FROM Robinvale District Health Services to SuniTAFE and the roles along the way, there have been many stops on Alisi Fangaloka’s career path. But wherever she went, there was a deep passion driving her forward – the desire to work with people of varied cultures, ethnicities and beliefs.

Now, as Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council (SMECC) newly appointed chief executive, Ms Fangaloka has finally reached her destination. She replaces fellow Pacific islander Dean Wickham, who stepped down from the role in August after 13 years with the organisation. “It’s been very fun and inspiring,” said Ms
Fangaloka, now in her third week. “It’s been very interesting to transition from a community member looking at the organisation from the outside to working here and leading it.”

Ms Fangaloka, born and raised in Tonga, lived in New Zealand and Robinvale before making her way to Mildura 10 years ago. She said she was hopeful her experiences would help her make a positive impact at SMECC. “Coming from a CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) background, you can understand each culture with a different perspective, how they might adapt to a new lifestyle and the particular challenges they might face,” she said.

“I believe I bring a high degree of personalisation and that I will be able to work with the board to build a greater future for SMECC.” Although Ms Fangaloka was still adjusting to her new role, she said her first priority was collaborating with the refreshed SMECC board to understand where changes needed to be made.

And while she remained tight-lipped about plans, she said there were some very exciting developments “in the pipeline” and hinted at the expansion of current services. “We’d also like to get SMECC out there in the wider community, having people coming in and interacting with us, for everyone to know who we are and what we do,” she said.

While she acknowledged the challenges faced by Sunraysia’s CALD community this year, such as job losses and homelessness, Ms Fangaloka said she wasn’t shying away from the challenges that lay ahead. “We’re very fortunate to have our outreach workers out there connecting with the community and being able to hear the
feedback first-hand,” she said.

“I am very excited and having a positive outlook, but in saying that I don’t underestimate the challenges and it’s not going to be a fun ride. “We still have a pandemic that we’re trying to get past, so we have to stay grounded and take things day-by-day.”


By Teagan Bell

Picture: Carmel Zaccone

Sunraysia Daily, 11 Dec 2020


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