Kanak independence activist Susanna Ounei has died

Susanna Ounei has died in New Zealand at the age of 70.

Susanna was born in 1945 in Ouvea in the Loyalty Islands, but grew up in Poindimie on the east coast of New Caledonia.

She was a member of the Foulards Rouges in the late 1960s, which mobilised young Kanaks and their supporters to the cause of independence.

Susanna Ounei  was a founder of the Groupe de femmes kanak exploitées en lutte (GFKEL), the feminist organisation that was one of the founding members of the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) in 1984.

The photograph above shows Susanna at a Diplomacy Training Programme organised with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Pacific (CEPAC), Suva, 1997 (photo c Nic Maclellan)

She worked as Assistant Director (decolonisation) with the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre (PCRC) in Fiji in the mid-1990s. Through the Omomo Melen project, she carried the voice of indigenous and colonised women to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

Susanna Ounei first came to New Zealand in early 1984 to learn English, after losing her job in Noumea because of her involvement in the Kanak independence movement.

In 1986 she married New Zealander David Small who became a Canterbury University academic after completing a PhD in Education in 1994 on the politics of colonial education in New Caledonia.

In 1997 their marriage broke down and Susanna remained on the island of Ouvea in New Caledonia until returning to Wellington with her two adoptive children in 2000.

While she was a parishioner of St Anne’s parish in Newtown Susannah came up with the idea that the way to consult the diverse Newtown community was through a market.

Others agreed as in many of their home countries the market is a gathering place for a community, this is where communication takes place – layers that are often not obvious in the more commercially orientated market places in New Zealand.

A pilot market in November 2008 followed and a group of 8 to 12 people from across the community have maintained a commitment to organize the current market.

Susanna is survived by her two children, Toui and Jessie, in Wellington and her wider whanau in New Caledonia.

She lay in state on Tapu Te Ranga in Wellington before her funeral which took place on Thursday.

She is being be taken back  to New Caledonia for burial.


News category: Asia Pacific.

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