policy advisor and fashion designer, working to unleash the confidence of pacific peoples
Mary Soonaoso Tiumalu is a descendant of orators, hailing from the villages of Saina and Falelatai in Samoa. A product of the migrant dream, Mary Soonaoso was born and raised in Auckland as the youngest child of four. Having been afforded many opportunities to succeed, she has carved herself a career in policy, community advocacy and fashion.
As a young Pacific woman, having role models in fields often male-dominated or lacking in diversity has fuelled her personal service to ensure Pacific communities and women have opportunities in leadership and are enabled to succeed. Mary Soonaoso co-founded Taemā ma Tilafaigā, an ethnic specific women’s professional network, focusing on affirmative action, cultural capability and empowerment to upskill women and to achieve leadership potential. This network has served 50+ Samoan professionals and continues to grow from strength to strength.
Letting her creativity run wild, Mary Sooanoso has used fashion as a tool to influence Pacific narratives. Along with her sister Gase and brother Asomaliu, they have built a fashion company, Fou, which seeks to build confidence and self worth in those who wear their garments. A dream, they have worked fearlessly to make a reality.
As a policy advisor, Mary Soonaoso’s aspiration is for all Pacific peoples to be confident in their identities and in the spaces they navigate. For Pacific peoples to be leading at all levels of society and to build on their contribution to the uniqueness of Aotearoa.
With the many hats she wears, Mary Soonaoso strives to influence her surroundings. Whether this is in policy decisions that impact the people she serves, in her community, for Pacific women and in the fabrics that adorn her body.