Honesty, Respect, Compassion,
Courage and Service
Akesa has Tongan and Australian heritage. Her mother is from the village of Kolovai on the main island of Tongatapu and also the outer islands of Hihifo, Tongaleleka, Ha’apai. She was born in Australia but her family moved to Tonga to start their hospitality business. Her father is a surfer and a chef, so he saw an opportunity after visiting Tonga and meeting her mum to use his experience to establish a life for himself and his family. She was fortunate to have lived in Tongan for 17 years of her life. She is the eldest of seven kids who all migrated to New Zealand to pursue tertiary education.
What led you to working at The Cause Collective?
I work for The Cause Collective as the Nga Vaka Lead for the Pacific Family Violence Prevention Training Programme. In my previous roles, I have worked in different government sectors such as the now-defunct Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (now Ministry for Primary Industries) and the Counties Manukau District Health Board holding Project Management roles. I have also worked in the private corporate sector utilising my Human Resource background before I became a full-time mother for 8 years. I moved to New Caledonia in 2006 where I married my husband and lived there until 2010. My husband and I and our 2 children at the time moved to Australia and resided there for a further five years where we added another two children to our family. I have always felt in my heart that I needed to come back to New Zealand where I originally started my working career. It is here in South Auckland that gives me that sense of purpose and direction in terms of working in a space that could help to make a significant difference in the lives of our Pacific peoples. I consider my role a blessing where I get the opportunity to work across eight Pacific ethnic groups using their cultural practices, values, and beliefs to strengthen the wellbeing of their families
Who inspires you and why?
My parents. Growing up in Tonga my parents were running a seafood restaurant (my father was a chef) and a motel catering for surfers coming to Tonga. Tonga was not known for surfing and my father being a surfer thought to include this in his business aspirations. I have grown up witnessing only hard work from both my parents to stabilise the business providing my mother’s families and those of the locals with opportunities to work and provide for their own families. I experienced in my 17 years of growing up in Tonga – two cyclones that flattened our business, yet, my father had it in him to rebuild and continue to provide his staff work and stability for their families. It was difficult but here I saw my Tongan family rallying around my parents by providing their full support in assisting to build the business and look after me and my siblings, allowing my parents to focus on rebuilding our business. It is here I learned that hard work, courage, strong work ethics, and above all, faith was everything my parents lived to ensure our families and all of those around us were well taken care of. This business has never been just about our parents, but for every family member who has given their support to make it last over 40 years.
What is your current role?
Nga Vaka Lead managing the Nga Vaka Pacific Family Violence Programme.
What is your vision for health and wellbeing in South Auckland?
To give every Pacific family the opportunities they deserve to thrive in their communities and to reach the goals that will empower them and the next generation while maintaining their sense of identity.
What is one funny/quirky/interesting thing that no-one knows about you?
US military special forces are trained to fall asleep in 60 seconds, but my husband reckons I actually do it in 10!
What is your superpower?
I can build trustworthy and long-lasting relationships with people from all backgrounds.
Who is your favourite superhero and why?
I grew up in the islands with the ocean and nature as my playground. TV wasn’t a part of my world until I was 15!! So, movies are not really my thing but if I had to choose a superhero, it would be Wonder Woman: she’s also from an island, was raised in a matriarchal society and is always trying to right a wrong!