2019 Be. Leaders

Adele Thomas

Profile image of Adele Thomas I’m a born and bred Aucklander, a mother and a grandmother. I’d describe myself as kind, adventurous and loyal. I like to spend my time with family and friends, usually over good food, good wine and good music. I love getting out on the water for a kayak, a sail, or to go fishing. Being on or near the sea is my happy place.

I’m fortunate to work for an organization that cares about equity and feel privileged to be in a position where I am able to support those values and help to make a difference in people’s lives.

My biggest take away from the Be. Leadership programme is courage. I have learned so much, not only from the programme itself, but from my fellow participants who are courageous every day and who I am so proud to be able to call my friends.

Angela Desmarais

Profile image of Angela Desmarais I am creative problem solver and believe we all have something to learn from each other. In my spare time I enjoy gardening and grow different vegetables than my neighbours so that we can share our crops.

I grew up in Auckland but travelled extensively, which helped to shape the way I view the world. On my return to New Zealand, I did a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics and was awarded a scholarship for postgraduate study. My current research is looking at gender stereotyping in online discourse.

I am passionate about advocating for access for all, particularly in public spaces. I also work remotely as a user experience researcher, where I push for improved accessibility in online spaces. This career change came about after I had the opportunity to work with the Blind Foundation on an Amazon Alexa usability study, looking at the way their members accessed information through accessible technology.

Empathy and creativity are at the core of my being and are the driving force behind my leadership style. My time with Be. Leadership has taught me the positive impact that one person can make by stepping out of their comfort zone and just going for it.

Arash Tayebi

Profile image of Arash Tayebi I am a problem solver who uses an engineer’s logical approach mixed with a little bit of creativity and wit to answer questions. I like challenges and face them with open arms and an open mind. I am not bad at performing stand-up comedy, so I can make you laugh!

I am an entrepreneur and spend most of my time in my start-up, where we use a design approach to improve accessibility for the Deaf using hyper-realistic signing avatars. I have dyslexia and Meniere’s disease, which led to unilateral hearing loss. Nevertheless, I am very energetic! I got my PhD last year, am directing my start-up full time, and am learning sign language.

The Be. Leadership Programme helped me to recognise my powers better and find better ways of contributing to society. This programme taught me how to help, inspire and challenge others to follow their dreams, and contribute to the betterment of the society to my fullest potential. I would like this world to be a place with no discrimination and an inclusive and accessible place for everyone. Every day I wake up with this image in my mind and try to put one step forward towards this goal.

Blanche Davidson

Profile image of Blanche DavidsonMy life experiences help me to choose values, morals and beliefs that continually guide me into developing the best version of myself. I have been on this journey called life for 43 years and it hasn’t been a walk in the park, but rather a trek in the bush wearing a Versace dress, Gucci heels and carrying a tiny Louis Vuitton handbag. The scenery wasn’t right and I’ve been dressed in clothing that doesn’t suit the occasion. From being exposed to situations and events that I found awkward or difficult, I’ve been able to clearly define more enjoyable life preferences.

The Be. Leadership Programme has created a space to explore new horizons of thought, and to challenge my current mindset and belief systems. I was taught to believe that the world is black and white – there was not a place for grey to exist. I have come to understand that there is a multitude of creativity and imagination that is born in grey and the Be. Leadership Programme is the nurturing soil to help give life to grey.

My greatest accomplishments is having the wonderful opportunity to be a mother of four of the most amazingly beautifully gifted children and an extremely lucky wife to the most dedicated and devoted man on the planet. My family breathe life into me every single day and they inspire me to walk my path with pride.

Ingrid Jones

Profile image of Ingrid Jones Kia ora tā tou

Ko Pirongia te maunga

Ko Waikato te awa

Nō Kirikiriroa ahau

Ko Jones tōku whānau

Ko Ingrid tōku ingoa

I am someone who passionately believes that the world can be a different and a better place than it is today, and I get a great sense of fulfilment out of doing work which realises this goal. I am particularly passionate about disability rights, addressing climate change and inequality.

In March 2019 I finished my PhD on disability rights, and I moved from Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) to Palmerston North to start working with the Disability System Transformation Prototype. I have two roles with two disabled person’s organisations, which are focused on growing disability leadership and ensuring a strong disabled person’s voice in Aotearoa New Zealand.

I also believe in the importance of work-life balance. In my spare time I enjoy biking, tramping, snowboarding, surfing, playing my piano accordion, playing board games, reading, playing with my cat, going to the theatre and generally taking up all the opportunities life has to offer.

Ite Lemalu

Profile image of Ite Lemalu I am a New Zealand-born Samoan and have lived in Auckland all of my life. As the youngest of four siblings, I grew up playing the piano by ear from the age of three. Music was very central in our family as well as our culture and church, and it was also my livelihood for over ten years.

I am the Media Relations Manager for Fale Dojo, an international pro-wrestling training school. I am also a pianist for my church in Henderson, West Auckland. I am very passionate about using my skills in music and writing to serve my community. I’ve learned to engage with audiences as a musician.

However, since joining Be. Leadership, the greatest insight that I’ve gained is that leadership requires engaging with people in an open conversation. Be. Leadership has helped me to further develop my communication skills. I am absolutely enjoying my experience with Be. Leadership and being part of a valuable team that is passionate about instilling change in the world is inclusive to everyone’s needs.

Jasmin Taylor

Profile image of Jasmin Taylor I grew up in Central Otago and moved to Dunedin 15 years ago to take up a job in the Bindery at Dunedin Public Libraries. I’m Deaf. During the past few years I’ve been learning more New Zealand Sign Language and getting involved in the local Deaf community.

I’m proud of plucking up the courage to apply for the Be. Leadership programme. I wanted to do it because I’m President of Otago Deaf Society and I’m on other committees, including the Otago Association for Deaf Children and Disability Information Service, and want to be more effective in these roles.

I’m passionate about advocating for access and encouraging diversity of representation in our communities, at local, regional and national levels.

When I’m not fixing books or advocating, I enjoy keeping up with my family (loving being an Aunty), am keen on reading and I’ve recently earned my blue belt in karate.

Jasmine Gracie

Profile image of Jasmine Gracie I am a strong person and I love to laugh. I’m fluent in NZSL, I’m a mother, and a lobbyist.

Growing up I found it difficult not being heard or listened to, and I encountered barriers to my participation, which was a struggle. I’ve found a good counsellor and through this process, I have been able to really reflect on myself and what I value.

I work for CCS Disability Action. Through my own experiences I have been able to learn how to support others in the Deaf community and improve access for them to make their lives better. Because of my vision for improving access for my community, one of my colleagues suggested I apply for the programme.

Be. Leadership has taught me about diversity and different perspectives. It has encouraged me to look at my own behaviour and thinking, and challenged me to think about how I communicate my own views. It has made me realise that you need to look below the surface and understand people’s depth – their challenges and life experience. It has made me realise that it doesn’t matter what the differences between you are, you still need to work collaboratively.

In the future I would like to study history, sociology and counselling and become an advocate for my community’s access and their needs. One day I would like to write a book.

Josh Nathan

Profile image of Josh NathanI can easily define myself as a humorous individual – kind of like a cartoon character of sorts. I also have a vast interest in music and the music industry. I can even lay claim to a being an audio engineer boasting a Bachelor’s degree, so I guess that hobby came in handy!

Before embarking on my own leadership journey, the concept of leadership was foreign to me. Participating on the programme challenges my thinking in ways that are interesting and compelling. I am currently learning that my own style of leadership tends to fluctuate between an outgoing, front facing extrovert to an introvert who likes to lead from the back and let others step forward.

I am quickly learning that as I discover more about myself, my values and aspirations also change. However, there is still much to learn and you can never learn too much!

Karen Jack

Profile image of Karen Jack Fascinated by what makes people tick and how we relate to each other, I’m an avid people watcher… and Netflix binger. Any time I can I’ll jump in a hammock, but I’m also drawn to vibrancy and action. When given the choice I’ll choose rustic and pre-loved to pristine, and grey over black and white.

One question has stuck in my mind since I was a child, “why should I have when others have not?” Answering this has guided my career, starting as an Occupational Therapist and journeying to where I work today, at an organisation dedicated to stopping the cycle of poverty and disability in the world’s poorest nations.

I believe in equal access for all, to education, healthcare and livelihood opportunities – improving accessibility is essential to making this a reality. This year I’m learning how to contribute to the change and not sit around hoping someone else will do it.

Lachlan Mackay

Profile image of Lachlan MackayI am a young professional advocate and mentor for people with disabilities who hails from the North Island.

