Melenani Wai‘alae is a Kanaka survivor of domestic violence and single mother of two girls. She presently works as a Family Law Attorney at Greg Ryan & Associates, where she represents clients in family law matters that include paternity, divorce, guardianship, adoption, and restraining orders. Melenani uses her knowledge and experience with intimate partner violence to assist survivors in navigating family law matters.
She attended the University of Hawai‘i and received her B.A. and M.A. in Hawaiian Studies with a focus in Nation Building and Hawaiian History. She attended the William S. Richardson School of Law where she also earned a Native Hawaiian Law Certificate and is versed in legal issues that are unique to Kānaka. Melenani is presently a Ph.D. Student in Political Science with a focus in Public Policy and Indigenous Politics. Her dissertation research is on utilizing pu‘uhonua to address social inequity amongst Kānaka, to include issues of family violence and systematic change.
Melenani previously served as a Staff Attorney at Domestic Violence Action Center, where she provided comprehensive family law services to survivors of domestic violence. She also served on DVAC’s first Survivor Advocacy Team and taught DVAC’s Ho‘oikaika ‘Ohana classes at the Women’s Community Correctional Center where she assisted incarcerated women with healing and rebuilding family ties after experiencing intimate partner violence.
Melenani is an advocate for addressing family matters through individual and community healing, mediation, and alternative dispute resolution. As a law student, she served as a Hoenig Fellow for Alternative Dispute Resolution with Judge R. Mark Browning. She is currently pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Conflict Resolution at Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution at the University of Hawai‘i. She recognizes the effects of poverty, social inequity, and financial abuse as they relate to intimate partner violence and health.
Melenani serves as a Board Member and Vice Chairperson to Ke Ola Mamo (KOM) Native Hawaiian Healthcare Systems and is on KOM’s Maternal Child Health Committee and Domestic Violence Committee. She is an advocate for affordable housing and served as a Housing Policy Advisor to the Hawai‘i State Commission on the Status of Women and on the Section 8 Housing Advisory Board. She also served two terms as an AmeriCorps volunteer with Hawaiian Community Assets working to address access to homeownership, income building capacity, and housing education for Kānaka.
Melenani combines the above professional and personal experiences as a young Kānaka mother and survivor of domestic violence to initiate steps towards healing our ‘ohana and lāhui.