This week we introduce Selah Hart, our new Chief Executive Officer. Selah grew up in Blenheim and has whakapapa links to Ngāti Kuia, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Ngāti Apa Ki Te Ra To and Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa.

Selah is a well-known face in Māori public health, having worked for Hāpai for nearly ten years in a variety of roles. This depth and breadth of experience at Hāpai has positioned Selah to take the organisation, which has a proud twenty year history of delivering public health services, into the future.

As the new CEO, Selah’s focus is on the growth and development of current and future Māori health leaders. “I want my legacy to be the flourishing of Māori leaders and communities who are equipped with the capability to determine their own health and wellbeing. For our owner organisations, Selah intends to lead our efforts to achieve health equity, and reverse some of the poor health outcomes that disproportionately burden our whānau. “We know that empowering communities isn’t enough- we will need to dismantle racist systems throughout our society before our people can truly achieve hauora."


Nō hea koe? Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the beautiful sunny country town of Blenheim, the grape capital of the country... living there until I was 21 years old. 


How did you end up at Hāpai? When / why did you move to Auckland?

I moved up here with my partner back in December 2008 to find out what opportunities Auckland had in store for me 


What have your roles been while at Hāpai?

I began as the Personal Assistant to the CEO, moving then into the Business Administrator role, followed by the Operations Manager, and now am honoured to be the Chief Executive Officer. 


How has Hāpai changed over the years, since you’ve been working here?

Hāpai is an ever-evolving organisation, and does so to keep ahead of the trend in the Māori Public Health space. We have seen some great leaders come through our doors, and walk back out even better, ready for the next phase in their journey. I have had the pleasure of watching the movements we have made as an organisation from that focussed on local and regional services in Tamaki Makaurau specifically for Māori communities, to now having a varied national portfolio for Māori, Pasifika and Non-Māori populations. 


You’re a really staunch advocate of hauora and particularly the tupeka kore kaupapa. What influenced this?

Over my lifetime I have had first hand experience of tobacco/alcohol/drugs/unhealthy kai/gambling being normalised around me, and I have seen how strong addictions can be, and the affect they have on people. I see my contribution being that I want to use our collective skills, knowledge and influence across the sector, and wider, to rid our whenua of these introduced substances/ addictions that contribute to our whānau ending up in the urupa far before their time. I want to play even just a small part in enabling our current environments to represent those that our tūpuna had many years ago, where they thrived, and were sustained naturally from Papatūānuku , Ranginui, and our collective of ātua Māori. 


You must have seen a lot of changes and growth in the Tobacco Control sector since you started with Hāpai. What do you think are the untapped gems or solutions we should be looking at that could help whānau with smoking?

I believe there are many ways we can tackle the engrained societal addiction and burden of disease from a population/public health approach, however the strategies of engagement need to be informed by those who are/have the most sufferage/to loose. If we get the strategy right, informed not just by academia, but by lived reality, in a non-bias way, we will be able to start unpacking the generational harms that have impacting our whānau, hapū, iwi and communities.

 It is each and everyone’s responsibility when employed into the health sector to advocate for, and disrupt the many layers of inequity that exists, so when I turn up for mahi each week, I consider myself privileged to be given the mantle to make the necessary changes for our collective benefit. I don’t see this as just a job, I see this as an obligation to serve. If everyone in our sector lived by that ethos, a lot of movement could happen very quickly... 


What difference do you hope to make as the new CEO of Hāpai?

I hope to demonstrate my commitment to growth and development of our current and future health leaders by supporting our current and future team members to broaden their capability and capacity, in order to best serve our whānau, hapū, iwi and communities. 

For our owner organisations, I hope to lead our efforts to advocate and lead in the space of Māori Public Health that will achieve health equity and reverse some of the inequitable health statistics that burden our whānau. 


What are three things that you’re looking forward to this year?

I am looking forward to continuing to grow my knowledge and expertise in this position on leadership, work alongside our team and our owner organisations to grow and diversify our business opportunities, and watch my family grow and experience all the amazing things that life has in store.


Quick Fire Round: First answer that comes to mind:

Boil-up or Hangi?

None. Sorry my Pākehā whakapapa steers me towards roast ham and potatoes! 

Books or movies?

Movies... I use to be an absolutely book worm as a child, but now cannot find the time.

Favourite quote?

Ko Te Amorangi Ki Mua, Ko Te Hāpai o Ki Muri

Leadership to the fore: we all have important roles to play

Who had the most influence on you growing up?

I was blessed with so much love and support wrapped around me growing up, so it is hard to name one single person. I give thanks to all my grandparents, and my parents, my aunties and uncles for the lessons they taught me about hard work, honesty, integrity, and trying your best in everything you do.