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A values-driven and community focused partnership

  • The Fono

Pacific owned non-profit organisation The Fono provides accessible, affordable, quality health services to those who need it most. They say their partnership with Unitec is a win-win for both organisations.

The Fono is the result of an affiliation between The West Fono Health Trust, Pasifika Horizon Healthcare, and The People’s Centre Trust. Starting out with just one office in West Auckland, they now provide medical, dental, pharmacy, health promotion, social, education and Whānau Ora services across six Auckland and Northland locations. 

Qualified Social Worker and Bachelor of Social Practice grad Ana Aitcheson is Manager of Social Services at The Fono, and says it’s been a significant growth period. 

“I’ve been with The Fono for seven years, and over that time the Social Services division has tripled in size. We now have a team of close to 50 full-time social services staff, as well as 14 contractors working in our Non-Violence programmes. As an organisation, we’re fully focused on reducing health and social inequalities among communities by finding new ways to deliver culturally appropriate services to those who need them. It’s exciting to see how far we’ve come in a short space of time.”

The Social Services team offers family violence support, whānau ora wrap-around, financial mentors, mental health and family start early intervention services. Ana says the organisation’s partnership with Unitec provides real benefits to both parties. 

“We’re a teaching practice, which means we regularly have placements for Unitec’s nursing, public health, and social practice students. We place an average of eight Unitec students a year, and many of these go on to full-time roles with us - including a lot of social workers. As part of gaining their degree, all social workers are required to complete two 90-day placements, so The Fono are able to help students meet that prerequisite.”

At the same time, The Fono have found that Unitec’s students fit the values they’re looking for in their staff.

“We have a passion for local students, particularly our Pacific students, and we’re focused on getting them into work. Unitec students have a real grassroots, community focus, balanced with the academic side of things. Because we’re a values-driven organisation, placing students who match that is so important to us. Plus, we’re located virtually across the road from Unitec, so it’s super easy for them and us.”

Ana is also on the Social Practice Advisory Board for Unitec and, along with her team, is a regular guest speaker at the institution.

“My team and I often present for the Social Practice and Public Health degrees at Unitec. As part of the Social Practice Advisory Board, I also work with the team at Unitec on the Social Practice curriculum, including being involved in the decision to move the degree from a three to a four year one. Our CEO, Tevita Filisonu’u Funaki, has a close relationship with Unitec’s chiefs, often meeting with them to talk about gaps in the workforce and how we can support one another.”

This mutual support has recently seen the relationship between Unitec and The Fono formalised, through the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). 

“We’re really excited to have made our partnership with Unitec official. The MOU is really just a reinforcement of the relationship we already had in place, but it essentially communicates the mutually accepted expectations of our two organisations. It recognises that we have a lot in common and will continue to support one another in whatever way we can. Our partnership is a real win-win for both organisations, as well as for the students coming out of Unitec, and I see it continuing to expand well into the future.”

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