Kia Tupu, Kia Hua, Kia Puāwai
To grow, to flourish, to prosper
Kia Tupu, Kia Hua, Kia Puāwai
To grow, to flourish, to prosper
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Our People

People are the beating heart of Kia Puāwai.

Our people bring years of experience – their service enables us to succeed.

Meet our Board

Tania Thomas
MBA, University of Auckland

Board Chair I Ngāti Kahu, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Mahurehure

Serving the disability sector is Tania’s calling. Her career, leadership and governance experience spans decades. Tania’s current position is IHC’s Director of Advocacy. Her previous role was as CEO of Te Roopu Taurima Aotearoa’s largest kaupapa Māori disability support service. She holds governance roles in Ngāti Kahu and is on the Board of NZDSN where she is the convenor of their Māori Advisory Group, Tui Tuia.

Mike Munnelly
Executive Masters in Public Administration; M.A. in Social Work; B.A (Ecom) hons Economic and Social Studies; Certificate of Qualification in Social Work

Board member

Mike is a registered social worker, with extensive experience across the public and community sector as a practitioner, manager, academic, policymaker, and senior leader - both in the UK and here in Aotearoa. Mike moved to Aotearoa in 1996. Now semi-retired, Mike was until recently, the Chief Executive of Barnardos.

Glenis Hiria Philip-Barbara
BA in Sociology & Māori, Post Graduate Diploma in Professional Supervision, Masters of Professional Creative Practice

Board member | Ngāti Uepōhatu, Ngāti Porou

Glenis is an experienced senior leader with 30 years of experience working in all aspects of the public, iwi and community sectors including working with whānau, hapū and iwi to recover mātauranga Māori. She is currently a Deputy Chief Executive for the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and previously served as Assistant Māori Commissioner for Children at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and as the Chief Executive of the Māori Language Commission. She currently serves on the Boards of Veterans Affairs and the Ageing Well National Science Challenge as well as Kia Puāwai. She is also planning to undertake doctoral studies in the future.

Kaine Thompson
Ngāti Hauā Tainui

Board member

Kaine works as a consultant, focused on international trade regulation, local government and the arts. He has been an expert advisor on urban development to Stanford University’s Global Projects Centre, and a member the UNDP’s Parliamentary Democracy Expert Advisory Panel. Kaine is a member of a number of arts boards and is recognised for his extensive knowledge and experience working in, with, and around government and the wider public sector.

Julia Steenson
Ngāti Whātua, Tainui I LLB (Hons)

Board member

Julia was appointed as a Commissioner on the Royal Commission of Inquiry in 2020 and chaired the Inquiry’s Māori survivor hearing held at her marae in Ōrakei. Julia is a director on Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua Commercial Ltd and is a member of the Institute of Directors AK Committee. Julia is a Simpson Grierson alumni, and has previously worked as General Counsel for Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. Prior to law, Julia worked in commercial banking both in NZ and abroad.

Patrick Baker
CA, MEng, BBus, Grad Dip Prof Acctg

Board member I Chair of the Finance Sub-Committee

Patrick is a Chartered Accountant who has served in senior finance management positions in Europe, the Middle East and New Zealand. He is currently Chief Financial Officer of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). His governance roles have included serving as director and board chair for Variety – The Children’s Charity, and he has served on the board of Kia Puāwai since 2015.

Meet our Leadership team

Marion Heeney
Chief Executive / Tumu Whakarae

MBA, University of Auckland

A passionate advocate for young people, Marion has focused her career on creating positive change for tamariki, rangatahi and whānau. Alongside senior leadership roles for organisations - including Child Youth and Family and Presbyterian Support Northern, she has worked in the DHB and finance sectors, and is a member of the Institute of Directors. Marion is married to Paul, and they have two awesome sons, two wonderful daughters-in-law, and three amazing grandchildren (so far!)

