Local physio set for international stage

joe pomelile

Latest news 18 October 2018 | 

If you’re looking for an amazing physiotherapist, you’ll be happy to know that Joe Pomelile is one of the friendly faces you’ll meet at Mangere Health Centre. As an Auckland University of Technology (AUT) graduate, remarkable athlete, and Programme W&AT! alumni, Joe truly represents Pacific strength, drive, and commitment. His convictions are based on some hard-hitting experiences, and his quest for personal development has taken him on an extraordinary decade long journey.

In 2008, Joe’s mum brought him from Tonga to New Zealand – a new country that brought light to some difficult challenges.

He entered New Zealand with minimal knowledge of spoken or written English, so struggled to adapt to schooling life at Aorere College.

“I only knew basic English and it made it hard for me to communicate with everyone else. I spent a lot of time surrounding myself with well-spoken family members so that I could catch up to the level I needed to be at,” Joe said.

“Even learning how to dress like a New Zealander was hard because my fashion was just jandals,” he jokes.

Through the HealthCouldBe4U programme and support from his biology teacher, Joe was given an opportunity at Year 12 to observe a physio through work experience for a week.

“I thought there was only one type of physio so it opened my eyes to the different areas,” he said.

This realisation led to Joe’s decision to study physiotherapy at AUT. However, this presented a new set of challenges for Joe.

“I was involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities.”

He began as a full-time student, aspiring professional rugby player, and weightlifter with hopes of qualifying for the 2014 Commonwealth Games for New Zealand. He had to catch eight buses a day to ensure he could attend classes on time, as well as eight to ten training sessions per week for rugby and weightlifting.

“Balancing extra-curricular activities was hard. I had to make decisions on my own and it was my responsibility to own my time.”

After heavy reflection, Joe eventually restructured his priorities. He sacrificed his rugby career to ensure he had enough time for his studies and weightlifting. He fell short of qualifying for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and admits that he was not mentally ready at that time. However, after these experiences, Joe became more determined than ever to succeed in all areas of his life.

“My challenge was getting rid of the high school mentality,” he said.

Joe’s toughest challenges during university were transport, being organised, and time management. For a long time, he found it difficult to balance his Pacific duties – church, family, and community – with his academic and sporting development. Although he is still working on overcoming some of these challenges, he acknowledges that it does require intentional practice.

He draws inspiration from his family, his own struggles, and his upbringing, especially as a carer in his family.

“Looking after my grandparents made me realise what I am capable of as a carer.” 

He graduated with his Bachelor of Health Science in 2016 and is now a physio in his community. He is driven to grow Pacific representation in physiotherapy because of how much value he knows it adds to our communities.

“I love my job because it is holistic. I strive to look after the person, not the injury.” he said.

His career goal is to serve as a physio in high performance sports.. He is contemplating further study, but is focused on strengthening his physio experience first.

For weightlifting, Joe is extremely determined to represent Tonga at the Commonwealth Games and the 2020 Olympics with the support of his gym – Papatoetoe Olympic Weightlifting Club.  

His advice to young Pacific students aspiring to enter the workforce.

“Do your research about what study options and pathways that are available. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and network with people who can support you in your career goals.”

To learn more about Joe’s career journey, watch his story here.