Better known for her role as the general secretary for the Soqosoqo Vakamarama i Taukei, Adi Finau is a woman of substance and flare. A former minister from 1987 to 1992, Adi Finau was brought up in Naqiqi, Savusavu.
Originally from Ra, her father Ratu Josefa Tabakaucoro had connections with people in Naqiqi. Her mother Eka, was a housewife. For Adi Finau, life growing up was like any other village type.
However, she believes village life anywhere formed the foundation for family life and one's character. Her place of birth is Savusavu, Cakaudrove.
Second in a family of four children, her childhood memories were happy and fun. Most of the things done in the village had a purpose and for her helping out with family chores was something that engraved values in her life. She said people depended on the natural resources available including gathering firewood for cooking.
"I grew up in the village of Naqiqi which is 14 miles from Savusavu Town. I had an interesting upbringing but a typical village life. My mother's name Eka means Hagar from the Bible. Both my parents were villagers and they brought us up with love and care. Back in the village, most of the things we did had a purpose. I used to help gather firewood and fetch water from the river.
"At the time there was no piped water so everyday we would go down to the river to fetch water for cooking. In those young days, we used to add salt water to our cooked food for taste. We did not have salt so we would have a container of salt water and whenever we cooked anything with lolo, we would add a little salt water. Every kitchen in the village had a container of salt water."
Her father was a very industrious man and sold copra to help with family finances.
Adi Finau said her father helped a lot with the copra estate and part of his earnings were kept in the Fijian development fund and kept by the Fijian Secretariat. This was for development purposes for the family and the village in terms of education or building homes. She said this was compulsory where proceeds would be directed towards development plans.
Adi Finau has five children she loves and adores.
Her parents have played a big part in her successful career. Unfortunately, her mother died in 1992 at the age of 73 while her father died in 1999 at age 93. She said her parents were always supportive of her choices in life and despite her hectic work life, Adi Finau said her family is the most important part of her life.
If there is one aspect of life Adi Finau ponders on, it is the fact she never regarded gender as an issue. She said despite the need to address gender issues, she considered herself an individual.
"I may not have become an activist but I believe I have become a champion and an example for women in the country. I went on to do things men could do and even that is something I am proud of. I had wonderful parents who provided the foundation. They were always around and they lived with me," she said.
Adi Finau is also a member of the National Council for Building a Better Fiji. She has a passion for contributing to national building. For her, it is better to do something about an issue or matter rather than doing nothing at all. She said people should stand up and be counted.
"People spend time and energy concentrating on faults and problems. They highlight problems they perceive like the the proposed People's Charter. What is the use in that? Let us contribute and produce something wonderful and good for the nation. We have reached an important crossroad and people should put aside barriers and differences and contribute to building this nation.
"Any reasonable person will know the charter is good. It will not only assist leadership in the country but also for good governance in the future. People should not forget that the Government of the day is the one actually taking care of them. If the charter was not for a good cause, then people like me would not be part of it. The charter will address certain issues that past governments have not taken seriously."
She said these issues included equitable distribution, good quality housing, education, employment, health services and maximising returns from national resources.
Adi Finau has accepted different challenges in her life and believes one always has a choice in any given situation to make that situation better. Her secret to success is determination, perseverance and hard work. All key factors to living a happy life.
She attended Navatu district in Nasinu from classes one to six. The surprising note was that Adi Finau started boarding school from the time she started school.
"There was gravel road back then and the distance from home to school was too far. They had dormitories at the school and the living conditions were very basic. If OHS had existed back then, we wouldn't be able to live there. We had to make do with whatever was available. We would have tavioka and tea for lunch and even in the evening. No one complained or picked a fuss. We accepted this because it was part of our life and we were used to it.
"My uncle was posted to the school and sometimes he would take me home for a visit on horseback. During wet weather, we used to walk in the mud. I then continued my education at Draiba Fijian. My father had rented a home in Delainavesi in 1952. We used to walk to school on gravel road again. After school we would walk to the bus stand and catch the transport home."
She said her father remained in the village and sent money on a monthly basis to her mother. Living with their extended family from Bau, Adi Finau said they planted their own food.
She continued her secondary education at Adi Cakobau School.
Boarding life was nothing new for her. She had learned to be independent from an early age and life at ACS was no different.
"In primary, we had to sleep on a bamboo bench covered with coconut leaves. In the morning we would run down the slope to the stream at the bottom of the hill. We did everything there, washed our clothes, forage in the bush and sea for food. We did what we had to to survive. School was easy while at ACS everything was well organised. We had sets of uniforms including petticoat. The food was good and we were taught a lot about body hygiene and responsibility.