Juliet Erihe
Director of Operations, Ngāpuhi, Ngātiwai


Juliet has an extensive background in a variety of social service settings and has specific expertise in both the care and protection and youth justice areas. Her background in social work, and her leadership roles within Oranga Tamariki and Te Ora Hou, have proven invaluable, and it is this wealth of experience, knowledge and foundational support has been instrumental in helping Kia Puāwai expand in the Te Tai Tokerau region.

Pita Te Ngaru

Ngāti Patupō, Ngaati Mahuta, Ngaati Hikairo, Ngaati Te Wehi, Ngāti Mahanga.

An experienced te reo Māori teacher, and trainer and facilitator – with a particular focus on working with young offenders and mentoring young Māori – Pita is integral to our bicultural journey. As the national Kaumātua of Kia Puāwai, he hosts many noho marae throughout the year, across different programmes and services, with staff groups around the country.

Russell Fernandes
Director of Finance and IT

Bachelor’s Degree (Economics), Chartered Accountant

Russell has extensive commercial and leadership experience in operations and finance. Before joining Kia Puāwai, Russell was the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer for a large non-profit in New Zealand. Russell’s passion is to make people’s mahi easier, by collaborating with the teams to improve processes and the outcomes for the people they serve. Away from Kia Puāwai, Russell has two teenage daughters who keep him busy, and can usually be found seeking out new and amazing beaches to explore.

Mark Manaia
Kaitohu Māori, Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi, Ngātiwai

BA, BCOM, PGDip Counselling (Dist)

Mark’s journey in social services began at Kia Puāwai more than a decade ago, during which time he also served as Clinical Operations Manager for a large non-governmental organisation in the non-violence sector. Mark was a youth specialist worker, going on to retrain as a counsellor in narrative therapy – working in the harmful sexual behaviour sector and leading and recreating a kaupapa Māori therapeutic service. Mark has extensive knowledge in Māori and Western therapeutic services and practices. A husband, and father to a wonderful son and daughter, whānau ora is paramount to Mark.

Louisa Webster
Kaitohu Hinengaro / Clinical Director

MSc (Criminological Psychology), Registered Psychologist 

Louisa spent many years as a Forensic Psychologist in both practitioner and leadership roles within the UK Prison Service and Ara Poutama Aotearoa. Having specialised in offending risk assessment and rehabilitation, she has a keen focus on helping to create positive long-term outcomes for tamariki and rangatahi. Louisa passionately champions a client-focused approach to delivering best practice through evidence-based approaches that are grounded in strong indigenous knowledge and understanding.

Lou Hough
Director People and Capability

Bachelor of Applied Management in Human Resources (Distinction)

Louisa is an experienced senior HR practitioner, having worked in both the private and public sectors - most recently with Te Whatu Ora. Louisa is very values-driven and believes in partnering with organisations that make an impact in our community. The values of Kia Puāwai are what led her to work with us, where her role will be about supporting kaimahi to make a difference in the lives of our young people around Aotearoa while ensuring Kia Puawai is a great place to work. Born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau, Louisa and her partner Tim live and raise their three children in Karaka.

We draw from te ao Māori and te ao Tauiwi knowledge to strengthen well-being, mana and wairua. 

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Our Pasifika Matua Council

Rev Suamalie Iosefa Naisali
Matua Council Chairperson

Rev Suamalie provides both Tuvaluan and Tokelauan community representation on our Pasifika Matua Council. He hails from Nukulaelae, Tuvalu - and is descended from Tokelau, Tongarewa, Kiribati, Tonga and Samoa. He wears a multitude of hats as a servant leader for his respective communities, including being an ordained Minister of the Christian Church of Tuvalu. He has extensive experience working in the NGO, health and wellbeing sectors. Rev Suamalie sits across many agency and community boards and advisory groups, and has been awarded the Grand of the Dignity of Ordinary Member of the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire.

Alaelua Malesala Malesala
Matua Council member

Le Afioga o Alaelua Malesala Malesala provides Samoan community representation on our Kaunisela. Alaelua lives in Kawhia and holds strong martial affiliations to Tainui iwi. He is a proud father of three children. A Samoan cultural knowledge holder, Alaelua is a former member of the Auckland District Health Board Pasifika Matua Council and a Pasifika Advisor for the Pasifika Education Centre. He is a Samoan language interpreter and translator for resources and is currently the co-director for his Māori and Pasifika Support Services.

