“I was brought up to expect that if there was a goal or objective which I desired, then through hard work and diligence it could be achievable, and that my culture, my gender and my upbringing would add exciting sprinkles to the whole mix.” – Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu
The name Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu – or Brenda as she is widely known as – is synonymous amongst many stalwarts in Oceania.
Being born, educated and trained as a barrister and solicitor in Wellington, New Zealand, Brenda graduated from Victoria University of Wellington with a Bachelor of Arts and Law Degree in 1986.
Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu, amongst many accomplishments in her career, worked nine and a half years (1997-2006) as the Attorney General of Samoa, making her the longest serving office holder to date.
Most recently, she was appointed as the Chair for the Oceania Rugby Judicial Committee following a tenure of more than 10 years when she began at the Oceania U19s in Samoa in 2010.
Being the first-ever woman from the Pacific to Chair the Judicial Committee, Heather-Latu said she’s looking forward to working closely with Oceania Rugby and World Rugby in supporting priorities in the region.
Senior Judicial Officer for World Rugby, Nigel Hampton (CNZM, OBE, QC), said that Brenda has been recognised for her intellect, her advocacy and her integrity.
“Oceania Rugby had an outstanding candidate who could, and should, become a rugby Judicial Officer at the highest level.
“Brenda has been a trail-blazer back in 2010, and a trail-blazer again now, as Chair of the Oceania Rugby Judicial Committee,” Hampton said.
“I was privileged to be able to nominate her for I could not think of a more suitable person for that role,” he added.
Oceania Rugby was privileged to interview Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu on her recent appointment.
Oceania Rugby Q&A with Brenda
1. It’s been a little over 10 years since your first official engagement with Rugby being JLO at the Oceania U19s back in 2010. Did the appointment to chair the Judicial Committee a personal aspiration?
I was fortunate to have been encouraged and supported by the many great Judicial Officers from the Oceania region, after Nigel Hampton QC asked if I was interested in 2008. What followed was a period of ‘learning and doing’ under the benevolent eye of experienced and generous senior counsel and the support of the staff of Oceania Rugby in Sydney and elsewhere. To have been considered for the role of Chair, was and is, truly an honour, and I believe it is as much about the broadening appeal of the game, as it is recognition of the incredibly complex layers of skilled and talented people who support the global game from coaches, technical advisers, strategists, referees, judicial staff (including the Citing Commissioners), club to district to national to regional to global administrators, publicists, broadcasters, commentators, sports journalists, groundsmen, physios, medical staff, anti-doping staff, ball boys and girls, who all work together to support all those who play the game.
2. What were some of the initial reactions/thoughts after the appointment that best describes how you felt?
Overwhelmed and very grateful to my parents for instilling in me a love of the game, whether watching at Athletic Park or at the Oriental Rongotai and Poneke fields in Wellington, or watching the ‘middle of the night’ tests against the Lions on TV, the game was very much a part of our lives and brought great hope, great expectation and if our team won, great joy !
3. What are some of the key experiences in your career that you believe will help you with the appointment to Chair of the Judicial Committee?
The Rugby Judiciary is very much a ‘behind the scenes’ necessity to ensure the Laws of the Game are fairly, impartially and consistently applied across the code, at whatever level and for whatever match. The Laws of the Game ensure that Rugby’s core values of integrity, respect, solidarity, passion and discipline can flourish in any game of rugby, wherever it is being played by whoever is playing it. Whilst the Judiciary brings certain skills to the rugby field, we rely upon a range of committed and professional individuals both on and off the grass to encourage the game to be played safely, enjoyably and generously. I hope to bring my experience as a prosecutor and advocate to the role, my knowledge of the region, and will be heavily reliant upon the experience and talents of the members of the Oceania Judicial Committee to fill the gaps.
4. What are some of the expectations you have about the role and what are you looking forward to in this regard?
I’m looking forward to working closely with Oceania Rugby and supporting their priorities for our region, and with Christopher Quinlan QC and Joyce Hayes and the World Rugby team in Dublin . I am grateful to the Samoa Rugby Union for my nomination as a Judicial Officer for the past 10 years, and to the dual international player and lawyer I am married to, George Latu, who provides 24/7 pro bono technical and professional support for all I do, for which I am truly blessed. I thank the Lord for His mighty provision and His hand of Grace which has rested softly on my life to date, and will, I pray, continue to do so and protect, nurture and guide me in whatever I do.
5. Being the first woman to Chair the Oceania Rugby Judicial Committee is outstanding, could you share a little bit of your experience with your tenure in rugby and some advice for women and girls aspiring to play a bigger role in rugby?
I was brought up to expect that if there was a goal or objective which I desired, then through hard work and diligence it could be achievable, and that my culture, my gender and my upbringing would add exciting sprinkles to the whole mix. Removing all barriers to the aspirations of new entrants to the game, small and remote unions, those with disabilities, talent rich but resource poor unions, and more diversity in the sport requires attention. Women and girls playing and choosing rugby is a story of passion drive and success, and with their growing involvement at all levels, in all capacities, the game has been enriched and made fit for its mission as ‘A sport for all, True to its values’!
Brenda Heather-Latu was born, educated and trained as a barrister and solicitor in Wellington, New Zealand, and graduated from Victoria University of Wellington with BA/LLB degrees in 1985 and 1986.
Brenda is married to Matafeo George Latu, who was the former General Counsel for the ANZ Bank Samoa, a former Principal State Solicitor and Acting Attorney General, a graduate of Canterbury University, and a dual Rugby International having played rugby for both Tonga and Samoa and most notably in the 1995 IRB Rugby World Cup in South Africa in 1995.
George was also a Judicial Officer before his election to the Samoa Rugby Union in 2016. They have a son and a daughter.
Words from Oceania Rugby