Matatumua Moana Vermeulen
ASPBAE has lost an outstanding woman leader, a champion of the right to quality education for all and a tireless worker for sustainable livelihood systems that transform the lives especially of poor, marginal communities in the South Pacific and the Asia Pacific region.
Mutatumua Moana Vermeulen, South Pacific representative to the ASPBAE Executive Council for two terms passed on to a better place on Thursday, January 12, 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand after a lingering illness.
She is survived by her husband, Walter Vermeulen, children and grandchildren and by METI, an organisation in Samoa she co-founded more than decade ago.
Hers was clearly a pioneering spirit – her life, fiercely dedicated to public service. She was a former member of parliament in Samoa and the founder of the Samoa All People’s Party (SAPP) – the first political party to be founded and headed by a woman. A former Superintendent of Nursing, Matatumua was also instrumental in the founding and development of the Samoa School of Nursing. In the last decade, Mua threw her energies in the work of METI, an NGO member of ASPBAE, working on preventive health care especially in the treatment of sleep apnoea, in agro-forestry development and conservation, organic farming, marine rehabilitation projects and second chance teacher training.
In 2004 she was elected for the first time as South Pacific representative in the ASPBAE Executive Council. She was re-elected in 2008 and held this post until her untimely demise. As a member of the Executive Council, she was passionate about issues of gender, sustainability, citizens’ participation and good governance. She was one of the first in the Executive to point out that climate change should be high on the agenda of adult educators – as an issue of power, marginalisation and survival.
For those of us who had the privilege to interact and work closely with Mua, we knew we were in the presence of a great soul. She was wise, she was razor sharp, grounded and strategic. She was unfailing in reminding the Executive of the specific concerns of the small island states of the South Pacific – and yet she steered us all to focus on the larger picture and uphold the organisation’s broader, overall interest. She took clear, firm positions even when it was not easy or popular to do so. And she did these all with humanity and great kindness.
Rest in peace, dear Mua. You have left a world, much saddened by your passing but much enriched for the life you have lived.
We can only pray our work will honour your memory well.
The ASPBAE Executive Council and staff.
ASPBAE are the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education. ALA are one of three Australian member organisations
along with RMIT University and WAVE (Women in Adult and Vocational Education).