Saturday 4th December 2021, Tasmania, Australia. Berniece Maeataanoa Samuelu’s family are trying to come to terms with her sudden and unexplained death while stationed as a seasonal worker with Hillwood Berries in Tasmania.
Speaking to Samoa Global News, a niece says her whole family are shocked by the news of Berniece’s sudden passing, especially their mother in Samoa and Berniece’s husband and daughter.
Florence Suiaunoa says they have been told Berniece was found dead by her flat mates in the early hours of this morning, Saturday 4th December 2021, suspected to have died in her sleep.
Florence is also a seasonal worker in Tasmania, having arrived in September, while her aunty arrived more recently in November. She is particularly traumatised because she and her aunty had been on a video call, just the night before her death.
“She was well, chatting happily to us and didn’t show any signs of sickness whatsoever…
“I always call her everyday after work to check up on her, and last night was the same,” shares Florence. “She laughed and joked and said she was fine.., not even sick or anything like that.”
Florence said she received the devastating news at around 7am this morning, when Berniece’s flat mates called her to say Berniece had died.
“They said her phone was ringing, and they could see that it was her husband calling, but they found her lying still, and they just couldn’t wake her up,” said an emotional Florance Suiaunoa.
“They think she may have died at around 4 or 5am, but we are waiting for the report from the police and the doctors”.
Florence, who is 23, said Berniece is her mother’s younger sister. They were all brought up together by her mother, Faalogoifo Suiaunoa, in their village of Lona, Fagaloa in Upolu, Samoa.
“Berniece was brought up by our mother as our older sister. I came to Tasmania in August, and she just got here in November, but Hillwood Berries is far from where I am working,” said Florence.
“Berniece was married to the love of her life, Sam Samuelu, and they have a 3 year old daughter,” shares Florence. “We are very sad for him, he is back in Samoa, in Lona, with my mom and Berniece’s baby girl.”
Florence says it is Sam’s usual routine to wake up his wife every morning for work at 5am in Tasmania which is 7am in Samoa.
“He never misses calling her every morning, and this morning he called and she didn’t pick up..”
“E vili mai lava lona toalua e fafagu i le taimi e usu ai i le galuega i taeao uma.. ae pau lenei o se taeao ua vili mai ai si ona toalua e le talia le telefoni, ae ua sola..”
“She was humble, quiet and respectful, e loko vaivai toe filemu, ae tali lava mea uma i le ata”.
Samoa Global News have reached out to the head of Samoa’s Labour Export and Employment Division (LEED) for an official comment regarding the tragedy.
According to the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, there are currently 322 Samoan workers in Australia under the Pacific Labour Scheme. Samoa participates in Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme and the Pacific Labour Scheme, a two-way benefit programme that helps Australian employers secure short-term labour to meet their seasonal harvest needs, and enable workers to support their families and communities in Samoa.
As at 31 August 2021, 1,579 Samoan workers have arrived in Australia since the restart of Pacific labour mobility: 1,269 in the Seasonal Worker Programme and 310 in the Pacific Labour Scheme.