Malo ni, ko toku igoa ko Melemele Puka. Ko au e hau mai I Fakaofo, Tokelau.
I am a NZ born Tokelauan who was raised in Grey Lynn and attended Ritimana Kohanga Reo and Richmond Road Primary School, where both my parents worked. We also attended the Grey Lynn Presbyterian Church.
My Father’s name is Otehia Solomona Puka who is a recently retired teacher who taught at Primary, Intermediate and College level. He also taught at Tiale Niu School in Fakaofo, Tokelau for a number of years and taught at Kelston Boys High School, where my younger brother also attended KBHS during their golden era of winning School rugby national titles over a number of years. My father loves to go fishing, gardening/planting and looking after his chickens and other animals at his property in Pihā, West Auckland. Well-deserved Dad!
My beautiful Mother is Fale Puka, a proud Tokelauan/Samoan who has poured her heart into helping Pacific communities throughout the 70’s. At present she still continues to work closely with the health sector and her communities. Mum continues to faithfully serve and work, helping various communities, churches, schools, and has helped to establish pre-schools Auckland wide.
One of my earlier and fondest memories was meeting the late Honourable David Lange (NZ Prime Minister 1984-1989) with my mum while she was working in the community. I remember him clearly smiling and asking me what I wanted to be when I get older. I shared that I wanted to be a Kiwi Rugby League player which he cracked up laughing. I was blessed to have met him on a few more occasions while accompanying my mum at various meetings.
Currently, I am temping at The Tile Depot, working as a warehouse packer/cleaner/truck driver. In addition to my mahi, I also run a weekly community radio/podcast at Unitec – Planet FM. This has been put on hold indefinitely due to these uncertain times. My focus is Pacific Health and Health in Aotearoa in general. One of my highlights is raising awareness, educating our communities and providing opportunities and platforms for all people, particularly our Pacific peoples to share their passion.
In regard to my most recent mahi in the NZ Health space – I was very fortunate to experience an amazing opportunity to work alongside and be guided by Taria Tāne – a young passionate Maori Health Researcher and the Director of Ora Project Solutions. Taria is dedicated to helping her community thrive and her energy, commitment and passion for Maori and Pacific Health is unrivalled. While working for Taria, my role as a Kaimanaaki O Mana Tu (skilled and dedicated diabetes support worker/health coach) enabled me to walk alongside Tangata Whenua, with a focus on Improving HbA1c and other outcomes for Tangata Whenua with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes. I was able to sit with whanau, getting to know them by building ‘whanaungatanga’ (genuine bond/relationship). This supported learning and embraced better understanding of barriers and challenges which were presented. A holistic approach was adopted to engage effectively when supporting our Maori whanau in their journey.
What I love about my current role in the warehouse is the energy from my young colleagues whom I work alongside. Being a physical role it provides me with a good workout and makes me feel young. I’m also back on the road, and have enjoyed getting out and about. I have driven trucks all over the North Island. It’s not an easy job, sweating hard and quite a back breaking role lifting boxes of tiles, however, it is an honest hard mahi, and a good break away from the Health sector.
When and why did you choose to get vaccinated?
My wife , my eldest daughter and I, have all been fully vaccinated. We got vaccinated about 2-3 months ago. I chose to get vaccinated for my health, for my loved ones, my wife and kids and simply because I respect and follow New Zealand Ministry of Health guidelines. I like to do the basics right. By getting myself right and getting vaccinated, it will protect and help me to look after my loved ones.
Did you have any concerns and how did you address them?
I did have a few concerns which were addressed clearly and properly by my former Clinical Director- Dr Rawiri McKree Jansen, a well-respected and leading Tangata Whenua Health Expert and a strong advocate for equity, justice, indigenous rights and climate action. I was very blessed and fortunate that Dr Rawiri was able to address my concerns in person (kanohi kite kanohi). He was very engaging and had a way of making complicated health and covid vaccination questions clear to me. In addition, if Dr Rawiri didn’t know the answer, he would seek more information and clarification before getting back to me. There were also opportunities during staff hui and online zoom/team sessions where concerns were addressed.
I also reached out to a couple of trusted sources, my father and best friend; to gain different perspectives about the Covid-19 vaccinations which I found valuable using them as sounding boards. My best friend is an anti-vaccinator for now, as he’s a real thinker and weighs up a lot of information. I also reached out to my General Practitioner’s (doctors) at Papatoetoe Medical services- Dr Esther and Dr Anna. They helped me A LOT during these uncertain times. However, at the end of the day I did refer back to Ministry of Health website, instructions and guidelines along with trusted and sound medical advice.
What message do you have for others around vaccinations?
Follow and heed to New Zealand Ministry of Health guidelines. Do as you are told by your General Practitioner! Be mindful and be careful what you read/watch on TV/social media as there can be misinformation. I think family and close ones can also be a distraction if they do not follow NZ Ministry of Health guidelines. Listen to advice from the Honourable Prime Minister, Dr Ashley Bloomfield and their government.
I’m a 100% proud Tokelauan. Tokelau ke Ola. TOKELAU KI MUA
COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccination
English (3 mins)
COVID-19 – Talanoa presentation
Tongan (10 mins)
COVID-19 – Ngaahi fehu’i mo e tali
Tongan (13 mins)