Anne Jonassen was born in Rarotonga 1943, and in the early 60s she worked as a shorthand typist for the legislative assembly.
Before the Cook Islands government was established, the country was administered by the assembly, made up of representatives from each island.
She says there was no such thing as party politics, and each member represented a district which they looked after.
Jonassen recalls the time when the Cook Islands was given the opportunity to become self-governed.
The country was given three options by the United Nations which didn’t want islands to be controlled by other nations, she says.
The options were to become fully independent, to become partly independent with aid from New Zealand, or to remain fully governed by New Zealand.
“It was a good idea at the time to chose the self-governing option, I think.”
Jonassen says as a small island nation, it would have been too hard for the Cook Islands to govern all of its affairs.
“I was there that night when everyone was doing the voting, and it was really quite fun. It all went without a hitch.”
Jonnasen says when the change was made, they needed someone to fill the position of Premier of the Cook Islands.
At first, she says the legendary Albert Henry wasn’t qualified to become for the position as he hadn’t resided here long enough.
“He had his sisters stand in for him until he became qualified, and assumed the position.”
Jonassen says Henry’s oratory skills were superb, and reckons she hasn’t seen anyone as good, or better, since.
Jonassen is visiting the Cook Islands to be part of the 50th celebrations and made the trip especially because the country’s history is so close to her.
“It’s really important to me to be here for this 50 years celebration, because I was there right at the start when the country was offered the opportunity to change,” she says.
Jonassen says it really doesn’t feel like it’s already been 50 years.
“It’s amazing I’m still around,” she adds with a laugh.
Jonassen says it feels absolutely amazing to be here on Rarotonga for the celebrations and the dancing, knowing she is one of two who are part of the pre-self-governance team.