Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Samoan mother of eight has Parliament in her sights

Labour Party candidate Barbara Edmonds. Photo / Supplied

When Barbara Edmonds was confirmed as the Labour Party candidate for the Mana electorate last weekend, she felt an instant sense of responsibility.

The mother of eight and fiercely loyal Mana local addressed her father in her selection speech, saying, “This is why you came to New Zealand to give me a better life and now is the time to repay that.”

As if having eight children isn’t busy enough, life in the Edmonds household is about to get a whole lot busier. Barbara and her husband Chris sat their children down and explained to them what the next couple of months will look like in the lead up to the election.

“We said to them that my face will be up on billboards around our neighbourhood and some people may deface it.

“They might also hear some not so nice things said about me, but no matter what, I will always be your Mum.”

Edmonds is a specialist tax lawyer having worked across the public and private sector in insurance and tax law.

She moved her family Wellington in 2009 to work at Inland Revenue. She was then seconded to work for minister of revenue Michael Woodhouse and then Judith Collins.

Her current role is an adviser in Stuart Nash’s office.

Edmonds selection is also a win for the Labour Pacific caucus. They now have a strong candidate with finance and tax law experience.

A poignant moment in her public service career came in 2017 when the change of
Government saw an instant injection of diversity across parliamentary colleagues.

“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.”

Working for three different ministers across two governments has taught Edmonds how to navigate this next stage in her career.

“You see how much pressure politics puts on families, but regardless of the political party, everyone essentially wants the same thing, but they just have different ways of getting there.”

After being hounded by friends and colleagues to stand for election, Edmonds wasn’t convinced that she wanted to be a politician.

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

Edmonds was inspired by the work of Hippolite and the late Willie Taurima whom she had worked alongside on the board of trustees for Mana College.

“For decades these men had worked so hard for change in the Porirua community and reflecting on that at Randall’s tangi helped make up my mind, I left the tangi that day and submitted my nomination.”

Edmonds’ parents came to New Zealand from Samoa in 1978. Her father Selani Tagiilima Poe is from Fale’ula and Faleatiu and her mother Palepa Poe is from Safotu and Fasito’o. She also credits her stepmother Lasela Timu-Poe for ‘taking over the reigns’ and playing a huge part in her life.

Born and bred on Auckland’s North Shore, she attended Carmel College, one of Auckland’s prestigious private Catholic girl’s schools.

Even more inspiring for Edmonds was the fact that while she was at school during the day, next door was North Shore Hospital. In the hospital was where members of her family were working 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.”

Following high school Edmonds went on to study law at the University of Auckland. She fell pregnant in her second year and moved in with her now husband Chris in South Auckland.

“I kept studying and having babies and by the time I finished my law and arts degrees about five and half years later, I was pregnant with baby number five.”

Edmonds credits former Labour Party policies or ‘safety nets’ to helping her family succeed in Aotearoa.

The Capitalisation of the Family Benefit scheme from 1959 helped her family purchase a home in Auckland.

When Edmonds was 4 her mother passed away. Suddenly at the age of 40 her father had to go on the domestic purposes benefit to raise four children.

Government training allowances also helped her father when he studied to become a social worker later in life.

“When I was studying my husband was earning minimum wage and we ended up with $8 in our hand once expenses were all covered, but the Working for Families Tax Credits really helped get us through.”

Edmonds now replaces Labour’s Kris Faafoi who is standing as a list MP only.

With Faafoi holding a 10,980 vote majority at the last election, Edmonds says she doesn’t feel any pressure with what’s regarded as a Labour safe seat. But she’s taking nothing for granted.

“You can never be that arrogant to think about that [safe seat] because Mana is actually a very diverse electorate, majority of it sits at decile 7 and above.”

Photo / Supplied

Her extensive community networks in Mana give her an intimate knowledge of the electorate. Her personal experience of hardship and her own determination to succeed equip her well to work for families, schools and businesses in the electorate.

“I’m from this community and my family have been knee deep in the community from Norths Rugby Club, local tag club to the schools in the area.”

“I’m here to advocate for you and to advocate for equal opportunity and equal access to opportunity.”

Her message to her electorate is simple.

“If you want change to continue, we need two ticks red.”

Edmonds added, “I really want to get our people out voting, we need to support Labour, we need to support Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern because she has our best interests at heart.”

Follow Barbara Edmonds social media here:
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/BarbaraEdmondsMana/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/barbaraedmondsmana/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/BarbEdmondsMana

By Johnson Raela

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