Rev Inoke Masima
Matua Council member

Rev Inoke Masima provides matua representation for the Tongan community on our Pasifika Matua Kaunisela. He is Tongan born in and was a minister for the Wesleyn Church of Tonga for 20 years and the founder of Lifeline in Tonga, the first social service of its kind and it’s still operating today. He was a long-standing leader for the Tongan pro-democracy movement in Tonga. Upon his migration to Aotearoa, he founded the Tonga Wesleyn Church of NZ, a former chair of the Tongan pro-democracy action group and a former board member for the Tongan Health Society. Presently, he is the Counsellor Tongan and a lead parenting programme facilitator for Fonua Ola.

Matua Tigilau Ness
Matua Council member

Matua Tigilau Ness, is a Niue New Zealand activist, political activist and reggae artist who performs as Unity Pacific. He is a first-generation Pacific Island New Zealander, and we are blessed to have him sit on our kaunisela on behalf of the Niue community in Aotearoa. He is a co-founder of the Polynesian Panthers and representative of the Polynesian Panther Party NZ. He is the father of hip hop musician Che Fu (Che Ness), and the father of Ephraim Ness, who is a Teaching Family Model Practitioner for our in-care services in Auckland. He also is a lead Niue parenting programme facilitator for his Niue community in Auckland.

Papa Tuau Rorani
Matua Council member

Papa Tuau, hails from the Cook Islands. He is a well-respected community leader and elder of the Kuki Airani community back in the Islands and here in Aotearoa. A long serving leader for his community in Tamaki Makaurau and presently the official spokesperson for Pa Upokotini Tepaeru Marie Ariki, Vaka, Takitumu and the Cook Islands Community in Aotearoa. He is also presently an elder/lay advocate for the Pasifika Youth Courts for the Manukau District Courts.

Frances Lagi
Matua Council member

Matua Frances Lagi, is of Fijian descent and married to Rev Atunaisa D Lagi. They have three adult children and five grandchildren. Her background is in business management, and 20 years ago she moved into Pastoral Counselling. In 2013 she graduated with a Bachelor in Counselling, and she is currently employed with Raukura Hauora O Tainui, in the Whanau Ora Service.

Rev Atu Lagi
Matua Council member

Rev Atu Lagi is of Fijian and Rotuman heritage; providing matua support for the Fijian and Rotuman communities on our kaunisela. He has an extensive background in radio and media, and was a previous board member for Tamaki Health Pacific and board member for the Open-Air Campaigners Pacific Missions. He is presently the Assistant National Superintendent – Pastoral Care for the Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand. He is also currently the chaplain for the NZ Pacific Media Network.

Matua Henry Perez
Matua Council member

Matua Henry is of Samoan and Tokelau heritage. He has extensive experience in the youth and disability sectors and working with Pasifika communities in recruitment, employment coaching and placement. Before joining Kia Puāwai as an employment coach at Youth Services West, Henry worked as an employment specialist at Quality Education Services, Youthline and WINZ. His previous leadership roles include being on the board for Tula’i Fa’atasi Inc, acting chairperson for the Arahura Trust, and a board member for the Auckland Refugee Community Coalition.

Our Key Staff

Synthia Dash
MPH (Honours), PGDipPH, PGCertPH, BA (Psych & Sociology), Cert Social Services

Pasifika Principal Advisor

Synthia started with Kia Puāwai in 2018, and her role focuses on building the Pacific cultural development, capability and cultural humility of our organisation across all levels, and with all our services. Synthia is a specialist in workforce cultural competency development. She brings more than 20 years of experience working in the mental health, addiction, and social service sectors across a number of organisations, including Blueprint for Learning Limited, Child Youth and Family Services and Waitemata District Health Board. She has three children and lives in Tāmaki Makaurau with her husband of Cook Islands Atiuan and NZ European descent.