Kia ora, welcome to Volunteering Northland

clock icon28 November 2023

Volunteer Spotlight: Thalea Tane - Traversing the globe through volunteering

"volunteering can take you across the world, provide opportunities to immerse yourself in different cultures"

Thalea volunteering in a hill tribe village with visiting students from Singapore.

Story by Janine Duncan

Thalea Tane’s journey is a wonderful example of how volunteering can take you across the world, provide opportunities to immerse yourself in different cultures and open doors in unexpected ways.

From Te Roroa, Ngāpuhi, Ngati Korokoro and Ngāti Whātua descent; Thalea was born and bred in Glen Innes, East Auckland and moved home to Northland, with her growing family in tow.

With her finance background, social work certification (SWRB), qualifications in Bi-cultural Supervision, and currently studying for a Master of Indigenous Studies from AUT; Thalea has experienced a varied and diverse career. Initially starting in the banking industry, she has also been employed as a Contracts Advisor for Te Puni Kokiri, (Ministry of Māori Development), a self-employed consultant for over a decade, and was recently appointed to a Project Management role with Reconnecting Northland.

From a young age, Thalea’s parents encouraged their little family to contribute, in a variety of ways, on her family’s ancestral papakainga (in Waipoua and Kaipara). Describing this “as a type of apprenticeship,” she has volunteered on and off for approximately four decades, helping to build capacity in her hapū/Iwi, whānau marae complexes, and has co-developed many initiatives. Becoming involved in community development, meant that she worked closely with her community on innovative and resourceful fundraising projects to bring these projects to fruition.

These early experiences were instrumental in becoming an inaugural trustee for the Te Roroa Whatu Ora & Manawhenua Trusts. The combination of financial, planning and negotiation skills gained in the banking industry, Te Puni Kokiri and community, also made her an ideal fit for this role. The many hours she and her fellow family members invested in engaging and negotiating with Crown representatives were rewarded when their settlement was reached in 2008.

Volunteering has enabled Thalea to traverse the globe and in 2013 she travelled to Galiwinku in the Archipelago Islands. She describes this time as “life changing” and was part of a team, who co-created governance training for 25 indigenous first nation clans. Unfortunately, a category four cyclone struck the area in 2015 which resulted in a state of emergency. For a few days, Thalea and a small team worked tirelessly ensuring the health and safety of approximately 500 plus mainly indigenous inhabitants. Cyclone Lam severely impacted the island, causing the army to respond to the Australian Government’s state of emergency declaration.

Feeling exhausted, Thalea travelled to Thailand for some much needed rest and rejuvenation. Unknown to her, this would completely change the course of her life. Training as an English Language Teacher, she taught in international language schools in Chiang Mai and formed wonderful friendships. Through these relationships, she was invited to co-ordinate educational cultural immersion and community development programmes in remote hill tribe villages for visiting international students.

These years spent in Thailand were very special and memorable. Through working in collaboration with Thai representatives, ex-pats and hill tribe nations, she was introduced to the ‘self-reliance movement’ which included various eco-villages and an introduction to permaculture. Permaculture is based on the philosophy of working in tandem with nature and incorporates principles such as food sovereignty, reforestation, food forests and water quality. Seeing these villages thriving and flourishing by utilising these philosophies inspired her to become part of the international permaculture community.

Commencing with organising permaculture conferences and workshops in Thailand, she eventually travelled the world volunteering in eco-villages and visiting permaculture hubs across Europe, South East Asia and India. However, the ultimate highlight was being invited to represent Oceania and Asia as part of the Global Eco-Village Network delegation, at the COP 25 Climate Change Conference in Spain (2019).

While Covid 19 brought her home to New Zealand, permaculture still remains very close to her heart. Now a member of Permaculture Institute of New Zealand, Thalea co-tutors in specialised workshops, and endeavours to weave in permaculture and the practices of her ancestors into her ‘home and work life’.

Her ongoing devotion to voluntary causes is inspirational internationally, nationally and within her local community. Thalea remains very involved in strategic development work on her papakāinga and is currently involved in a National Māori Leadership Programme (Mana Kainga).

Summing up her experiences, she says; “Volunteering isn’t just character building, its life changing. Volunteering isn’t just a contribution from oneself, it’s receiving contribution from others in the community. It’s about connections and successfully seeing what those connections look like when you dare to dream and act.

Karawhiua tatou mā!” Go for it, (one and all)!