Soa Palelei is a retired professional athlete turned mental health ambassador, motivational speaker, and published author.
Despite being a 3x World Champion (IKBF, KOz Entertainment, and AFC World Champion) in one of the most physically and mentally-demanding sports in the modern age – The Ultimate Fight Championship (UFC), he battled with his own mental health issues brought about by his career and his background of being physically abused throughout his entire childhood.
All of his experiences have led to the realization of his passion to help raise mental health awareness to break the stigma around it. Through Strong Minds, Strong Mines and his own personal ventures, Soa has devoted most of his time and resources in helping FIFO/DIDO workers, schools, governments, and people from all walks of life understand and be more comfortable with talking about internal challenges and struggles that can be related to mental and physical health problems.
Strong Minds, Strong Mines is an advocacy-driven organisation that combine research and real-world experiences along with a personal and relatable approach in implementing wellness programs that address the mental and physical health problems that can affect people working in remote environments.
Despite being a small organisation with a few employees located in Perth, the group has helped several mining sites around the country by giving motivational talks and by implementing wellness programs that highlight awareness and understanding within the workplace to promote prevention and early intervention.
With the ongoing trend of FIFO/DIDO employments and the associated mental health related casualties in the country, the organization has made it their mission to eradicate the stigma and discrimination against mental health not just in the workplace but also in the everyday lives of the people in this industry.
Apart from being the main wellness ambassador of Strong Minds, Strong Mines, Soa Palelei has made it his personal mission to build better communities that thrive in good mental and physical health through his personal ventures.
Aside from giving talks through the company’s programs, he is also connected to several WA local schools and government organisations where he often does outreach programs and do partnerships with. Having been physically abused as a young child, Soa also recognized the importance of addressing mental health issues as early as possible to promote prevention and early intervention.
He has delivered mental health presentations bearing his soul and sharing his darkest moments with people from all walks of life, taking them on a journey through his life’s highs and lows, and providing them with options and support to realise that they don’t have to go through these tough experiences alone. After having done over 250 talks in schools around Australia and several more in the mining industries through the different ventures he has under his belt, Soa still challenges himself in finding more ways to support and live for his cause.
He has also published a book called, “Face Your Fears” back in 2016 wherein he tackled his personal redeeming story from being a once-abused and homeless kid to becoming a champion in the ring and in life. The book has reached a Top 5 status in the Top 10 Sports Literature category this year. The book also became the main inspiration for his personal project called, “Face Your Fears” that connects him to several organisations as a keynote motivational speaker for mental and physical wellbeing.
Soa is also an active supporter of several other causes including, but not limited to, Telethon where he has participated by completing a grueling 24-hour non-stop bike ride to support their causes. He has also granted two wishes as a Make A Wish Ambassador. He is also a proud ambassador of WA White Ribbon and Violence Against Women where he has used every opportunity possible to help develop people into the best versions of themselves. To this day, Soa continues to be on the lookout for more ventures and groups he can support to further his passion in making communities mentally and physically healthy.
In the sea of different organisations and programs that also give focus on mental and physical health being launched here and there, Soa’s own experiences and passion for his mission has given him and his different ventures a rare humanistic approach which is difficult to find these days.
Nominated by Kim Trengove on behalf of Nidia Rodrigues