Luisa Lilo - A journey shaped by culture and service to others

Dreaming of a new life rich with opportunities, Luisa Lilo’s parents immigrated from Samoa to New Zealand in the 1950s.

Like many other Samoan families, it was not always easy when they first came to Aotearoa. Luisa says her parents lives were full of examples of hard work and Tautua (service) - to the Church, their families (both here and Samoa) and the communities they served.

They soon bought their first home and settled in Mangere, South Auckland, where they raised their growing family.

Luisa’s career journey began at Middlemore Hospital, where she was born. She has 7 siblings, with the older 3 born in Devonport and the rest, including Luisa, all also born at Middlemore Hospital.

In celebration of Vaiaso o le Gagana - Samoan Language Week, Luisa shares her journey to, from and back to Middlemore Hospital and how her culture and upbringing have influenced and shaped her.

“For me, Nursing was an obvious choice. Mum was a Nurse Aide at a Rest Home, and we often helped out as older teenagers. But more than just the exposure to a caregiving environment, service to the community are a huge part of what being Samoan is to me,” says Luisa.

Luisa’s career in healthcare spans more than half her life, and she began nursing 30 years ago.

“I started my career in theatres, which was where the need was at the time. Although not my first choice, I soon grew to love it”, says Luisa, who further explains why she enjoyed being a Theatre Nurse: “It’s the teamwork, the awesome people all working together to do the best for the patients, as well as being there for people at a vulnerable moment, making a difference.”

Luisa spent some time working in Australia, but ultimately she realised her heart lay at Middlemore, and she soon returned.

Luisa says, “Middlemore Hospital is where I was born. It’s always been part of my life, my community and where I feel most at home. The warmth and manaakitanga of the staff here are really special.”

When the COVID pandemic hit, Luisa was again called to serve her community in a different way – where she took on a role as part of the Senior Leadership Team responsible for leading and directing the Health response to the eighteen Managed Isolation (MIQ) Facilities in the Auckland region.

“For me, this was a new way to use my skills and experience to serve my community, particularly Pasifika people, in a meaningful way,” says Luisa.

With the sacrifices and journey of her parents at the forefront of her mind, Luisa continued to seek out ways to further her contribution to the community, and in 2019, completed her Masters in Pacific Health.

Recently Luisa was appointed as the Service Manager for Fanau Ola, Pacific Health Development service. She is excited about the challenges and opportunities offered by this new phase of her journey.

“Caring for others and giving back to the community are values that are intrinsically woven into our Samoan culture – so I continue to ask myself, how can I be of service?” says Luisa.

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