Culture & Events

Freedom of the City Award Recipient – Leaupepe Elisapeta (‘Peta’) Karalus

Image of Cr Gallagher, Mayor Southgate and Pete Karalus, recipient of a Freedom of the City Award

Now a well-known Pasifika leader in the Waikato, Peta has certainly made her mark since leaving Western Samoa as a trainee nurse to start her life in New Zealand. It was in her final year of training that she met her husband Dr Noel Karalus – who is also receiving an award in today’s ceremony.

They met when Peta called for a doctor after a patient collapsed. The couple went on to have nine children together.

After a stint in Samoa, Peta worked at Waikato Hospital. Over the years, Peta completed a Bachelor’s and a Masters’ degree, and tutored nursing at Wintec.

In 1999, Peta got sick of seeing poor health statistics for Pacific people and created ‘K’aute Pasifika’. This Trust provides a range of services to Pacific peoples, or ‘Pasifika’, and other disadvantaged groups in the Waikato region, aimed at improving their wellbeing.

Peta led the organisation for 18 years before handing the reins over to her daughter, Rachel Karalus. The Trust now provides health, social, and education services to more than 4000 Pasifika around Hamilton.

It doesn’t stop there. Peta’s other achievements include leading the creation of the Aere Tai Regional Collective and Network. This organisation links Pasifika providers from Tauranga to Taranaki, as well as the education-focused Pasifika ‘PowerUP Plus’ programme.

Created in 2016, this programme actively supports Pasifika parents and families to champion their children’s learning.

Peta’s honours are many. She holds a ‘high chief’ title – ‘Leaupepe’ – from the village of Fasito’outa, Samoa. In 2006 she was also awarded a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit and in 2019, she was given an honorary fellowship by Wintec.

Peta’s achievements and service to her community extends beyond K’aute Pasifika. She has contributed through service and governance on multiple levels to church and community organisations as well as schools.

Peta has been appointed by the Government to the Waikato District Health Board; she is a member of the Ministry of Education Regional Working Group; and a former Trustee and now Chair of Trust Waikato.

She’s also a lecturer at Wintec, a member of the Waikato Catholic Diocese Finance Committee, and a member of Marian School’s Board of Trustees. The list continues – too extensive to cover adequately here.

Peta has been described as a person of great heart and uncompromised integrity. Her achievements show her remarkable work ethic. Her various roles illustrate that she is widely respected among her peers.

We know that there is plenty more to come for Peta. She has overcome a range of challenging obstacles to bring to life her vision of a Pan Pasifika Community Hub for Hamilton.

This Hub will offer a range of wellbeing services and a place for all our community to belong to, while also providing a home for all our community and a place to welcome visitors to the Waikato region.

It’s clear that Peta has dedicated her life to people and given each and every project her all. With all of this in mind, it is our pleasure to give her this Freedom of the City award today.

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