Dr Julie Wharewera-Mika and Ms Mafi Funaki-Tahifote have been appointed joint Heads of Foundation for the MAS Foundation, the philanthropic arm of insurance and investment provider MAS.

Dr Julie Wharewera-Mika and Ms Mafi Funaki-TahifoteThe MAS Foundation was established in 2020 by MAS, to support work that contributes to better outcomes for the health of people in Aotearoa, with a particular focus on early childhood health in disadvantaged communities.

The joint appointments are motivated by the MAS Foundation’s desire to reflect the communities it has been set up to serve, according to Jennifer Gill, Chair of the MAS Foundation Board.

“We’re fortunate to be setting out on this journey at a time when we recognise the implicit biases throughout the health system that disadvantage patients from diverse communities.

“These appointments have been made so the people running the MAS Foundation are close to the communities they serve and can make funding decisions that will have the greatest impact.

“We have deliberately chosen a Te Tiriti o Waitangi-based partnership model for the Foundation’s executive management. Julie is Tangata Whenua and Mafi is Tangata Tiriti,” Ms Gill says. 

A 2019 report from Philanthropy New Zealand found 85% of philanthropic CEOs and Managers were NZ Pākehā/European, while just 5% identified as Māori or another ethnicity. 

“Both Julie and Mafi are well placed to support health outcomes for diverse communities given their experiences and networks in health, mental health, Māori and Pasifika communities and their passion for health equity. We are delighted that they have joined us.” said Ms Gill.

Dr Wharewera-Mika (Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tūhoe, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui) has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Auckland and extensive experience in the health and wellbeing field as a senior clinical psychologist and kaupapa Māori researcher.

“I have had the privilege of working intimately with whānau and communities most impacted by inequity. This has deepened my understanding of the associated complexities and barriers to good health and wellbeing in our country,” Dr Wharewera-Mika says.

Ms Mafi Funaki-Tahifote has an MBA from the University of Auckland and brings considerable health sector experience to MAS Foundation, including her role as Manager – Pacific Health at the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand and as a clinical dietician. She is also currently a ministerially appointed board member of Te Hiringa Hauora/Health Promotion Agency. 

“I am humbled to take on this new and unique role at the MAS Foundation, and I look forward to working in partnership with Julie Wharewera-Mika to make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of disadvantaged communities in New Zealand,” Ms Funaki-Tahifote says.

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