Thursday 28 July 2022 4:39pm
Otago Samoan Students’ Association performing at the event.
Samoan patriotism was evident as the University’s senior leaders, Samoan staff, student leaders and invited guests celebrated a special anniversary.
The Health Sciences Va’a o Tautai, Centre for Pacific Health, hosted the dinner event attended by 200 guests to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Samoan independence and the Treaty of Friendship between New Zealand and Samoa.
The event was organised and run by Samoan staff and student leaders at the University.
Emeritus Professor John Broughton (Ngai Tahu) provided the Mihi Whakatau (welcome) and Acting Vice-Chancellor of the University of Otago Professor Richard Blaikie welcomed guests and their families.
Other dignitaries who attended included Former Chancellor Dr Royden Somerville, former Labour politician Pete Hodgson and Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Professor Helen Nicholson, who is also a Council member of the National University of Samoa.
The religious components were led by Reverend Latu Kioa, Reverend Tema Eteuati and Reverend Reupena Maulolo, all of whom are completing doctoral studies in Theology.
The Director of Va’a o Tautai Faumuina Professor Fa’afetai Sopoaga and Pacific Community Engagement Manager Tofilau Nina Kirifi-Alai shared the Master of Ceremony duties.
The evening also celebrated the achievements and tautua (service) of Samoans in New Zealand as well as the University’s Memorandum of Understanding with the National University of Samoa signed in 2004, a fruitful partnership that has facilitated many exchanges between the institutions.
The Director of Va’a o Tautai acknowledged the “unwavering support” of the University senior leadership who “always attend important Pacific community events”.
Director of Va’a o Tautai Faumuina Professor Fa’afetai Sopoaga and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Professor Helen Nicholson cutting the celebration cake.
Attendees celebrated the 1,503 Samoan students who have graduated from the University and at least 600 Samoan students who are currently enrolled.
Mrs Kirifi-Alai says the celebration also supports the health and wellbeing of Samoans during COVID and reaffirms their bonds to their ancestral heritage.
“Samoans make up approximately 50 per cent of all Pacific peoples in New Zealand, and are delighted to continue to contribute positively to the fabric of New Zealand society,” she says.
The event coincided with an anniversary celebration held in Auckland attended by the Prime Minister of Samoa.
At this event, Mrs Kirifi-Alai led the march of University of Otago alumni as they celebrated with the Auckland community.