Paddy Walker
Pacifica founder
1916-2015

Pioneering Pasifika leader and Nobel Peace Prize nominee

Eleitino Edwina Diana Patricia Walker, universally known as "Paddy", came to New Zealand 50 years before the big wave of Pacific immigration, which began in the 1970s, and provided leadership for the new community when it arrived.

She was born in American Samoa to a Kiwi dad and a mum from a Samoan chiefly family. Her daughter, journalist Michal McKay, has written that Paddy arrived aged 10 at St Cuthbert's College in Auckland "with only a suitcase and a ukulele".

A gifted pianist and composer, she eventually taught music and eurhythmics at St Cuthbert's.

She married Bill Walker, a traveling salesman who caught tuberculosis while serving in the Pacific in World War II and spent five years in hospital in Auckland and then Hanmer Springs, forcing Paddy to support two young children alone.

"A keen interest in clothes gave her the courage to take herself into Hays Department Store and meet with Sir James Hay – the owner – where she informed him that she wished to work in fashion," McKay writes.

She became the store's first fashion co-ordinator, worked with buyers and organised fashion parades. The family moved back to Auckland in 1952 and Paddy took up a similar role with Milne & Choyce.

She served two terms on the Auckland City Council from 1973 and in 1976 was the founding president of the national Pacific women's organisation Pacifica.

In 1975 she joined the Pan Pacific South East Asian Women's Association, which later made her their Peace Ambassador. She wrote peace songs and books for children, helped to create "peace gardens" in several countries including the Cook Islands, where she lived in retirement from 1989 to 2014, and was one of 1000 "peace women" globally who were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.