Today, I was shocked to hear of the passing of Fa'a`nānā Efeso Collins who was a NZ Samoan list MP (Member of Parliament) who had just delivered his maiden speech upon entering parliament only days ago. He had been at a charity event when he collapsed and was unable to be revived.
It was so sad to hear about this news, as he was a rising star of the Pasifika albeit SamoaNZ community who advocated long and hard for Pasifika peoples and those not in the upper echelons of NZ society. It is indeed a sad loss to our community and my heart goes out to his wife and daughters and family of whom he dearly loved.
My memories of Efeso (as I knew him then) go way back to when I first started teaching English in 1990, at a high school in Otara where he lived. It was his final year at high school and my first year in teacher. I may have written about this before but upon learning that I had a Master's degree, I remember that he told me that he too was going to get a Masters degree when he finished school and he did.
I remember meeting with him at a students' budget dinner, once at Auckland Uni, where I had just started my first doctorate degree around 1997. He was then the first Pasifika (Samoan) President of the Student Union that had been mainly headed by Europeans. It was there that he started making his mark with interest in politics.
When I first became a panel member for the Pasifika panel for Auckland Council for one term (3 years), around 2015, I met Efeso again but this time he was an Auckland Councillor who had won his seat alongside Alf Filipino who is a stalwart of South Auckland local government. Having Pasifika representation at this level was so important for voicing the needs of the Pasifika population.
Probably the last time I met with Efeso was a couple of years at an Pasifika ECE Early Childhood Education function where he was the guest speaker and delivered his speech with many jokes. I went up to him later and had a brief discussion. I told him that I had voted for him as a mayoral candidate but I didn't think that Auckland or NZ was ready yet for a person of colour.
I last remember seeing him sometime last year, at a round about in Papatoetoe, as he contested the Papatoetoe/Manukau seat but didn't win it. I tooted my car horn and he was surprised to see me showing my support of him.
Efeso came from humble roots and demonstrated to many that it was possible for a Pasifika person to succeed with a hard work ethic and humility that wasn't afraid to voice his opinions in support of the most vulnerable.
He certainly will be missed in the legacy that he left in his family, friends, and the many communities that he found himself in. It was truly an honour to have been there right at the start to see him as a young Christian SamoaNZ man grow and challenge the heart of Auckland as a peoples' champion.
He journey here on earth has ended but long may his legacy live to encourage other young and bold Samoan and Pasifika men and women that the world is your oyster if you work with integrity towards achieving your goals. Gone but not forgotten. Ia manuia lou malaga Fa'anānā Efeso. God's blessings be with you...