A Father's Heart
Apulu Reece Autagavaia is of proud Samoan heritage and has grown up in South Auckland his whole life. Apulu Reece is married to Lorianne. The oldest of five children and a proud father of two boys, he is an influential member of his community. Apulu Reece is the Chair of the Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board, and an elected member on the Counties Manukau District Health Board.
Apulu Reece's father is Autagavaia Namulau'ulu Lea'ana Vaisigano Siaupiu who hails from the villages of Vailoa Palauli, Salelavalu, Fasito'outa and Lalomalava. Apulu Reece's mother is Tu'u'u Utaile'uo Apulu Mary Kalala, from Si'umu, Faleasi'u, Nofoali'i and Safotulafai. In addition to the title of Apulu from Faleasi'u, Apulu Reece has also been bestowed the titles of Faliu from Safotulafai, Sita from Salelavalu, and Autagavaia from Vailoa Palauli. Apulu Reece is honoured to hold these titles to serve and represent his extended families.
Serving his community through the legacy of family
With his parents being the first generation of their families to move to New Zealand, Apulu Reece is extremely proud of the sacrifices that they made to create opportunities for him and his siblings. Taking advantage of the opportunities they provided, Apulu Reece jumped at the chance to become a lawyer, completing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Studies and Sociology, and a Bachelor of Laws.
Instilling in him a strong sense of social justice, serving his family, churches and community is paramount to Apulu Reece’s being. It’s a legacy that he hopes to instill in his own children.
“Those are the blessings that our grandparents and parents worked hard for, knowing that they may not see the blessings themselves but that their hard work might provide opportunities for their children and grandchildren”.
The turning point from corporate to community
After practicing law over a range of civil and commercial disputes at corporate firms, Apulu Reece decided that it was time to move into a role that better served his community.
“I started thinking ok, I need to start planning - how do I take these skills that I’ve learnt, and how do I use them to serve my community?”
This prompted a move into practising at a Māori law firm based in Manukau, and later to becoming an elected member on the Counties Manukau District Health Board.
Apulu Reece and Lorrianne were heartbroken when they lost their daughter, who was stillborn. Navigating the loss of their precious baby has made Apulu Reece appreciate their boys, and the chances God has given them to be parents.
“To have something that is new, your aspirations, your hopes and dreams growing inside your wife’s stomach, and then it being taken away”.
Like many families across Aotearoa, the impacts of COVID-19 have been immense. In Alert Level 4, Apulu Reece’s grandmother passed away, something that the family had to witness online as they were unable to physically be by her side due to restrictions.
For Apulu Reece, reflecting on the pandemic and his feelings about the passing of his grandmother show incredible strength and resilience.
“We probably need to look back at what happened last year and assess- are we getting angry at the right thing? Because COVID is causing all this stuff”.
A diagnosis at Starship
Last year when Auckland was coming out of Alert Level 2, the family discovered through tests at Starship that their son Taumai had Type 1 diabetes. After the passing of Apulu Reece’s grandmother, it was another hardship for the family, and one that made them cautious and anxious about COVID-19.
With a weakened immune system, if Taumai were to contract the virus he would be in a vulnerable position. He reflects on the difference between this year and last.
“Once we left lockdown last year, we were confident that there was nothing in the community, so we went on with life as normal. But this time it is different because it is in the community and that is scary”.
Despite fear for their son’s health keeping him up at night, Apulu Reece acknowledges the need to approach the situation with grace and compassion. He emphasises the importance of getting vaccinated to protect our most vulnerable.
“Why can’t we just say ‘I’m gonna do it for other people’?”
Apulu Reece and the Autagavaia family, thank you for sharing your hearts and your story to contribute to the health of tamariki and whānau across Aotearoa.