An extraordinary memoir of an immigrant son's story of a better future

In 1962, a Sāmoan family journeyed to New Zealand - a country immigrants once called 'the land of milk and honey' - in search of a better life. Instead, their eldest son, Vitale, arrived in an era of dawn raids by police and immigration officials, and endless racism and bullying at school. Yet he endured and, against the odds, grew up to become one of a select few civilians to pass New Zealand's elite SAS selection process. After seven years in the army, Vitale scaled impressive heights to become tactical commander of the police special tactics group, commander of the armed offenders squad, head of dignitary and witness protection, and one of New Zealand's most decorated policemen.

From high-profile hostage situations to overcoming a career-ending stroke, Soifua Vitale Joseph Fatutoa Lafaele's story is an inspiring one, of overcoming difficulty with values to guide you through life's challenges - ua se vaʻa tu matagi, like a canoe before the wind.

About the author(s)

Vitale Lafaele served in the New Zealand Army for seven years and the Police for 30. He rose through the ranks to command the Northern Region Armed Offenders and Special Tactics Group where he led successful tactical squads in some of the most nationally significant events in New Zealand's history.

When he left school, he applied to join the NZ Army Special Air Service (SAS) in the first intake open to civilians. From the 300 applicants, Vitale was one of four people who survived the 15-month course and spent 7 years as a soldier in the SAS, joining the Police in 1985.

Vitale came to New Zealand as a child with his family from Samoa. They lived through hardship in Auckland's Grey Lynn in the 1970s, during the dawn-raids.

When he was appointed to the role of area commander Counties Manukau South he was the first Samoan to gain the command of an area in New Zealand and the first Polynesian to reach the top level in any of Auckland's three metropolitan police districts.

Vitale is also the only Polynesian to command the Armed Offenders Squad, Special Tactics Group Anti-Terrorist Squad and Dignitary VIP Protection Squad in the NZ Police.

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