It is in recognition of her significant contribution to the welfare of Pacific Islanders and in particular our Samoan people in Aotearoa.
The award also acknowledges her 10 years of service to the National University of Samoa as a Council Member from 2012 to 2021.
Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban is the daughter of Emi Anealaise Tunupopo (eldest daughter of Tunupopo Patu of Vaiala and Va’asamalelagi of Safune and Falelatai) and Ta’atofa Kenneth Laban (eldest son of Leutele Va’afusuaga Poutoa of Falefa, Falese’ela and Lefaga and Winnie Laban of Levili). Ta’atofa and Emi migrated to New Zealand in 1954.
Luamanuvao and her brother, Fauono Ken, were born and educated in Wellington.
Luamanuvao is married to Dr Peter Swain.
Luamanuvao is a Social Work graduate from Victoria University of Wellington and worked as a public servant, community worker, probation officer, and school counsellor. In 1992 she was bestowed the Samoan chiefly title of Luamanuvao from her mother’s village.
During the 1990s Luamanuvao led Consumer International’s South Pacific Consumer Protection Programme working in fifteen Pacific Island nations to develop consumer protection agencies, implement laws, and promote education and information programmes in local languages.
In 1998 she completed a post-graduate qualification in Development Studies from Massey University. In 1999 Luamanuvao was elected as the first Pacific Island woman to the New Zealand Parliament. From 2002 to 2010 she was the Member of Parliament for the Mana Electorate, serving as Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, and Associate Minister of Social Development, Economic Development and Trade, leading trade missions to Pacific Island nations. In 2011 she was awarded the Companion of the Queen’s Service Order (QSO) for public and community services.
Luamanuvao left Parliament in October 2010 to take up the new position of Assistant Vice Chancellor (Pasifika) at Victoria University of Wellington. She has contributed significantly in providing strategic leadership for Pasifika students and staff and in advocating for policy initiatives that enhances their welfare and especially the success of Pacific Islanders at University.
In 2018 Luamanuvao was honoured by Queen Elizabeth II with the award of Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DNZM) for her services to Education and the Pacific Island Community.
Luamanuvao is currently Chair, Patron or Member of a wide range of public service, academic, and community organisations in New Zealand. She was previously engaged in the following capacities as:
• Member, National University of Samoa Council, 2012-2021
• Member, Institute of Judicial Studies Board, 2011-2021
• Member of Creative New Zealand Arts Council, 2014-2021
• Election Monitor, Papua New Guinea, Commonwealth Secretariat, 2022
• Election Monitor, Pakistan, Commonwealth Secretariat, 2018
• Election Monitor, Tanzania, Commonwealth Secretariat, 2016
• Member, Advisory Committee for the Minister of Pacific Peoples 2016-2017
• Chair, Pacific Arts Committee Creative New Zealand 2013-2014
Luamanuvao has also received the following Honours and Awards:
• Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DNZM), June 2018.
• Companion of the Queen’s Service Order (QSO), April 2011.
• The New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal, October 1990.
• Lifetime Achievement Award, New Zealand Women of Influence, 2020.
• The Ann Dysart Distinguished Service Award, Multicultural New Zealand, 2021.
• Tribute to an Icon, Wellington Gold Awards, 2018.
• Hutt City Mayoral Citation for Community Service, 2021.
To add to her impressive achievements, the National University of Samoa on 31 March 2023 will confer upon her an Honorary Doctor of Letters in recognition of her valuable and substantial contribution to the welfare of our people in Aotearoa New Zealand and Samoa through her service to the National University of Samoa as a Council member from 2012-2021.
Photo credit Victoria University of Wellington Caption: Afioga Associate Professor Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban.