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CHANNEL FEATURE: Interview

Powering the Well Foundation

 Justine Munro is the Chair of newly-established Well Foundation, the charitable organisation for Waitemata Health. She’s very involved in the local community and the New Zealand business community including DiverseNZ Inc. initiative, the Social Venture Accelerator, the Starpath Project, NZ Global Women, the NZ Centre for Social Innovation, and Social Ventures Australia. She is a director on the Z Energy Board and was recently appointed to the Teach First NZ board. She lives with her family in Devonport and answered a few questions for Channel about her work in the local community.

Courtney Bennett: How did you become involved with the Well Foundation?
Justine Munro: I was lucky to be approached by the Waitemata DHB Chair, Lester Levy. I leapt at the opportunity to bring my passion for social innovation to the needs of my own local community. I am thrilled to serve a rapidly growing DHB regarded as one of NZ’s best, to chair the “dream team” of passionate and talented locals on the board, and to work with such respected professionals as Andrew Young, ex- Starship CEO, and Dale Bramley, Waitemata DHB CEO.

CB: Can you tell us what the Well Foundation does?
JM: The Well Foundation supports the Waitemata District Health Board by raising additional funds to advance healthcare at our local hospitals and in our communities - to boost health and wellbeing in Auckland’s north, west and in Rodney. We’re here to help the Waitemata DHB deliver its promise of the “best care for everyone” by raising additional funds for priority projects that support innovation, smart use of technology and new initiatives that will enable the DHB to be a leader in healthcare.

CB: What does a typical day look like for you?
JM: I regret that there’s no such thing as typical for me right now! On a good day, I’m up early to do yoga, before packing my three gorgeous children off on the school bus, cleaning up after our nine-week-old pug puppy, and then heading to the computer for catch-up emails before whizzing into the city or up to North Shore Hospital for various meetings. All going well, I’m home late afternoon for homework and a big catch-up dinner together. On a more challenging day though, it’s a 7am flight to Wellington for board meetings and an evening function to juggle.

CB: What’s your favourite part about working for a charitable organisation?
JM: He tangata, he tangata, he tangata - it’s always the people. I love the huge variety of passionate people I work with – the innovators and entrepreneurs who’ve got a vision for how things could be better, those who do the hard yards on the ground working alongside communities, and those who come together to support them.

CB: Have you always been involved in community activities, events and projects?
JM: “Be the change you want to see” and “getting stuck in” have always been unofficial mantras for my family. I grew up with community meetings in the lounge, parents running everything from the PTA to the street barbecue, and apparently I used to sleep every weekend in my bassinet under the table at Samaritans whilst my parents did the night shift. It was pretty normal to just carry this on through school and into my work and family life. From a purely selfish perspective, I can’t think of anything more fun and satisfying than creating something and making change happen with a group of amazing and committed people.

CB: Do you have any favourite community events you look forward to?
JM: With some time away in Sydney, we’ve lived in Devonport since the birth of our first child in 2001. It has been our home and haven, and I’ve spent many wonderful years walking its streets, climbing the hills, doing the rounds of beach, library, supermarket, kindy, school, coffee mornings, and neighbourhood barbecues. I’m out of Devonport more than I used to be now, but my favourite events are still our very local ones – the Devonport Primary School Fair on the Hill, the Devonport Anzac Day service, and our own annual Guy Fawkes backyard bash!

CB: What do you like most about your local community?
JM: I love the sense of potential and possibility. In the North Shore and Rodney things seem fresh and new, not bogged down in the weight of history or expectations. It’s up to us to see what needs changing and to make change happen – and we do. I’m surrounded by people who have created community gardens, built up the local Mid-Winter swim, saved The Vic and fought sand-mining at Pakiri Beach. It’s energising and inspiring.

CB: Who are the people you admire most and why?
JM:
My parents are the ultimate role models; intelligent, connected, loving people who have given back to the community their whole lives. Now in their 70s, they are busier than ever in Wellington with Wellington Waterfront Watch, the Ngaio Progressive Association, SeniorNet, Habitat for Humanity and caring for family and friends. I admire, above all, teachers and school leaders, particularly those working with kids and families who have it tough.

CB: Anything you feel we could better as a community?
JM: I’d love to see north, west and Rodney people really get behind the Well Foundation as our very own. We are so lucky to have amazing doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and community workers who give their all to keep our community healthy, and who continue to innovate new ways to make our lives and the lives of those we care about better. We don’t have to focus “over the bridge” or overseas – right here is where exciting, world-class change is happening. We should be very proud.

CB: In my next life, I am going to come back as…
JM: I feel like I got as lucky as I could ever hope to be in this life. Born into a loving family in this beautiful, uncrowded, compassionate country, I only hope I can use my luck to make sure that others get what they need to grow and prosper. 

by Courtney Bennett

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