Hardworking, audacious, often controversial, however all the time vivacious: one among Papua New Guinea’s political pioneers, Nahau Rooney, has been remembered as a trailblazer for PNG ladies in energy following her loss of life on 15 September, aged 75.

In 1977, Rooney was one among simply three ladies elected to PNG’s first post-independence parliament – out of 109 members – the place she served because the regional member for the province of Manus.

Rooney drew controversy throughout her early profession when as minister for justice in 1979 she was sentenced by the supreme courtroom to eight months in jail for interfering with the administration of justice over a tax case.

Then prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, assumed the justice portfolio and overturned the choice instantly.

This early tussle for energy between the chief and judiciary – narrowly over whether or not the judiciary had the precise to evaluate deportation selections, however extra broadly an assertion of energy by a newly-independent authorities – led to most of PNG’s international judges resigning, and thus introduced concerning the appointment of PNG’s first nationwide judges.

Nahau Rooney was the first member of parliament for Manus province.



Nahau Rooney was the primary member of parliament for Manus province. {Photograph}: Tane Sinclair-Taylor/Nature/PA

Somare, PNG’s grand chief, described Rooney as a “great lady”.

“She labored very laborious for Papua New Guinea. I really feel sorry for the Manus individuals particularly her household. Manus has misplaced an excellent chief in Nahau.”

Elizabeth Cox, former UN ladies Pacific regional director, who has spent a long time working with PNG ladies’s organisations, recalled Rooney as “an brisk member of the early post-independence governments that made real efforts to catalyse constitutional guarantees of equality, participation and a give attention to rural growth”.

“Sir Michael Somare believed in Nahau. Her feminine friends have been impressed by her and she or he loved the help of a loving husband, comfortable to let her shine whereas he labored laborious at residence in Manus.

“Nahau leaves us with an necessary legacy, one which challenges us all to do as a lot as she did to construct a stronger ladies’s motion in PNG, to get extra ladies into parliament and to make the voices of PNG’s post-independence daughters heard within the area and on the earth.”

Rooney was a number one advocate for girls to organise and lift their collective voice, a relentless presence at conferences and workshops to encourage ladies’s participation in politics in PNG.

Local weather change and its impression on the setting in her province Manus and elsewhere in PNG and the Pacific have been amongst her many passions and worries as was the Manus regional processing centre.

“She was in opposition to harmful logging and fishing and, as early as 2001, protested the Australian authorities strikes to make her beloved residence a jail for asylum seekers,” Cox mentioned.

PNG’s governor normal, Sir Bob Dadae, paid tribute to Rooney as a pioneer.

“As the primary feminine politician of our nation quickly after our independence, Rooney demonstrated early on to the womenfolk that girls can also change into politicians and be concerned in determination making, a activity that’s, in our society, historically carried out by the lads,” Dadae mentioned.

“She held numerous ministerial portfolios throughout her political profession and was not one to carry again from freely expressing her opinion. She set the benchmark for girls at a time when ladies’s function in society was relegated to the house and never in determination making for the nation as a politician and minister of state.

“To the individuals of Manus, Rooney demonstrated to the remainder of the nation the potential of what the ladies of Manus can obtain”, Dadae mentioned.

Rooney was re-elected in 1982, turning into the one feminine member of that parliament, however misplaced her seat in 1987.

Within the 2000s, retired from politics, her environmental and girls’s rights activism continued, whereas she ran the household’s visitor home on Manus Island. She additionally served as president of the Nationwide Council of Girls, and on the Council of College of Papua New Guinea, the place she had earlier studied social work.

In 2004, she ran, unsuccessfully, for the place of governor-general, which is nominated by a parliamentary vote.

In 2006, Rooney was honoured with the title of the Companion of the Order of the Star of Melanesia.

Rooney’s husband, Australian-born Wes Rooney, pre-deceased her, murdered on her residence island of Manus. She is survived by her kids, Kevin, Michelle, Poyap, Gabriel, Nawes, Eva, and lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.



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