Samoans in N.Z. New Year Honours List

By Lumepa Hald 06 January 2022, 8:10PM

Samoans are among 183 New Zealanders who were recently recognised by the New Zealand Government in its New Year Honors list for 2022.

The awards are for their service in fields of arts and media, business, voluntary work, health, science and sport.

Sina Moana Wendt is one of two recipients of the Pasifika Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit and was recognised for her services to governance. 

She has contributed to the community sector for 25 years through her governance and executive roles and has been the C.E.O. of Leadership New Zealand since 2012, an organisation that contributes to the capacity and capability of leaders across public and private sectors as well as diverse communities in Aotearoa.

The organisation is also building a leadership movement and culture though conversations, engaging with New Zealand’s diverse individuals and communities, and creating impact projects and innovative programmes. These include the signature N.Z. Leadership Programme and the innovative Mana Moana Experience, a programme for Pasifika leaders. 

Leadership N.Z. has a proud legacy of excellence and innovation in educating on the basis of a diversity of thought and perspective.

A Pacific woman of Samoan, German and English ancestry, award Ms Wendt was born and raised in Samoa and migrated to New Zealand in the 1980’s. Following university studies, she chose to make New Zealand her home. 

“I have two adult children Isabella and Ashley and have lived and worked in Aotearoa for over 30 years,” said Ms Wendt.

Proud of her heritage, she told Samoa Observer: I am from the Aiga Sa-Maualaivao (Malie), Aiga Sa-Sao (Sapapali’i), Aiga Sa-Patu (Vaiala), Aiga Sa-Tuaopepe (Lefaga)."

She also acknowledges her palagi heritage: “My mother is Jennifer (Whyte) Wilson. My mother’s families (Whyte and Naylor) are from England and New Zealand.” 

Ms Wendt is also the daughter of renowned writer and poet Maualivao Albert Wendt. 

“I am personally committed to growing a generation of authentic and ethical leaders for 21st century leadership – that is my purpose," said Ms Wendt.

"Everyone is born with huge potential, gifts and talents, and we all have a responsibility to be the best that we can be and to look for ways that we can help others help themselves to 'be the change we want to see in the world'."  

Describing her passion for governance, she said: "I am passionate about enabling, empowering others to succeed, to develop leadership capacity and nurture creative talents in people so they can be successful, and contribute to the social, and economic wellbeing of our communities.

"I am committed to promoting human rights, to improving the social and economic wellbeing of women and girls, indigenous peoples, Pacific peoples, and ethnic minorities in Aotearoa, the Pacific region and around the world. 

"I’m especially passionate about developing, enabling and strengthening the voices, rights and contributions of young people, women and girls! 

"I believe that in order to do this, we must be able to work across our societies, across communities, across sectors in a collaborative, integrated and strategic way to design and deliver innovative and effective solutions to the challenges and opportunities that they face, so that everyone can have the life they deserve.” 

 Asked how she feels about the award, Ms Wendt said she was initially surprised to be acknowledged with the award. 

"Most leaders I know don’t work for the accolades, and my whole life I have simply followed my passions to contribute in positive ways through my work to creating change, influencing the lives of others through my leadership.

"I’ve been blessed also to work with many amazing people in diverse communities and organisations - for me this honour is recognition of all those people and the efforts and achievements of our collective work and everything I learned from them. 

"I feel grateful and blessed.” 

As for the influence of her award on her families and the Samoan community, she said her "multicultural aiga" across the diaspora (her palagi and Samoan families) and the Samoan community will be proud. 

"As people of the Moana we draw our identity, strength, knowledge, wisdom and courage from our families and our ancestors - those who have paved the way before us," she said.

"And so it is with humility and acknowledgment of their love and support over my lifetime that I'm humbled and proud (all at the same time!) to receive this honour."

Ms Wendt added that it was important that the reflected the important work and leadership made by the "people of the Moana across Aotearoa."

"It is wonderful to see so many being recognised and acknowledged again this year – our Government is to be commended for its efforts in this regard," she said. 

"Our people, especially our younger Pasifika leaders, need to 'see' themselves represented in these public acknowledgments - as inspiration and to empower them to be all they dream of being."

Other Samoans who made the New Year Honours list include: Faumuina Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga, who was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to Pacific health and tertiary education.

New Zealand's Minister of Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, said Professor Sopoaga was also instrumental as the Director of the Va'a o Tautai Centre for Pacific Health who led the mobilisation of Samoa doctors worldwide to support relief efforts for Samoa's 2019/2020 measles epidemic.

"And more recently she's been representing New Zealand to support Samoa's vaccination rollout," said Aupito.

Professor Sopoaga has been seen and heard on media outlets in Samoa advocating for health initiatives such as the COVID-19 vaccination drive as well as cancer awareness.

Faumuina Professor Fa’afetai Sopoaga is the daughter of Reverend Nomeneta and Lili Sopoaga, from Fagaloa. She was also the first female Pacific medical doctor to become a professor at the University of Otago. 

Tuita'alili Vaitava'e Su'a Aloese-Moe, was also recognised for her services to the Pacific community and is the other recipient of the Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. 

Other Samoans include Namulau'ulu Taotua Leaoa Joshua James Potoa'e Robertson (New Plymouth) for services to the Pacific community and Allan Stowers (Auckland) for services to the Samoan community.

By Lumepa Hald 06 January 2022, 8:10PM

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