Ali’imuamua Sandra Alofivae

To understand what has driven Sandra Alofivae to become such a transformative figure in South Auckland life, you first have to know the three pillars that hold up her world: family, faith and an unwavering belief in the power of community.

All three elements have governed virtually every action Sandra has taken over the last 29 years, as she has blazed a formidable trail as a successful lawyer, selfless community leader and tireless champion for the area’s families and youth.

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Losing her father when she was only one, Sandra experienced first-hand the pressures that Pacific Island families face in South Auckland. That early education helped build the foundation for a life dedicated to giving back.

The 51-year-old barrister’s journey began in earnest in 1994, when she and two colleagues set up a legal practice that would, over the next ten years, become one of the biggest child protection practices in South Auckland.

A Barrister sole since 2005, Sandra made a name for herself as an advocate for vulnerable families, often focusing on the difficulties of children and young people in the Family and Youth Courts.

Her tireless work in the area helped lead to her serving as a member of the Pacific Advisory Group for the Ministry of Social Development, when she became the first Pacific part-time Families Commissioner appointed in 2004.  Her hands-on role as a Families Commissioner would eventually lead to the 2014 Vulnerable Children’s Act.

Aimed at better improving the well-being of vulnerable children the Act introduced greater screening for those who work with young people through government and community agencies.

Sandra has since served in various governance roles, including on the Counties-Manukau District Health Board, between 2010 and 2016, as independent director of Pasifika Futures and as a member of the Auckland Community Response Forums.

Currently, Sandra, who is a mother of four young adults, serves on the board of Housing New Zealand, is the chair for Affirming Works and the deputy chair for the Fonua Ola Trust Board. Affirming Works and the Fonua Ola Trust are both key non-profit Pacific social service providers.

Since July 2016, Sandra has been the independent chair of the South Auckland Social Well-Being Board, working with government on the issues facing pre-school children.

Throughout Sandra’s commitment to family and community life in South Auckland, her impressive dedication to the Presbyterian Church deserves recognition as her sturdy third pillar.

Since 1989, Sandra has worked as a volunteer at the Mangere Pacific Islanders Presbyterian Church and with the church’s national body since 1994.

Between her legal practice as a family advocate, her position on various crucial boards and role as a church leader, she has helped build, and then reinforce, vibrant community networks throughout South Auckland.

While her board positions have provided her with knowledge of how to effect change on a public policy level, it is her intimate knowledge of the day-to-day factors that influence families that has allowed her to become such an important community leader in South Auckland.

“I am a firm believer that building strong healthy communities requires a dedicated commitment to nurture and empower families and whanau to flourish in their surroundings,” Sandra says.

“This requires an understanding of the sometimes-volatile complexities that occur. A Board being agile and adaptable, responsive in real-time making a significant material difference to the community is vital.”

Sandra received national recognition for her incredible work in 2016, becoming a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2016 for services to youth and the Pacific community. As with becoming a Blake Leader this year, future recognition is a certainty for an impressive woman who personifies the best in Kiwi community engagement.