The first Pasifika woman to be elected to New Zealand Parliament

Dame Winnie Laban made history in 1999 when she became New Zealand's first Pasifika female MP.

She originally entered Parliament in 1999 for the Labour Party as a list MP. In 2002 she returned as an electorate MP after winning the race for the seat of Mana, Wellington.

While Labour was in government she held the post of Pacific Island Affairs Minister.

She retained the seat in the 2008 election, before resigning from politics in 2010 to take up the position as an assistant vice-chancellor at Victoria University.


Before entering politics, Dame Winnie worked tirelessly as a family therapist and community development worker.

The former MP was rewarded for her service to education and the Pacific Community in the 2018 Queen's Birthday honours, when she was made a Dame.

In accepting the honour, she paid tribute to her loving parents who had encouraged her to chase her dreams as a child. Her mum and dad moved from Samoa to New Zealand in the 1950s to seek a better life for them and their family.

"One of the things I always remembered mum and dad saying is they wanted us to participate as equals in this society," she said.

"They worked hard. They were thrifty. They were leaders in the community. We were brought up in many facets of the Samoan and Pacific community life developing over time.

"Our lives really are just an extension of what our parents dreamt for when they came here."

Before becoming a dame, she was made a Companion of the Queen's Service Order in the 2011 honours.