reallife

with John Cowan

7:30pm Sunday nights

Rachel Le Mesurier

14 April 2019

CEO of Oxfam NZ, Rachael Le Mesurier has spent decades fighting for those less fortunate, driven by a burning desire to make the world a better place. Rachael is very much a product of the activism of her parents and grandparents; a brief family history lesson explains a lot about her passion. Her grandparents, Thomas and Anna Le Mesurier, met while serving at the leper colony on South Africa’s Robben Island. Her father Michael was born in Cape Town, and the family spoke out against apartheid as the South African government introduced restrictive racial policies.

Rachael was also encouraged to follow sports from an early age. Her sporting prowess saw her selected for school captaincy roles, setting up early leadership experience. The family moved to England when she was 15, and she struggled to adjust to life as one of “the foreigners” at school. She went on to complete a law degree, but quickly realised it was “a mistake”.

Rachael volunteered with the Brighton Women’s Centre and with the anti-Nazi movement before landing her first paid job at the Citizens Advice Bureau. She stayed there for five years before returning to New Zealand in 1995. She set out to continue her charity work here, ignoring those who told her to be realistic about her prospects.

The next eight years saw her serve various roles with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Citizens Advice Bureau New Zealand, and Family Planning. In 2003, Rachael was appointed executive director of the New Zealand Aids Foundation.

Now, in her current role at Oxfam, she advocates for programmes that improve the lives of people in Pacific communities. More recently, Oxfam NZ has been working with a village in Papua New Guinea to develop a new venture growing bulb onions. The charity also responds to emergencies such as Cyclone Winston in Fiji, and is involved in advocacy work such as the recent campaign highlighting the growing gap between the world’s rich and poor.

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