Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Pasifika tribute to Georgina Beyer, “a beacon of light”

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Photo: Stuff
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Gladys Hartson | Senior Journalist

As the country mourns and remembers former MP Georgina Beyer who passed away on March 6 at the age of 65, Pasifika colleagues and advocates took a moment to pay their respects. 

Beyer made history as the first trans woman elected mayor when she won the mayoralty of  Carterton in 1995. She then went on to achieve another milestone in 1997 by becoming a member of Parliament for the Labour Party in the Wairarapa electorate.

Speaking to Radio New Zealand, former Labour MP Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban says of her friend and former colleague, “we campaigned together for the election and so we remember quite vividly delivering her pamphlets.

“And I just wanted to say at this time to thank the people of Carterton and Wairarapa for having the courage to vote Georgina in and that was history… but it was also a deeper message about inclusion and belonging and that was Georgina… a representative for many people who were marginalised at that time.” 

Photo: NZ History

Pyhlesha Brown-Acton MNZM, who serves as a leader and advocate for the Pasifika Rainbow, LGBTQIA+, MVPFAFF+ community and their families, says Beyer was a beacon of light for many trans-identifying individuals, in particular trans women.

“Georgina’s journey through her life resonates with a number of us in trans women community,” she says.

“First ever transgender MP in the world that in itself provided a number of us that beacon of light for example, of an individual who had basically broken in so many ceiling’s and crashed through many doors and crossed many bridges in order to get there.”

Brown-Acton remembers feeling immense pride when Beyer made her very first speech in parliament.

In Beyer’s maiden speech she said: “I can’t help but mention the number of firsts that are in this Parliament. Our first Rastafarian [Nándor Tánczos]… our first Polynesian woman [Luamanuvao Winnie Laban]… and yes, I have to say it, I guess, I am the first transsexual in New Zealand to be standing in this House of Parliament…We need to acknowledge that this country of ours leads the way in so many aspects… and I hope we will do so again in the future in social policy and certainly in human rights.”

Photo: Martin Hunter / Stuff

Brown-Acton says that for Beyer to be a representative of the trans woman, at the highest level, was fantastic and an amazing event to witness in her lifetime.

“In remembrance of Georgina and her passing and also remembering there have been amazing Maori wahine trans women the likes of Mama Tere Tahere-Strickland, Carmen Rupe, who are just examples going back to three, four decades ago who have been exemplary in their leadership, in their commitment,” she says.

“ I just want to acknowledge Georgina and these amazing pioneers and trans women who have led the way and, even though they have left our living realm, the work continues and we need people to continue the work they fought so hard on.” 

Beyer left Parliament in 2007, and despite a short-lived attempt to get back into Parliament with the Mana Party in 2014, she kept herself busy. She later suffered from Kidney Failure which led to a transplant in 2017. She passed away in a hospice in Wellington, aged 65. 

An intimate ceremony was held on Tuesday to farewell Beyer who will have a street in Carterton named in her honour.

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