Dame Winnie was New Zealand's eighth Minister of Pacific Island Affairs and entered Parliament in 1999 as a Labour Party List MP before winning the Mana seat in 2002.
Before entering parliament, she worked in family therapy and community development with a focus on Pasifika communities, and in 1992 she was given the Samoan chiefly title of Luamanuvao from the village of Vaiala, Vaimauga.
She was also appointed a Companion of the Queen's Service Order in the 2011 New Year Honours, and then a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2018 Queen's Birthday Honours.
Speaking this morning on TVNZ1's Breakfast, Dame Winnie said while it was humbling to receive the lifetime achievement award, for her it was always "all about the collective".
"What these events are about is acknowledging the life journeys and the many different pathways that women take in leadership," she said.
"It was a wonderful celebration of diversity, which Aotearoa New Zealand is very proud of and which they model to the rest of the world."
She said New Zealanders sometimes had a tendency to "hold back" and let others assume crucial roles, but that "it is really important that we grow success and aspiration - that we can be around the table too.
"If you look back to New Zealand in the 50s and 60s, and you now look at who occupies leadership positions, in media or politics, it's fabulously different, much more inclusive, much more celebratory of our families - because our families are very diverse.
"Leadership also comes from - they have a saying in Samoan, 'o le ala ile pule o le tautua' - your road to authority or power is serving.
"The award, I dedicated that to those women who work tirelessly for our communities who were not there last night, but in spirit."
New Zealand's response to Covid-19 was a good example, Dame Winnie said, of the love and care we have for our communities.
"Our whole response to Covid, despite some negativity, shows those values - that we do care - not about me, but about we," she said.
She said receiving the lifetime achievement award was "emotional, because for me, it's always been about the collective.
"You think about women in your family and in your community - it was a true honour, but like I said, it honours those women who weren't there that also work tirelessly for the wellbeing of our peoples and our communities."
Last Modified on 20/11/2020 07:06