0800 REFUGE (733843)

About Us

Our History

The first Women’s Refuge was established in 1973 in Christchurch by a group of women who saw a need to provide safety for many of the women and children they saw being abused in their community. From their courage and determination, the refuge movement in Aotearoa was born and in 1987 Eastern Refuge Society was established in Counties Manukau East.

women's refuge new zealand

Vision, mission, values

Eastern Refuge Society is a member of the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges and as such adheres to and abides by their code of ethics, behaviour, standards of practice and associated policies regarding practice, performance and monitoring.


Wahine and tane working together to cultivate violence free families, communities and society, by enhancing the mana of all peoples and upholding our commitment to Te Tiriti O Waitangi.


To provide inclusive services that support the wellbeing of all people through professional best practice, encompassing our four cornerstones and underpinned by our philosophy of social change.


  • Parallel development: Ensuring the needs of Māori are met in ways that best suit Māori
  • Collectivism: To ensure consensus decision-making, and in recognition that the actions of one refuge reflects on the refuge movement as a whole
  • Feminism: Celebrating women’s contribution to society
  • Takatāpui Nurturing Diversity:  Providing safe, inclusive spaces for diverse whanau

Our Leaders

Rhonda Cox-Nissen

Rhonda Cox-Nissen

Operations Manager

Rhonda joined the refuge movement in 1995, as a volunteer.  In 1999 she was appointed to the role of Residential and Community Support Manager and then as the Eastern Refuge Society Operations Manager in 2004.

Rhonda has experience and knowledge of working within a Governance/Management structure, both as an employee and as a member elected to governance boards throughout Auckland and the motu.

Rhonda also provides training and consultation services to corporates/businesses/agencies regarding domestic violence awareness and analysis, domestic violence policy and how best to support staff who may be affected by violence.

Rhonda’s management style is to always ensure that her practice reflects her belief in, and the promotion of, tino rangatiratanga mo te tangata, as well as her own personal practice framework, Tau Whakarahi, complimentary to the cornerstones of the refuge movement.

Rhonda remains deeply committed to the elimination of violence in our societies and the work of Women’s Refuges locally, nationally and globally.

Rhonda is the proud mother to three young adults/teenagers, a dog that isn’t and two cats.  

Annie Tupaea

Annie Tupaea

Finance Manager

Genevieve Sang-Yum

Genevieve Sang-Yum

Community & Programmes Manager

Genevieve completed her Certificate in Community Skills, followed by a Bachelor of Social Practice at Unitec, Auckland. After completing her Bachelor degree, Genevieve went on to become a social worker for a Maori NGO, Te Tai Awa o Te Ora.  It was from there that she discovered her passion for working alongside victims of domestic violence. Genevieve continued her education with Open Polytechnic successfully completing her qualification in Adult Learning and Teaching certificate which has enabled her to become a qualified facilitator.   Genevieve continued her pursuit of higher education and recently completed her Post Graduate Diploma in Social Work through Massey University where her research focussed on perpetrators of domestic violence particularly in the Pacific Island community in Aotearoa.

Alongside full-time employment at Eastern Women’s Refuge, Genevieve continues to pursue her passion for a career in the domestic violence arena in between her work and school.  She is currently working as a contracted facilitator for Pacific Island victims and offenders in family violence which is contracted through the Ministry of Justice.

Genevieve is of Chinese and Samoan descent and is bilingual in Samoan and English.

Katrina Makea

Katrina Makea

Residential Support Manager

Katrina comes from the Early Childhood sector where she worked for 15 years at Te Kōhanga Reo o Te Taurere as a Kaiāwhina (Teacher Aide) and a Kaiako (Teacher).  Whilst at Kōhanga Reo she completed certificates in Te Ara Tuatahi and Te Ara Tuarua.

In 2010 she joined Eastern Women’s Refuge to manage the Kowhai Daycare. In her current role as the Residential Manager she supports and advocates for the women and children staying in the Safe House. She also facilitates the parenting programmes: Building Awesome Whanau and Early Years.

Katrina has completed a Certificate in Bi-Cultural Social Services and is currently studying to obtain her Bachelors in Bi-Cultural Social Work at Te Wananga o Aotearoa. She is of Cook Islands, Tahitian, Hawaiian, German and English descent and a proud mother of four children and two grandchildren.

Jenny Palalagi-Taulagaono

Jenny Palalagi-Taulagaono

Service Manager – Te Whare o Honore

Jenny completed her Bachelor of Applied Social Work at the end of 2014 and by January 2015 was already working as a Whanau Coordinator for the Anglican Trust for Women & Children (ATWC). Since then she has had a steady career as a Social Worker for different organisations, which has included mentoring young people at risk of disengaging from learning in the school environment and advocating for teen mothers whose social and health needs were not being addressed.

Jenny is a New Zealand born Niuean and proud mother of five children and two mokopunas.

Agnes Paul

Agnes Paul

Kaiawhina Practice Leader – Whāngaia Ngā Pa Harakeke

Agnes comes from the NGO sector in the Maori Service Community where she acquired experience working alongside Maori Whanau and other ethnicities experiencing Domestic Violence. Prior to joining Eastern Refuge she worked for Te Tai Awa O Te Ora, in Otara for 9 years.

In 2013 she completed Te Tohu Paetahi Nga Poutoko Whakarara Oranga: Bachelor of Social Work (Bi -Culturalism in Practice). In 2015 she completed a  Graduate Diploma in Professional Supervision (Bi-Culturalism).

In her current role at Eastern Refuge she works alongside the Manukau Counties Police leading a team of Kaiawhinas, supporting whanau experiencing domestic violence.

Agnes is also an experienced programmes facilitator.

Agnes is of Maori Ngaphui descent.

Ana Atkinson

Ana Atkinson

Administration Manager

Ana comes from a legal background. Prior to migrating to New Zealand from Mexico, she was a lobbyist for Grupo Modelo (Corona Beer). In New Zealand, she has worked in various industries including government agencies as well as recruitment. In the UK Ana worked as an advocate for people with mental health issues and with a team of professionals from the University of Bristol doing research on perpetrators of domestic violence.

Ana completed a Masters in International Relations and Human Rights (with Honours) at the University of Auckland and is proficient in four languages (Spanish, French, English and Italian). She has also lived in the US, Italy and England and is the proud mother of one boy.

“Kia Hora Te Marino” – May The Calm Be Widespread

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Eastern Refuge Office