Otara Health boss acknowledges Samoan culture

A Samoan woman who heads a public health organisation in New Zealand has credited her Samoan cultural heritage for guiding her to success.

The recently appointed Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of Otara Health, Magele Sosefina Paletoga, told Samoa Observer in an email response that she believes the bilingualism and strong Samoan language speaker background placed her in a position to become a role model to future generations of leaders for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Having her bestowal ceremony for her Magele title in 2015 by her maternal grandmother’s family in Iva, she said her strong Samoan upbringing in Otara became an inspiration for her to succeed. 

“My grandparents (Samoan) were my role models of leadership. Together with my parents and extended family, they demonstrated a strong faith in God. Watching them model our own Samoan principles in their leadership including fa’aaloalo (respect), tautua (service) and soalaupule (consensus) set a strong foundation for me,” she said. “Samoan is my first language and my grandparents maintained our mother tongue by not allowing us to speak English at home. These are principles that I continue to use today.”

The eldest of five children, she was born in Samoa and raised in New Zealand when they migrated during her childhood. Her villages in Samoa are Iva and Avao both in Savai’i and Apia.

Magele is passionate in serving and giving back to her community and a part of her Samoan culture, which has been instrumental is everything she does, is having faith in God.

“My inspiration to become the C.E.O. of Otara Health was from youth, voices of my students. As C.E.O. I am a role model to youth including my former students, who were predominantly Pacific students. If I can do it so can they,” she added.

For her new leadership role, the Otara Chair and Board had chosen Magele from a number of applicants for the position, and allowed her to bring her professional skills and personal qualities, including her Samoan identity and culture.

According to Magele, Samoan is the second most common language spoken in Auckland.

As the new for Otara Health C.E.O., Magele looks at what Otara Health can and will do in the future and added that she is excited, optimistic and honoured to be given the opportunity to serve her community.

“Organisational Wellbeing - Establish leadership and relationships with the heart and minds of Otara Health through its people, programmes and processes,” she said. “Financial Wellbeing - Understand the financial risks and sought other financial opportunities for the organisation. Future Wellbeing - Support the Board to refresh the Strategy vision, mission and priority areas to meet the needs of Otara residents & celebrate Otara’s beauty and strengths.”

Her tasks also include establishing a wellbeing centre to assist families and navigate health and social services people will need post-Covid-19.

Armed with experiences from the measles epidemic in Samoa and the current Covid-19 pandemic, Magele has urged Samoan communities to seek to provide two things.

“Firstly, I endorse personal hygiene, regular washing of hands. Remember to maintain physical distancing and self-isolate if you have flu-like symptoms to keep yourself and loved ones safe,” she reiterated. “Also, for schools in Samoa I ask that they profile young women in leadership roles and for Samoan families to encourage their daughters into tertiary studies.”

Her abilities as a Pacific leader with staff development comprises youth mentoring and strong Samoan language skills and experiences which she has developed and used in the education sector.

“I am hard-working, innovative, and energetic and have solid experience leading from the front and knowledge of knowing the value of sharing leadership with a high performing team to get the job done,” she emphasised. “With a head for systems and processes, and a heart for helping others, I have 20 years experience serving our fast-growing Pacific youth and families in our community in South Auckland.”

Working with the Pacific and Maori families has been her passion and motivation. 

Magele initially dreamt of a career in the health sector but ended up pursuing teaching at university as she saw the huge need in Auckland Secondary Schools for Pacific students.

She was a teacher for 20 years and studied Science at university. Her areas of teaching were Mathematics and Statistics.

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