'o le fau i le fau’ which talks about the fine mat as woven by many rich deep strands about people and contributions.

“I've just been really part of all that, and driven by social justice and driven by the issues that ensure the legacy our parents planted in us, is that everyone makes the most of the education, opportunities and succeeds as well.”

Luamanuvao already has a Queens Service Order. 

Minister Sio congratulated Fiao’o Faamausili, captain of the Black Ferns since 2012 and the most capped Black Fern at 52 caps. 

She received an ONZM for her significant contribution to rugby.

Nina Catherine Nawalowalo also received an ONZM for her tremendous work in Pacific culture in creating Pasifika-themed theatre productions for more than 20 years.

Reverend Setaita Tokilupe Veikune has received an MNZM for her valuable leadership contribution to the Pacific church community.

She became the first Pacific woman to be appointed President Elect of the Methodist Church of New Zealand in 2017.

Caren Rangi receives an ONZM for her services to the Cook Islands community and encouraging Pacific women in leadership roles, while Jackie Clark, of Samoan heritage, receives an MNZM for her extensive contribution to the entertainment industry and championing worthy causes for women’s health.

“Congratulations to all the Pacific recipients who have been honoured for their contribution to sports, politics, education, business, religion and the arts and who continue to be role models and inspire the next generation,” Minister Sio says.

The recipients are:  


  • The Honourable Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, QSO, for services to education and the Pacific community


  • Ms Fiao’o Faamausili, for services to rugby
  • Ms Nina Catherine Nawalowalo, for services to theatre and Pacific culture
  • Ms Caren Jane Rangi, for services to the Pacific community and governance


  • Ms Jacqueline Emma Clarke, for services to the entertainment industry
  • Mr Darryl Bill Suasua, for services to rugby
  • Mr Saimoni Lealea, for services to Pacific communities
  • Reverend Setaita Tokilupe Veikune, for services to the Pacific community


  • Mr Tafafuna'i Fa'atasi Lauese, JP, for services to the Pacific community
  • Reverend Perema Leasi, for services to the Pacific community
  • Reverend Lucky Richard Slade, JP, for services to the Samoan community.