Labour MP credits Pasifika caucus for strengthening connection to Samoan culture

Labour MP Barbara Edmonds has praised the support of her Pasifika caucus colleagues for helping her stay connected to her Samoan culture.​

3rd June, 2022

Labour MP credits Pasifika caucus for strengthening connection to Samoan culture
Labour MPs Lemauga Lydia Sosene (left) and Barbara Edmonds (right). Photo/Shanlea Hibbs - Labour Pasifika

Elijah Fa'afiu, Political Reporter

Labour MP Barbara Edmonds has praised the support of her Pasifika caucus colleagues for helping her stay connected to her Samoan culture.​

Edmonds is a first-generation New Zealand-born Samoan, who spoke Samoan until she was five years old, but she admits over the years, being brought up in New Zealand has led to her losing her ability to speak fluently.

​She says Samoan Language Week is her reminder to work on speaking Samoan fluently when she can.

​"Living away from my immediate Samoan family, I don’t get the opportunity to use the language often and as a result, over the years, my fluency in the language has definitely diminished. Still understand it fully because it was my first language.

"Samoan Language Week is that lovely reminder every year if I don’t get it weekly with my own aiga, to consciously help be better in the way I deliver or I speak it within my own household.

"But actually more importantly to use it to inform others at the same time, reminding me why it’s so special to be a Samoan woman living in New Zealand."

Edmonds was one of three Pacific MPs to say the Parliament prayer in Samoan this week, along with Lemauga Lydia Sosene and Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki, with the former helping Edmonds practice right before she delivered the prayer.

"She’s (Lemauga) a wonderful addition to our caucus, brings that real wisdom and community feel and also a fluent Samoan female speaker because we don’t have a fluent female speaker in our Labour Pasifika caucus for Samoan language," says Edmonds.

"She just reminded me that this is a prayer to God, just remember that as you deliver it. Yes, you might be nervous or yes, there’s a lot of things going on in that House, but as you’re delivering it, you’re delivering it in your mother tongue to God."

Edmonds also credits Carmel Sepuloni for her advice before the Parliament prayer.

"I was talking about my hesitancy to want to do the prayer in the House. My hesitancy was around, I wanted to be able to give it the mana that it needed to be delivered to be able to say it accurately.

"But she (Sepuloni) said to me, especially for us who are non-fluent speakers, rather than finding the opportunity to be able to deliver Gagana Sāmoa​ fluently and perfectly, we just need to find those opportunities every day and to remove the mā​ that comes with not being perfect and not being able to exercise it or enunciate it perfectly."

​The Labour Pacific caucus has been involved in a number of events to mark Samoan Language Week, including a visit to EFKS Naenae, starting the week "at church as you should do", Edmonds says.

Members of the Pacific caucus also attended the 60th Samoan Independence Day celebrations at Pipitea Marae.

Edmonds' message to New Zealand-born Samoans and who are not fluent in their language, is to "be bold, be courageous and keep trying".

"I am just as nervous as you are, even in wherever we are as leaders, as Pasifika leaders, no matter the sphere we’re in, we are still Samoan and whether it’s a tiny bit or a lot of it, we still belong to Samoa.​

"One day, we’ll be able to speak it more fluently and I hope that one day comes around faster rather than later."

Members of the Labour Pasifika caucus at the 60th Samoan Independence Day celebrations this week. Photo/Shanlea Hibbs - Labour Pasifika

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