Prioritising mental and physical wellbeing in the Pacific

Be it at home or at work, our world has changed irrevocably. As we navigate our way to a ‘new normal’, our mental and physical wellbeing has an increased focus. To help spotlight inspiring women working in this field, the Pacific Connect program held its latest virtual dialogue on 15 April, bringing together 37 emerging leaders from Australia and the Pacific. The delegates, representing various fields, heard from three entrepreneurs and an academic on practical and technology-based solutions to improve mental and physical wellbeing for individuals in the workplace and personally.

The Dialogue began with traditional Pacific and Australian introductions, led by co-facilitators Olisana Mariner (Co-founder, The HUB Samoa & Pacific Connect Community Hub Coordinator) and Catherine Fritz-Kalish (Director, ICDP & Managing Director, Global Access Partners). The hybrid virtual-physical hub set up limits face-to-face participation for many, the introductions provide an opportunity for first-time participants to connect with established members of the Pacific Connect Community.

The Pacific Connect program’s focus on emerging technologies was brought into focus with the keynote presentation delivered by Edwina Griffin, Founder of AtOne VR Meditation. Edwina begun her wellness journey in the 1990s, founding a range of fitness brands before expanding into corporate wellness, emotional intelligence, leadership and meditation consulting initiatives. She  has featured on radio, TV and in magazines discussing various health and fitness topics.

AtOne VR Meditation is an app-based virtual reality solution to improve health and performance of individuals and work teams by providing an immersive meditation and relaxation experience. This multi-dimensional experience through real locations, virtual scenes, relaxation music and essential oils provides the user with a out-of-body ‘escape’ during the busy workday.

Sharing her entrepreneurial journey with participants, Edwina outlined the benefits of emerging technologies like VR for health practices and outlined her most important lessons for emerging leaders – flexibility and adaptability, staying focused and the importance of network expansion. There’s even an opportunity for Samoan Community members to try out the VR experience in-person with loaned headsets!

Following a Q&A session, the day’s proceedings moved to the second session where participants heard from two more entrepreneurs and an academic working in health and wellness fields:

  • Esmeralda Lo Tam, Founder of Ei8htSports and a PCC member shared her entrepreneurial journey and thinking behind developing active wear as a vehicle to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing in the Pacific community
  • Emma Koster, Founder of Hello Cass, who has developed an SMS chatbot providing services to victims of family and sexual violence and shared her challenges as a social entrepreneur in the tech space
  • Dr Heena Akbar, Research Fellow – Feeding Our Mana: Maori & Pasifika Food Security in Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, and executive member of Pasifika Women’s Alliance. Heena shared her work on the development of a Pasifika Women’s Wellness Diabetes Program

Following a networking lunch, participants engaged in a virtual talanoa with each presenter; discussing their biggest workplace challenges and how to resolve them, as well as sharing entrepreneurship tips with fellow delegates.

With this topic at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it was heartening to see the new and established members of our Community engage in strong numbers to learn from each other and understand how technology and innovation can have a positive impact in our region. Technology plays a pivotal role in the region’s economic development, and the team at ICDP is looking forward to working with the delegates in the Pacific Connect program to establish new initiatives emanating from this Dialogue.