Carer is recognised
A MODEST Tongan professor who credits those around him for great achievements in healthcare has received a New Year’s honour.
Greenlane man Sitaleki ‘Ata’ata Finau has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Pacific Islands community health.
“It was a pleasant surprise – a good Christmas present,” he says.
Mr Finau was the driving force behind the establishment of the Tongan Health Society, based in Onehunga, which takes into account cultural and language differences.
“We run it Tongan style – it has a big waiting room and people are chatting and having cups of tea.”
He has recently worked as the director of health for the government in Niue. “I ran the health services, practised medicine, consultation and running clinics.”
Among other achievements, Mr Finau developed an ethnic specific model of healthcare and established the Langimalie Clinic in Auckland, the only one of its kind in the country.
“Health is a very personal thing – it is culture bound.”
He has been involved with hepatitis B screening programmes that have targeted Pacific people, Maori and Asians and says it can be more prevalent in certain cultures because of transmission with low immunisation rates.
“There is transmission in schools, it is part of the poor health and poverty cycle.”
Mr Finau helped re-establish the New Zealand Tongan Nurses Association and is a founding member of the New Zealand Pasifika Medical Association.
The 59-year-old now works as the director of Pasifika at Albany’s Massey University and was instrumental in the development of its Pacific strategy.
He runs a programme that assists Pacific students and staff to achieve their best and helps with community development.
Of receiving the 2010 honour, he says: “I am the lucky one – this is on behalf of the people who work with me.”
Mr Finau makes trips home to Tonga on a regular basis, with the next one in March.
He runs community development programmes in his village Masilamea and works with locals to create a united identity.
“We leave the village but the village never leaves us. There’s about 300 people, mostly relatives. You become everyone’s child.”
Great achievements: Professor Sitaleki Finau, a New Year’s honour recipient, was the first one in his family to go to university.