A lot can change in a year. Here at SIAPO, staff have come and gone, there’s been a changing of the guard and there’s even a new coffee machine. But personal assistant Eila Cunnah is taking it all in her stride as she adjusts to life back in the office after a period of maternity leave.
Eila was personal assistant to former South Island Alliance Programme Office general manager Jan Barber for five years, before her retirement in May. Now assisting the new general manager, Mark Leggett, Eila enjoys the variety her role brings. “No two days are the same. I enjoy dealing with people South Island-wide, supporting our wider team and helping out whoever I can.”
Originally from Fairlie, Eila moved to Dunedin in 1999, where she became part of the former Otago District Health Board as receptionist for Public Health South. After three years in the role and following a gap year as a nanny in California – where she also travelled and spent time with her then Tucson-based sister – Eila returned home to work for South Canterbury DHB. This is when Eila met her husband-to-be, Liam, a Welshman on a farm exchange programme. Eila soon relocated to Wales with Liam, where they travelled extensively together, including a four-month trip through South America, as well as backpacking around India, Nepal, and South East Asia. In between travelling,
Eila also completed an eight-week nannying stint in Spain.In 2007, the couple returned to settle in New Zealand. Eila began working at the Canterbury DHB as medical secretary in the diabetes department, followed by personal assistant for pharmacology. A few years later and looking for a new challenge, Eila applied for her current role at the South Island Alliance.
“This role was really appealing as it was a real step up in terms of working regionally and gaining more experience within a different sector of health,” she says. Liam is a social worker for the NZ Defence Force at Burnham Military Camp and the couple have two young sons, whom Liam speaks to in Welsh. “I’ve picked up a little bit of Welsh as well, but it’s great for the kids to learn two languages,” says Eila, who is an avid cook and baker, when she finds the time. “I’m a big Chelsea Winter fan and I’m enjoying making my way through her recipe books.” And every now and then, if the team at SIAPO are lucky, she’ll bring in some of her baked goodies to share.