Our Team

is made up of the Board of Know Your Roots Incorporated and volunteers who are passionate about our communities, advocacy and the future of our growing future generations. Meet our team who we call FAMILY!

KYR Inc. Board

established in 2018, after the need in the community grew for advocacy to be prominent in the Pacific Island community and was extended to all communities of colour and culture in regional Victoria, early 2019. It is one of very few boards in Victoria that is 100% seated by women of colour – of which we are proud of.

Mellisa V. Silaga

Mellisa V. Silaga

Founder - Board Chair Director

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New Zealand born and Australian raised, Mellisa is of Samoan heritage – passionate about Culture, Community, Youth, Communication and Rugby.

She has worked in various areas stemming from being an entertainer at the Polynesian Cultural Centre in Hawaii, fruit picker, retail and hospitality to teaching in the islands of Samoa as a Year 11 English Teacher.

Mellisa has worked as a frontline staff at GV Health and in Health Promotion where she led the Hospital Tours for GV Health and she developed and implemented the My Health in Shepparton – A guide to health services throughout Greater Shepparton. She currently works for Primary Care Connect as an Media and Communications Coordinator as well as at Ethnic Council Shepparton & District as a Social Cohesion Project Coordinator.

Mellisa is the Founder of Know Your Roots Inc  and is also the Co-Founder of the Point of Difference Studio located on Yorta Yorta and Bangarang Country in the town of Mooroopna, Victoria.

Mellisa is passionate and active in helping youth in the Pacific Island community reconnect with their cultures, in order to better live, respect and embrace their new home and community, through her Know Your Roots program, developed and running in schools since 2014.  Her passion of culture and supporting youth extends beyond her Pasifika community and over the years has worked with a range of young people and their families from all communities.

Mellisa was part of re-establishing the Shepparton Rugby Union Club in 2013 and has been part of the Shepparton Rugby Union Club as a Former President, Secretary and currently as a Club Facilitator, Public Relations & Media and Communications Officer.

Mellisa attended Brigham Young University – Hawaii and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Intercultural Communication Studies, holds a Diploma of Community Services as well as a Graduate Certificate in Management and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). She is also a graduate of the Fairley Leadership Program – Class of 2017.

She is forever grateful to Mooroopna Secondary College for challenges as it has given her the drive she needed to go abroad and learn.  She attributes her work ethics to her parents and the Orchards of Varapodio in Ardmona and Kaso’s in Coomboona that taught her that dust and sweat provides abundance if you put in honest time and give it your all. When she is not busy with work and Community, she smoothers her son and husband with all the baking and love they can manage and practices her faith in order to keep her grounded.

Merve Ozbay

Merve Ozbay

Board Director

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I’m Merve Ozbay and I am currently 19 years old. I was born and raised in Shepparton Australia but my Ethnicity is Turkish which im from Denizli Gurpinar.

I graduated from Shepparton High School in 2019 as a VCE students and employed at Rebel Sports Shepparton.

Currently studying Bachelors of Nursing at LaTrobe University and have been volunteering at the Point of Difference Studio for over 12 months.

I am passionate about being involved within the community and supporting the youth and continue to look forward to working with strong women of colour in this space to grow my skills and confidence to meet my dreams.

Leativa Tuaopepe

Leativa Tuaopepe

Board Director

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Born and raised on the beautiful island of Samoa in the South Pacific, Leativa made Australia home with her growing family in 2010.

She is first and foremost a dedicated mother to her four strong warrior daughters and wife to her hardworking husband Malo.

Leativa comes to our board as an cultural expert in the Samoan culture as well as a qualified Early Childhood Educator and supports our board and space in ensuring that the safety of our young people.

She loves mentoring and teaching the Samoan culture to anyone who would like to learn and looks forward to working with everyone in building harmony where she lives.

Aby Simaika

Aby Simaika

Board Director

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Gaga Abycaile Simaika, more commonly known as Aby, is a Samoan-born, Australian raised, proud woman of the Pasifika.

She is passionate about serving the community that birthed her, and paying homage to her ancestors that came before her. Aby has worked in an array of different sectors ranging from farm work alongside her father, a proud orchardist. She has also worked as a student Pasifika mentor for young Maori and Pasifika students as part of the PATHE program within the Western Sydney University where she currently attends and is completing her Bachelor of Social Science with a Major in Child and Community, and a sub-major in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Whilst completing her degree, Aby has been fortunate enough to have been able to have worked in an array of spaces that have built her capacity to work in the space that she is the most passionate about; helping our young Maori and Pasifika exceed in all aspects of their life and to live their lives without the fear of violence.

Aby has worked with the University of Melbourne’s Department of Rural Health as a Co-Researcher, worked for ermha365 as a support person for people’s with complex mental health needs and is now currently working at the Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District as a Family Violence Prevention project officer.

