How we began


OUr story…

The idea for Tūmanako began in January 2017. I’m Marcelle, Tūmanako Wellness Centre’s founder and project lead. Let me take a little of your time to fill you in on how it all started…

I’d returned to New Zealand from Sydney to help care for my terminally ill mother and advocate for my brother, who was then in a psychiatric facility in Christchurch. And in my first month back in Christchurch, Canterbury’s mental health crisis seemed to be everywhere, always in the news, often front-page, hotly discussing facilities, a system and services that were failing an ever-increasing number of people that needed it most. And not just from the patients’ perspective.

In my first 4 months in Christchurch my brother (diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic for many years) had been psychotic, lost and missing for days from hospital, he’d badly self-harmed, been left alone and distressed, and had fallen through the gaps in a system that was failing him. My 13year old daughter, new to Christchurch, had witnessed, via snapchat, a school friend self-harm and attempt to take her life. We moved our daughter to another school. One month later we were at the funeral of a new school friend of hers, this 13year old girl had succeeded in taking her own life.

The facilities I witnessed, while advocating for my brother’s care, were in dire need of being updated and replaced. Often dark, dingey and in disrepair – they are truly depressing places. And I couldn’t help but notice that the design of the out-moded facilities weren’t helping the staff either. But it wasn’t just the condition of the facilities that I found worrying, there was clearly a massive need for services that wasn’t being met. There were sizeable gaps in communication between service providers, and in my experience clinicians weren't actively listening to family members, patients or carers and the standard of care was poor. I was more than saddened by this state of affairs, so I took my outrage to John Campbell and Checkpoint in an effort to spread the word and effect a change.

As a filmmaker, creative director and designer used to creating solutions, along with producing and telling stories, I wanted to use my skills and knowledge to see if I could help in some way.

I had experience in health in Sydney. For over 5 years I’d worked closely with the executive team to build an innovative new cancer hospital; the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, a patient-centred cancer hospital housed in a truly beautiful, architecturally designed facility, that sought to combine a traditional clinical model with a holistic approach and complementary services for better patient outcomes. Purpose-designed by listening to actual patients and carers about their needs. I realised I could bring my experience and invaluable connections from this centre with me into the Tūmanako Wellness Centre project.

So, I sat down in my parents’ granny flat, where I was staying in Halswell, and I did some research.

I found out about Green Care in Nordic countries, studies in evidence-based design, healing architecture, sustainable, eco-friendly building, low carbon footprint environments, cool tech, holistic design, world’s best practice mental health care, award-winning and innovative mental health facilities like Slagelse in Zealand, Denmark.

I collected stats on mental health in NZ. Stats on mental health in Christchurch. And I realised that mental health issues are just so common, and touch us all.

Armed with this I designed a plan of what a holistic, nurturing, beautiful space for mentally unwell people might look like. I wanted it to be unlike a psych ward or hospital. It had to be; like a resort, peaceful, with nature inside and out. Restful and beautiful, to be inspiring for patients and staff – because happy staff, who are themselves nurtured, will give better care. And it had to be useful - with a garden to grow healthy, nourishing food for the patients – that they could have a hand in growing as well, if they wanted. Off-grid and tech savvy so it would be cheap to maintain.

I put all of this early research into a book to explain the concept, and set about trying to muster a team of people that could help me make this idea a reality.

I’m a big believer in the power of people joining forces to make great stuff happen – just look at any film set, the best things happen with a dedicated team effort.

So, book in hand, I re-connected with a friend I’d known when he was in a punk band I used to watch as a 16year old teen. He’d been key in establishing the restart mall. Former CCC councillor Paul Lonsdale led me to community-led development company Ohu. They came on board to help with legal and financial structures and advice on what would be needed to get this project up and running. Greer, Ohu’s Urban strategist and financial advisor Claire joined in. I’ve since signed a Memorandum of understanding with Ohu and we’re now partners in the Tūmanako Wellness Centre. Greer is now the Development Manager and we are working tirelessly, hand in hand, to make this happen.

Soon after Ohu, my friend Annie came on board – she’s a communications strategist specialising in health who has rolled out multi-million-dollar health initiatives nationally. It was Annie & partner John (fluent Te Reo speaker and Headmaster) that named Tūmanako. It’s the Māori word for Hope. Annie has been one of the experts that have helped us fashion our business plan.

I called Tim, a friend and colleague from Sydney, to ask if he’d be interested in our cause. Tim is the former CEO of innovative cancer hospital The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, former CFO of The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and is now CEO and founder of Heart GP in Sydney. Without reservation Tim joined team Tūmanako pretty much instantly (he knows a great idea). Tim is an expert advisor in health start-ups, innovative new hospitals, health finance and operating models, not-for-profits and has great advice with insider intel on getting a multi-million-dollar health facility up and running.

I emailed a friend in Melbourne who is a very clever architect; asking if he knew of anyone who would be prepared to work pro bono on a great initiative. He was immediately receptive and said he’d contact the New Zealand branch of Unispace. Now we have local Christchurch architect Daniel drafting early stage conceptual design work on the facility.

My sister, Dr Gabrielle Jenkin, Deputy Director of the Suicide and Mental Health Research Group joined us as an expert adviser. As a research Doctor in mental health she is at the top of her field, and as serendipity would have it, is not only researching Youth Suicide in New Zealand, but also Psychiatric Facility design world-wide. What better knowledge to be able to access?

A girlfriend tagged me in a Facebook post to a film that Braveheart had put out featuring Dr Julia Rucklidge, a Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Canterbury, NZ. Dr Rucklidge gives compelling evidence for the critical role of nutrition in mental health and explains why this knowledge will revolutionize the way our society treats ‘mental illness in a TED x talk we should all see.

For more than a decade, Dr. Rucklidge has played a key role in forefront nutrition-mental health research, including extensive research using micronutrients.

So, I just had to meet her. Her research was so aligned with what we wanted to do. I emailed Dr Rucklidge, sending her a link to Tūmanako Wellness Centre’s Story of Origin that we’d posted on Facebook. She got back to me almost immediately and we met at her lab at Canterbury University. I explained what we wanted to do re Tūmanako and she was very interested.

She invited me to a Mental Health in Crisis seminar with several international and renown key speakers. It was an incredible and important insight into what some of the best and most rigorous minds in the world are now thinking regarding Mental Health treatments.

Soon after I asked if Julia would be an advisor for Tūmanako and luckily for us, she said yes.

Brilliant lawyer and partner at Lane Neave, Claire Evans has joined us as well, and she has expertly crafted our Memorandum of Understanding and our Charitable Trust Deed along with valuable research into Charitable bonds along with ways in which we can put a robust and viable legal framework around this entity.

PWC have also jumped onto the Tūmanako train. Richard McGill and Nathan Jones, both partners at PWC, have been incredibly helpful and they are doing a lot of early work pro bono. They are passionate about this project and see it as:

“… a very exciting project and something that Canterbury is calling out for.”

“PwC is very excited to have an opportunity to work with you in bringing this to life! We would be delighted to help you and Canterbury rebuild the city with a world class facility.”

We've come a long way, from an idea to a team of dedicated professionals. 

We're about to launch our seed-funding campaign via Pledgeme and are moving forward, determined to raise Tūmanako! 

So come and join us!

Let's make a change together :)


Marcelle Lunam

Founder & Project Lead | Tūmanako Wellness Centre | Director | Creative Director | Designer