Samoan woman lawyer eyes seat in Beehive

An Auckland-based lawyer with Samoan heritage is running for public office in New Zealand’s 2020 General Election.

Barbara Edmonds, whose parents moved to New Zealand in 1978, is a Labour Party candidate for the Mana electorate.

Her father, Selani Tagiilima Poe, is from Fale’ula and Faleatiu and mother Palepa Poe is from Safotu and Fasito’o. She also credited her stepmother Lasela Timu-Poe for ‘taking over the reins’ and playing a huge part in her life.

According to Tagata Pasifika, Ms Edmonds currently works as a specialist tax lawyer with experience in the public and private sector with a specific focus on insurance and tax law. Currently, she is an adviser in Stuart Nash’s Office.

Ms Edmonds feels a weight of responsibility with her selection and highlighted her father in her speech.

“This is why you came to New Zealand to give me a better life and now is the time to repay that.”

In a meeting with her husband Chris and their children, the aspiring politician explained what to expect in the lead-up to polling. 

“We said to them that my face will be on billboards around our neighbourhood and some people may deface it,” she said. “They might also hear some not so nice things said about me, but no matter what, I will always be your Mum.”

Her selection is an achievement to the Labour Pacific assembly, states the Tagata Pasifika article.

There was an injection of diversity across parliamentary colleagues in 2017 and it was one of the most affecting moments of her public service career.

“In the previous government it was very Pākehā and then all of a sudden you saw a plethora of diversity; Māori, Pasifika, females… it felt like I’d come home, I felt comfortable,” she told Tagata Pasifika.

The lawyer said she was pestered by friends and colleagues to stand for election as she had worked for three different ministers across two governments which had taught her how to navigate this next stage in her career.

She hadn’t even made up her mind until she was at the funeral of a former colleague and local Porirua hero Randall Hippolite, a week before nominations closed in February.

It was even more inspiring for her to reminisce about when she was at school during the day, and next door was the North Shore Hospital where members of her family worked in the kitchen, laundry services and as cleaners.

“It’s such a juxtaposition, my dad worked really hard to put us through school and pay the expensive fees.”

 “I am the fruit of that struggle, they moved here to give me a better life.” 

“Being a first-generation Samoan, our dreams are slightly different from our parents, but it is still the same values. Many of us are still fighting for the same things like better homes and better education for our children.”

While studying law at the University of Auckland she fell pregnant in her second year and by the end of her degree about five and a half years later, she was pregnant with baby number five.

A mother of eight children, Ms Edmonds extensive community networks in Mana gives her an intimate knowledge of the electorate. Her experiences of hardship and determination to succeed makes her the best selection for the electorate to work with families, schools and businesses.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is currently the leader of New Zealand's Labour Party. The New Zealand General Election is scheduled for September 19 this year. 

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