In all these roles Aby attributes her success to her community who have supported her, but most of all her parents who instilled in her the values of a ‘Teine Samoa’ and of her faith, that have kept her grounded and have allowed for her to exceed in this space.

Point of Difference Studio

family is made up of active volunteers from KYR Inc Board right down into our communities. With the same passions as our Board, the POD Studio team serve our community when they need us – not the other way around; that’s our point of difference!

Betul Tuna

Betul Tuna

Co-Founder | Executive Officer

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Betul Tuna is currently a Senior Project Officer at the Ethnic Council of Shepparton & District working in the space of Family Violence Prevention. Betul is one of the co-founders of the Point of Difference Studio and also works with Berry St as a Youth Development Worker.

Betul is the youngest child of Mazhar and Mukerrem Tuna who migrated to Australia in 1970. Betul is 1st generation Turkish Muslim Australian citizen born, raised and currently living on Yorta Yorta and Bangerang Country.

Betul has been exposed to grassroots work since birth as her father was the association leader of the Goulburn Valley Turkish Islamic Cultural Centre for over 20 years and Betul took her first steps on the foundation of the Mosque built by the Turkish community in 1985.

Being born and raised on Yorta Yorta and Bangerang Country Betul is the proud daughter of her hardworking parents and grew up exposed to the hardworking migrants on farms and labour industries. Raised in a diverse neighbourhood with children from first nations and other ethnicities, always listening to the stories of her elders and Indigenous elders, opened her world to social injustice, socio-economic inequality, division and unity. Listening to her uncles and aunties of all backgrounds identifying issues and finding solutions with their own resources and initiatives has been the foundation of Betul’s passion to change systems.

After finishing high school Betul began her journey into exploring her cultural identity and returned to Turkey for 3 years. Travelling through Turkey and spending extensive time in Eastern Turkey, Betul was able to work with Kurdish women experiencing social injustice which eventually led Betul to her passion for Gender equality and ending gender-based violence.

Upon returning to Australia Betul started her own family and is now the proud mother of 3 teenagers. With the support of her family and community Betul was able to return to education, obtain a diploma of Community Services, and begin her role at the Ethnic Council of Shepparton in 2016. Over the years Betul has worked in various projects and initiatives that tackle gender-based violence in regional Victoria.

In 2017, Betul participated in Fairley Leadership Program which gave her the opportunity to understand systems from a different perspective and currently is enrolled in a double degree with La Trobe University.

Maricar De Juan

Maricar De Juan

Executive Assistant

Charlene Mauigoa

Charlene Mauigoa

Finance Support

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Charlene is one of our young people that is passionate about giving back to community. 

Charlene’s roots are founded on the island of Samoa. A young woman who has big future plans ahead, she brings to the team her ‘can do’ attitude, while continuing to learn in the space of administration and finance.

Tammy-Lee Atkinson

Tammy-Lee Atkinson

Indigenous Project Coordinator

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Tammy-Lee Atkinson is a Yorta-Yorta artist. She is a proud Aboriginal woman who loves to learn and share her personal and familial stories about her culture. Being able to express her own story through painting, drawing and photography and she attaches strong symbolic meaning to image that represent her traditional culture in contemporary art contexts.  

Tammy-Lee completed her Bachelor of Visual Art at IKE at Deakin University in 2016.

Since 2014, Tammy-Lee has worked at a tutor in Aboriginal art and culture at Kaiela Arts and has presented works in groups show in  

Shepparton, Melbourne and also at Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) Tammy-Lee latest project was to design the Melbourne Vixen Netball Dress and now she is currently Designing the Shepparton Bulls Rugby Team jersey.  

Gwen Fepuleai

Gwen Fepuleai

Events Coordinator

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Gwen is a full-time mother to six beautiful babies. Joining our team as Events Coordinator, Gwen comes with much needed networking skills and events organisation passion that makes planning and implementing events a breeze. 

Gwen was born and raised in New Zealand and her roots are deep in the beautiful island of Niue.

Jon YungKily

Jon YungKily

Media & Communications Support

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Ofeira Satele

Ofeira Satele

Pasifika Program Coordinator

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Born in Sydney, Australia Oferia has moved back and forth from New Zealand to Australia where her family finally settled down in the Greater Shepparton region in 2011.

Ofeira’s roots are deep in the villages of Falease’ela and Tafagamanu, Lefaga and has a passion in her Samoan heritage. She is one of the first youth to participate in the Know Your Roots Program when it was established in 2016.

She is a gradutate of Shepparton Christian College and has for the last five years been a dedicated Volunteer Youth Coordinator in the Know Your Roots Program & Pasifika Festival.

She has many dreams a head of her and is currently completely her Diploma in Community Services, while working full-time for Ethnic Council of Shepparton & District.

In her spare time she is forever mentoring young people and getting them from A to Z when they require.

Benjamin Pele

Benjamin Pele

Pasifika Program Support