"We even had extra curricular activities at school. I then spent a year at Suva Grammar reaching upper Sixth Form. I sat the university entrance examination and went to Victoria University in Wellington to complete my degree in history from 1964 to 1967. It was my first time overseas and I had to adapt to the life there. Fortunately, we had a lot of teachers from New Zealand teaching at ACS during my time so I was exposed to their way of life.
"Life there is never easy. We depended so much on our government scholarship so most of us took on part time jobs. I started working at a candle shop learning how to make candles. I gained a lot of experience and I didn't know the different processes involved."
She then spent a year working in a factory sewing pillow cases and even head scarfs. Adi Finau was never embarrassed about the work she did as long as she was earning pocket money to survive in New Zealand.
She lived in the university hostel while completing her studies in New Zealand. Even though money was tight, she was determined to work hard to support and pay her way around. At one stage, Adi Finau worked as a babysitter. She said the job was an enjoyable one especially when meals were provided and the pay was enough. She then worked at the Downstage Theatre in downtown Wellington as a waitress. Although, waitressing was never on her mind, she knew she had to work hard.
Learning different trades was a part of Adi Finau's life that has taught her the meaning of appreciating the little things in life.
She said part of her job as a waitress was to set and clear tables. She said the plays at the theatre usually started at 8pm while dinner was served at 7pm. Within that hour, they had to make sure guests were served their three course meal, wine and coffee before the show started.
"We were very busy and making sure everything was done before the play started was really challenging. On one occasion, I was carrying a pile of dirty plates.
"I stumbled and the plates fell on one of the guests. I was so embarrassed but luckily the guest was gracious about the accident and said æyou know my dear, I am so glad I wore the black dress and not the white one'.
"I graduated from university in 1967. The following year I did my teacher training at Epsom Secondary Teachers College in Auckland.
"I returned to Fiji in 1968 and became a passionate supporter of the National Federation Party. However, I was not a politician but I was more interested in looking at good leadership in government. In 1969, I completed my training techniques from the Royal Institute of Public Administration in the United Kingdom.
"I returned to Fiji and joined the department of localisation and training. I was a training officer from 1968 to 1970. It was a challenging experience but an exciting one at the same time."
From 1971 to 1975, she was assistant secretary for the Ministry of Urban Development, Housing and Social Welfare. She was also assistant secretary for the Central Planning Office.
Apart from this, Adi Finau was secretary to the development subcommittee of the Secretariat Department, Cabinet development committee and social and economic council from 1975 to 1977. Adi Finau then joined the United Nations Development Program as a program assistant.
"My responsibilities were mainly to monitor planning figures that came under the UNDP.
"In 1981, I was a fellow in development administration in the Institute of Social and Administrative Studies at USP. From 1987 to 1992, I became minister for women, culture and social welfare as well as the caretaker minister for health.
"During that appointment I joined the fellowship at US state department. At the time, Bill Clinton was town governor for a place called Little Rock in Arkansas," she said.
Adi Finau was a member of the senate from 1994 to 2000 as well as a member of select committees including customary fishing rights, police and health services, Fiji Intelligence Services, senate renumeration and Fiji participation in business.
In 2000, she was appointed assistant minister in the Prime Minister's Office.
Some of the highlights of her life include preparing a proposal to establish microfinance in Fiji for the Prime Minister's Office and reviewing the Nabou landowners proposal to purchase Nabou Pine Forests from Fiji Pine. This was for the Ministry of Agriculture.
In 1996, she compiled Fiji's status report on the Convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Some of her consultancy services include project management course for pine extension officers of Fiji Pine Limited and studies for the ministry of agriculture on labour supply for cane harvesting and cane transport system in Seaqaqa, Vanua Levu.
She also consulted in a case study of Seaqaqa area as proposed growth centre. Adi Finau's international experiences include attending the South Pacific economic council finance committee meeting in Papua New Guinea in 1974.
In 1977, she was attached to the UNDP office in New York. Three years later, she attended YWCA International training institute in Cartigny, Switzerland.
In 1992, she led Fiji's delegation to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific meeting in Beijing, China.
10 things about Adi Finau
- She created the phrase 'democracy foreign flower';
- Climbed Mount Victoria in 1960;
- Tried to see Suva from Makuluva;
- Has visited all the islands in the Yasawa Group;
- She has been to all the provinces in Fiji except Rotuma;
- Walked the Great Wall of China in 1992;
- Visited the pyramids in Cairo Egypt in 1994;
- She's been to the Sinai desert and the Suez Canal;
- Considers the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara her role model; and
- Her grandfather John William Brown was the first white settler on Vuna Point in Taveuni