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Josephine Bartley - Alumna 2011

Written by Kimberly Rees, Alumna 2013

Typical of a Pacific culture, Josephine Bartley is a humble leader who finds it difficult to talk about herself. When pressed, however, we find that Josephine’s history is a rich tapestry of interwoven experiences which make her the respected community leader she is today.


When delving into her past, it is clear that ‘helping others’ is in Josephine’s DNA. Born in New Zealand to Samoan immigrants, when she wasn’t studying, much of her youth was spent volunteering. Having gone to law school, in 1998 Josephine was admitted as Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand focussing on criminal law early in her career. Then in 2002, Josephine started as a Consumer Law Advisor at the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and stayed there until 2015 where she says “The best part of the job was empowering people about their consumer rights.”

In 2010, Josephine was elected to Auckland Council’s Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board. Although this was a parttime position, it was emotionally ‘full-on’ Josephine says, “It was a challenging shift coming from being a community activist (on a state housing redevelopment project) to being a decision-maker – going from outside the tent, to in it!”

As if juggling two jobs wasn’t enough, a community leader recommended that Josephine do the Leadership NZ Programme in 2011. She says, “I thought it was going to be a series of lectures and an academic-type classroom course. It was so much more than that!”

Josephine states, “The Leadership NZ Programme helped me come out of my shell and it was also like holding a mirror up to yourself. The Programme gives you the time for self-reflection and encourages you to be more of who you are. It validated me as a leader and made me feel comfortable claiming that title while still developing my own unique style of leadership based on the Samoan saying O le ala i le pule i tautua – The way to leadership is through service.”

Josephine goes on to say, “The self-reflection aspect of the Programme made me realise I had to get healthier, which was prophetic, as I went through a health scare a few years after finishing the Programme. I was able to get through it because I had already changed my
life to be more active - thanks to that Leadership NZ mirror!”

After leaving the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Josephine did some short-term work with the NZ Red Cross and credits their work in mobilising ‘the power of humanity.’ Now in 2017, Josephine states that she only has one job, that being Chair of Auckland Council’s Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board, a role which she is honoured to share with fellow Tamaki community stalwart Chris Makoare. But again, we find she is still doing more than ‘one job’ as she still goes on the community patrols she helped establish with community leaders and the Glen Innes Neighbourhood Policing Team, she supports local youth in her spare time, she is a proud board member of the Glen Innes Family Centre and the Glen Innes Business Association, and is a long-standing member of PACIFICA.

Josephine values and credits a lot of her growth as a leader to her community experience. “I’m inspired by the people I am with in Tamaki and I learn something new from them every day. I am blessed to be where I am, even though it’s not easy,” Josephine states. She goes on to say, “The Programme taught me to chase the moments that scare me because that is where you will grow.” A favourite saying of hers is, “How we walk with the broken, speaks louder than how we sit with the great.”

Josephine says, “While in the Programme, I wrote down what the speakers shared as their learnings and I refer back to it often to help me with a situation I am facing. I remember learning about using your levers of influence in your position for the benefit of others, as well as other helpful tools around self-reflection, journaling and being present – all of which has had a profound effect on me.”

Josephine’s advice to those considering the Programme is, “Do it. It will help you be you and how you are as a leader. For me, I go where the waves take me and it took me into the Leadership NZ Programme. It has enhanced my life by exposing me to different issues facing our country and to people outside my normal circles. I’ve had conversations I probably wouldn’t normally have had and this has made me more robust as a leader.”

Josephine is riding the waves to many places, immersing herself fully when she is there and is a fine example of integrative leadership.