Serving with care and respect

Appointed as the inaugural Chief Advisor Pacific at Oranga Tamariki, Sina is happiest when she's actively part of change and transformation in organisations. Sina shared her journey, some of the challenges and lots of inspiration with Auckland GWN.


What brought you to a career in the public sector?

My parents migrated from Samoa in the early 1960s and brought their traditional Samoan culture with them so ingrained in me from a young age, the value of ‘tautua’ – to serve others and respect ‘fa’aloalo’ of all peoples. This naturally drew me to roles of service and leadership, initially in my own local community where I grew up in Otara-Papatoetoe Tāmaki Makaurau, then on to wider regional and national roles. I’ve always felt a strong sense of responsibility and accountability, to use my voice, hands, and heart to serve and lead in ways that would ensure opportunities are available and accessed equitably. Serving the public really resonated with me, my personal and professional aspirations align, and every day I make a point to ensure that I take ownership of my actions to serve all New Zealanders with the care and respect everyone deserves.

Could you tell me about your current role and what you most enjoy about it?

It was such an honour to be appointed by a most amazing rangatira, the late Ta Wira Gardiner as the inaugural Chief Advisor Pacific at Oranga Tamariki. I love the strong passion and collective responsibility my colleagues have to care for and support the tamariki, rangatahi and whānau we serve. I work with committed leaders across the organisation driving team performances and the 750 talented Pacific employees around the country.  I thrive when I’m an active part of the change and transformation of organisations, that stuff gets me out of bed early every day to work!   

Have you experienced any challenges during your career and how did you overcome them?

Whilst organisational change and transformation excites me, the precursor, and processes such as restructuring are what I find challenging. Behind the diagrams, rationale, business cases and numbers, are real people being impacted. Delivering final redundancy or termination decisions to staff is never easy. I often reflect on my conversations to improve my relational approach to delivering messages in a way that is understood and accepted. Leadership can be lonely, so having a great group of peers, colleagues, and a supportive family is crucial during challenging times.  

Has there been a particular mentor that you have looked to for inspiration or guidance?

I’ve had many instrumental mentors influence my journey, and I have different ones for different parts of my life. They support me in the many spheres I want to thrive in – career and professional mentors, community mentors, spiritual mentors, a financial mentor and a parenting mentor.  Every role I’ve ever had has given me opportunities to grow, learn and develop. I’ve worked for great executive leaders who support learning and development opportunities and encourage pathways to more senior roles. I’ve had the privilege of serving on boards and advisory bodies alongside many Pacific community leaders. I’ve served church ministers and elders, many of whom have provided guidance and support. This has helped me ensure the financial well-being of future generations and be a quality parent to our four children, areas I have actively nurtured and maintain as very important.

What changes would you like to see for wāhine who work in the public service?

I would like to see the equitable representation of all women, Māori, Pacific and diverse wāhine in leadership roles across the upper agency tiers as well as representation in policy shops and governance boards across the public service.

What advice would you give to others looking to further their careers and pursue leadership roles in the Public Service?

The Public Service NEEDS us wāhine! More Pacific, more Māori, more wāhine with disabilities, more diverse representation of women in these roles. I really encourage our wāhine to bring your unique lived experiences and insights. Make sure you are always challenged, learning, and developing in every role you have. Look for opportunities to participate in something you’re not familiar with and get used to dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity. Always make sure you have mentors and a supportive group of peers, colleagues, and relationships. Work hard, enjoy the journey, and enjoy the amazing people and strong relationships you will forge for a lifetime.


Aiolupotea Sina Aiolupotea-Aiono

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