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Trailblazer: One of Tonga's first female cops celebrates 30 years as NZ prison officer

A trailblazing Pasifika woman has celebrated a major work milestone with the help of her work family.

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Fabiola Matapule, now 67, was one of Tonga’s first female police recruits, before embarking on a 30-year career at corrections in New Zealand. Source: Tagata Pasifika

Senior Corrections Officer Fabiola Matapule has worked for the New Zealand Department of Corrections for 30 years.

Before that, the now 67-year-old was part of the first female police intake in Tonga, taking up the role in 1970, before moving to New Zealand in 1986.

There was a special three-day celebration held in Tonga recently to mark the golden jubilee of women in the Tongan Police force, but Fabiola could not attend due to Covid-19 border closures.

So her colleagues at the Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility decided to throw her a surprise party in recognition of her service.

She is seen as a trailblazer for Pasifika working in the justice system.

"She was our go-to person, and she was the one who showed us how Corrections worked, especially coming from different cultures," Daisy Fau Tanuvasa of ARWCF told Tagata Pasifika. 

She is known as "Grandma" by her colleagues.

Matapule treats the inmates like her own children, and says her faith is what keeps her grounded in tough times. 

"If you just have the aroha here, you know, it's good, they know, you can tell them off, but they know you've got that in here, and they, no problems," she said.