Alex’s iwi is Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi of Whanganui and he is also from the village of Lakepa in Niue.
“Tamaki ki te tonga South Auckland has been the centre of my upbringing, with three generations of family living in Mangere. At the age of six, my family moved to Pukekohe to create our whanau home.”
What led you to working at HFSA?
“I was originally trained as a product designer with the aspiration of designing sneakers for Nike. I started to realise the implications of design thinking and innovation processes as the core driver was commercial gain. This whakaaro (philosophy and thinking) didn’t sit well with me. I took the essence of being a designer and creative problem solver to seek out ways to apply my skills and passion for solving larger, complex issues. It led to relocating to Wellington to learn about start-up business, theories for systemic change, crowdfunding, decentralised entrepreneur networks and leading ways of creating impact. I was a founder of a wellbeing and tech startup called YOMO ( Your One Minute Of… example : gratitude) focussing on youth resilience and building upon mindfulness practice. I started to notice a stark disconnection between entrepreneurial networks and government agencies through various projects. I started to intentionally seek opportunities connected to government agencies. With the aspiration to rewire the current system, shift mindsets, and redirect investment into local led solutions. I found myself at the Auckland Co-design lab and then joining Healthy Families South Auckland.”
Who inspires you and why?
“I am inspired and guided by our tohunga, holders of our ancient indigenous knowledge systems. Matua Rereata Makiha, wisdom sharer of the Maramataka ( Maori lunar calendar ) has shifted my paradigm of health and wellbeing, the concept of ‘systems change’ and completely challenged me on my dominant profession of human centred design thinking (western paradigm of innovation). I have been able to uncondition and un-learn parts of my profession and skillset to better respond to the communities I serve and challenge the system to incorporate ‘wairua centred design’. Wairua meaning holistic and spiritual philosophy to strategy, design and prototyping. I have been able to understand the tohu( symbols, time markers) for the shifts in season, the energy ebbs and flows of the natural environment and how we as a society have stepped outside of the natural rhythm and ecosystem which has lead to ill health.
What is your vision for health and wellbeing in South Auckland?
“My vision is for South Auckland to be recognised as the waharoa (gateway) to Aotearoa New Zealand, moving from a place transit for international guests to becoming a significant destination to stay and experience that supports and nurtures the local communities. I would like to see the system embrace the diversity of cultures and skills of it’s community to shape the local economy, local innovation, local decision making and creating local urban development.”
What is one funny/quirky/interesting thing that no-one knows about you?
“I was born at 28 weeks old, weighing under 2 pounds. My theory is if I had a normal birth I would be over 6 feet tall instead of 5’7.”