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Luamanuvao Dr. Winnie Laban urges NUS graduates to hold onto the faa Samoa

Staff Reporters

APIA, SAMOA – 04 APRIL 2023: The recipient of the National University Doctor of Letters, Luamanuvao Dr. Winne Laban has urged the graduates and young Samoans both local and overseas to hold onto the faa Samoa and its core values.

Delivering the keynote address after she was conferred the Honorary Doctor of Letters at the NUS graduation last Friday, she encouraged the graduates “to hold on to and treasure the faa Samoa.”

She emphasized the core values of Alofa and Fa’aaloalo demonstrated through Tautua – service to everyone.

“Fa’a Samoa is the heart of Samoan cultural values, and central to life in Samoa and Samoans overseas and it’s important to hold on to and treasure the faa Samoa. Let its wisdom be your guide.”

She congratulated the graduates and urged them to “use that opportunity to stay and build Samoa. It’s just a wonderful country.”

A trailblazer, her parents migrated from Samoa to New Zealand in 1954 where she was born and raised in Wellington. She graduated from Victoria University and worked as a Public Servant, Community Worker, Probation Officer and School Counsellor

In 1992 she was bestowed the chiefly title, Luamanuvao from her mothers’ village Safune, Savai’i.

She went on to become the first woman of Pacific island descent to be elected into the New Zealand Parliament. She was Minister of Pacific Islands Affairs, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector and Associate Minister for Social Development Economic Developments and Trade.

She left parliament in 2010 to work as Vice Chancellor Pasifika at Victoria University.

Developing young peoples cultural identity and place of belonging
As a parliamentarian and Vice Chancellor, she is working to facilitate opportunities for Samoan and Pacific people in New Zealand to develop their cultural identity and their place of belonging in Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific.

NUS graduates
NUS graduates

Some of the NUS graduates.

“It is my belief, and Samoan can teach us much, that developing your cultural identity and understanding your place of belonging, applies to all young people in NZ and in Samoa,” she told the graduates.

“When you understand where you come from and who you are, that makes you very strong to navigate through the challenges you face in life and to achieve success.”

Accepting the honour, she continues her association with the NUS where she served as a council member for NUS for 9 years.

“I am deeply honoured to be awarded this honour and, I am proud to be a graduate of the National University of Samoa,” she said.

“It has been wonderful to be part and support relations between NUS and Victoria University in strengthening the capacity building for the staff and research projects,” she said.

Telling the story of her mothers’ school days where she had only 3 options; nursing, teaching or short hand typing.

Luamanuvao’s mother returned to Samoa after completing a course in shorthand and served as personal secretary to the New Zealand Consul General, Sir Guy Bowles.

NUS graduation wide
NUS graduation wide

NUS graduations are always a full house event.

NUS now provides a wide range of educational opportunities for all which were not available in pre independence days.

“You are graduating at a time of challenges and uncertainties, but also a time of great opportunities,” she said.

“But it’s also a time of opportunity for you. As university graduates, you would have recognized up to date qualifications from a top university, and a set of quality skills to help you grasp job opportunities available in Samoa.”

Before she was conferred the honorary doctorate last Friday, a team from Victoria University were in a joint research conference with NUS staff and developing opportunities for research and teaching capacities. They were also negotiating the extension of their Memorandum of Understanding with NUS, SPREP and SROS.

Luamanuvao currently holds various positions as Chair, patron or member of a wide range of academic and community organisations.

She is a Companion of the Queens Service Order, QSO for public and community services and a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, DMZM for her services to education and the Pacific Island community.