Our Story

It all started during the nationwide lockdown in April 2020. A friendly girl playing fetch with an equally friendly dog during her daily walk around the block in Mangere East.

Mihaere Emery (the father of the little girl) and Rafael Lee (the owner of the dog) started chatting over the gate. Two South Auckland neighbours soon discovered, despite their vastly different background and upbringing, both share a common passion for bringing positive changes within the hearts and minds of the people of Aotearoa.

The rich and diverse life experiences of two co-founders bound by the passion to transform our community are what makes ARA ATU unique.

Mihaere Emery

Effective communicator and forward thinking. Specialised social worker with over 15 years of experience including

  • Working with high complex needs youth throughout Aotearoa.
  • Providing cultural competency training and cultural supervision for the professionals.
  • Mentoring young Maori rugby players through NZ Maori Rugby. 

Rafael Lee

Social entrepreneurs and innovator. Out of the box thinker with over 18 years of experience as an engineer, university lecturer, business and innovation advisor and entrepreneurship programme facilitator.