I have worked in the NGO sector since the age of 14 for various charities and have spent the past decade working in various roles within the disability sector including with the Ministry of Health’s Disability Support Services, the Wellington City Council's Accessibility Advisory Group and most recently with Emerge Supported Employment Trust and Community Connections.

I have a burning passion for human rights, social justice and peace. I fervently work with and for people with impairments because of my personal experiences with Asperger’s Syndrome, anxiety and CFS.

My dream for an enabling future is to see people with impairments have a voice, be respected, treated equally, feel like they are contributing to society and celebrated by others for their qualities and abilities.

Maurice Flynn

Profile image of Maurice Flynn I live in the great Waikato city of Hamilton. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations back in 2016 and I now work in the disability sector. I hold roles that promote disability leadership and access.

I have a passion for raising awareness of the barriers that inadequately built environments create. I’m also interested in how the attitudes from a lack of understanding of the need for access can affect a community’s potential for growth. I hope to see the influence of universal design grow to create a more inclusive world for everyone to participate in, fully and equally.

I am lucky to be able to voice this from my own lived experience. I’m grateful to be able to share a space for collaborating with people that have similar journeys with disability. Being a part of Be. Leadership 2019 has helped grow the strength of my voice. I will be using this experience to support others to find their strong voice too.

Ollie Goulden

Profile image of Ollie Goulden What is the most important thing in the world? It is people! I’m passionate about empowering people to reach their full potential. My goal in life is to remove the barriers that prevent people, especially those with disabilities, from doing so.

I currently live in Wellington, but I spent my early years in Christchurch. I describe myself as an adventurer, beer snob, cat lover and more. I divide my time between working, hanging out with friends and relaxing at home with my cat. I work at my local Anglican church and engage in lots of community activities.

Living with Spina Bifida has given me more than my fair share of challenges. It has also given me several unique opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Be Leadership has taught me the real value of community that to make change we have to unite to challenge the status quo. It has cemented the importance of valuing each person for who they are and the unique contribution they can offer.

I have learned practical skills and gained the confidence to make change in my community and in the wider world by speaking truth to power in order to make New Zealand a more inclusive place.

Rawa Karetai

Profile image of Rawa KaretaiKia Ora e Te Whānau

Ko Pukekura tōku mauka

Ko Tamatea te marae

Nō Ōtākou Ahau

Ko Kāti Māmoe, Kāi Tahu, Waitaha ōku iwi

Ko Rāwā Karetai tōku ikoa

I have an extensive background in public relations, change management, project management, strategy and governance.

Throughout my career, I have worked in a diverse range of industries including academia, public sector, community sector and private health sector. I have been on governance boards or supporting governance boards for the majority of my career.

I exclusively focus on the strategic support, advice and leadership associated with Te Taumata and the General Partner Limited Board at Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu.

I am also on the world board of ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) as the Bisexual Steering Committee Chairperson and on the ILGA Oceania Board as a New Zealand Representative.

I am also involved in other organisations from the LGBTI community, the disability community, justice sector, mental health and wellbeing organisations and the Māori community.

No rei ra

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa

Sarvnaz Taherian

Profile image of Sarvnas Taherian

I’m a research psychologist, trying to make sure that the things we design are human centric and meaningful. Outside of work I try to motivate non-techie people to step into the tech world, as they are just as valuable in the tech industry. Tech is just a tool for us to live and be better, the real value is in understanding human and environmental needs — both areas require you to be able to think outside the box and dream big.

I’m passionate about using tech to create equal opportunities for people. For the past seven years that focus has been on enabling people with severe physical disabilities to access communication through computers. I hope that the work that I do in my lifetime will help contribute to a society where no one has to worry about their basic needs and can flourish.

So far, the Be.Leadership programme has shown me the magic of working with a truly diverse group of people. It is quite wonderful to see the impact of addressing everyone’s access needs and enabling people to be who they truly are.

Susan Rapley

Profile image of Susan Rapley I wear many different hats in my work which currently looks like a DIY research and teaching fellowship across varied disciplines. This of course is the most positive way to spin participation in work via the “gig” economy. The changing nature of work in the 21st Century (especially for people where access to work may be complex) is one of the many leadership challenges facing Aotearoa currently that has piqued my interest.

My unique contribution across communities is to invite people to think about different ways – of doing, thinking, perceiving and communicating.

Through Be. Leadership 2019, I’ve learned to embrace the serendipity of ideas and the creation of hope through small actions. While my journey has not always been easy, I’m proud to be doing something at this stage that my 8-year-old-self would be stoked with.