Rowena Seutatia McDonald wins Samoa Observer Tusitala competition

A young Samoan writer from Australia, has been declared the winner of the 2016 Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story Competition.

Rowena Seutatia MacDonald took out the Australia/ New Zealand category prize of US$1,000 and then headed off the two other category winners from the Pacific Islands, Shannon Foster Yam from P.N.G. and Rachel Laulu from Samoa to win the overall prize of US$2,000.

Rowena’s story ‘Whistle’ was described by the judges as “taking the reader into the domain of intergenerational traditional beliefs especially with regard s to the spirit world with the notion of ‘time’ being pivotal to the plot. The story ends with a “neat twist”.

The Samoa category award presented by Pepe Ah Liki of Ah Liki Construction was won by Rachel Laulu’s entry, ‘Tsunami Kitchen’.

It was also praised by the judge’s comments, “Excellently crafted, this short story takes a singular event and explores its ripples all around the world as it impacts on one family in which several members are estranged.”

Shannon Foster Yam’s story ‘With war club in her hands’, “was underpinned by the depth of Fiji-based cultural and historical research underneath it, unforgettable,” said the judge.

The winner of the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (SPACLALS) Tuli prize presented by Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh was Lineta Tamanikaiyaroi of Samoa with ‘My Savai’i lifestyle & sustainability’.

“This award was designed to acknowledge writers who may not have the level of grammatical skill as other writers, but whose stories are as important to tell,” said Dr Marsh.

As well as the customary formalities, Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh presented her poem, ‘Unity’. She was commissioned to write and perform it for the Queen, on behalf of all the Commonwealth countries on Commonwealth Observance Day earlier this year in Westminster Abbey, London

The awards evening was attended by finalists, sponsors, friends and supporters of the Pacific competition which is in its second year.

Ms Chloe Fa’aiuaso spoke on behalf of Digicel and the sponsors, while the Keynote Address was delivered by the Chinese Ambassador His Excellency Wang Xuefeng.

Closing remarks and thanks were offered by Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa, the Editor in Chief of the Samoa Observer.

Organising Committee member Marj Moore said that in a regional competition such as this, it would not have been possible without the enthusiasm of Pacific writers and the generous support of Samoa’s sponsors.

“We are very grateful to our sponsors this year, the Chinese Embassy, Digicel, Ah Liki Construction, Business Systems Limited, National Bank of Samoa, UNDP, Samoa Stationery and Books, ANZ Bank,  Ace Hardware and Samoa Builders Supplies,  Samoa Spare Parts,  Air New Zealand  and the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literary and Language Studies (SPACLALS).”

This year’s finalists and winners are:

Tuli winner Lineta Tamanikaiyaroi – ‘My Savai’i lifestyle & sustainability’ 


Australia/New Zealand

Natalia Fareti, N.Z. – ‘Vae o Sina’

Catherine Padmore, Australia – ‘Sunshine on my shoulders’

Marisa Maepu, N.Z. – ‘The Hungry Bird’

Rowena Seutatia MacDonald, Australia – ‘Whistle’

Category Winner Rowena Seutatia MacDonald, Australia ‘Whistle’


Pacific Islands

Marlene Dee Gray, P.N.G. ‘My son’s father is the village idiot’

Shannon Foster Yam, P.N.G. – ‘With war club in her hands’

Poe Mageo, American Samoa – ‘Heart between Mats’

Tamari Mulitalo Cheung, American Samoa – The House of the Tormented’

Category Winner Shannon Foster Yam, P.N.G. – ‘With war club in her hands’



Terry Bennett – ‘Caught’

Fiona Collins – ‘Precious’

Rachel Laulu – ‘Tsunami kitchen’

Seiuli Seti Ah Young – ‘Beyond Mt Vaea’

Category Winner  Rachel Laulu – ‘Tsunami kitchen’


2016 Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story Competition Winner

Rowena Seutatia MacDonald, Australia – ‘Whistle’