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Maretha Smit, Diversity Works New Zealand Chief Executive

Maretha Smit

 Chief Executive

Email Maretha

+64 9 580 4442

Maretha has held a number of senior leadership roles in her native South Africa and New Zealand, including that of Chief Executive of a large member organisation where she effected significant transformational change across an entire sector.

She has a strong background and appreciation of the challenges in diversity and inclusion, with experience in senior leadership roles in the disability sector, as well as delivering programmes to improve social cohesion through performing arts, education and training. She is passionate about her life purpose to create a more sustainable and equitable society through national conversations and creative initiatives.

Maretha has a degree in Psychology from the University of Stellenbosch, a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is a Chartered Director of the Institute of Directors (South Africa). She is a Trustee and Chair of the Finance Committee of Belong Aotearoa, a specialist settlement agency that focuses on addressing the barriers to successful integration of newcomers in New Zealand.

Sarah Macdonald

Sarah Macdonald

Head of Capability

Email Sarah

+64 9 580 4446

Sarah is a passionate advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging work in all aspects of our communities and has more than two decades of experience working and studying in related fields. 

In recent times, she has been working at a grassroots level, walking alongside migrants and forcibly displaced people in Aotearoa. This work has focused on supporting those from the wider community to better understand the complexities of arriving in Aotearoa with varied lived experiences and finding ways to build connections.  

Sarah is a qualified Intercultural Competency and Communication Trainer and she also has degrees in International/Global Studies and Conflict Resolution as well as a Masters of Human Rights (hons).  

Sarah always takes a creative and multi-dimensional approach to support this mahi. She is dyslexic thinker who, as an adult has begun to find her superpower in finding ways to communicate the big issues. Her end goal is to inspire bravery and curiosity so that we can have the deeper, more uncomfortable conversations that lead to change.  

She also passionate about what it means to be Tangata Tiriti and has been on this journey since arriving back in Aotearoa after many years away.   

The willingness to show up changes us, it makes us a little braver each time – Brené Brown 

Nata Tolooei

Dr. Nata Tolooei

Learning Design and Development Manager

Email Nata

+64 9 580 4448

With a human-centric design background, and previous experience in planning and conducting qualitative and quantitative research, Nata wants to use her skillset to contribute to designing inclusive workplaces that are welcoming for diverse people.

Nata is passionate about translating people’s unmet needs into meaningful experiences and in particular those who likely experience exclusion. As part of her interest in the area of user experience and inclusive design, through her PhD research, she has explored how inclusion and equity can create meaningful experiences for marginalised people and how product design can empower those experiences.

Nata has worked in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion for several years. Before doing her PhD at AUT, she worked on inclusive design projects to develop products and services and taught in this field at Tehran University in Iran.

BA, MA, Ph.D.

 

Dejealous Palota-Kopa

Dejealous Palota-Kopa

Graduate Consultant

Email Dejealous

+64 9 302 3840

Dejealous was born and raised in Tamaki Makaurau and is a proud first-generation NZ Samoan. A Samoan proverb close to her heart is “O le ala I le pule, o le tautua” which in essence means “leadership through service” and this has guided her throughout her journey in life.

She is a graduate of the University of Auckland where she obtained a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts majoring in Pacific Studies. Subsequently, she was admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand. She is excited to apply this knowledge in the DEI space.

Passionate about elevating Pacific voices in Aotearoa, Dejealous is currently a Youth Representative for the Pacific Advisory Group at Auckland Museum and in her spare time enjoys Pacific dance and volunteering for organisations close to her heart such as Recreate NZ and Hospice.

Aamenah Sohaib

Aamenah Sohaib

Member Engagement Lead

Email Aamenah

+64 9 869 7902

From a family of seven, Aamenah was born and raised in Mount Roskill to parents of Pakistani and Fijian-Indian descent. Growing up in a culturally diverse environment, she developed a profound appreciation for global events and a deep-rooted love for history. This early exposure ignited her passion for human rights and inclusivity.

Aamenah embarked on her professional journey with Diversity Works New Zealand following the successful completion of her university studies in conflict resolution and human rights at AUT. Armed with a strong background working alongside people with diverse experiences, Aamenah aspires to leverage her expertise in inclusion, equity, and mediation in her role as Member Engagement Lead.

Beyond her professional pursuits, Aamenah is an avid reader, particularly drawn to historical literature and documentaries. She finds solace in long walks and beautiful sunsets and thrives on engaging with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Her ultimate aspiration is to explore the far reaches of the globe, fostering meaningful connections along the way.

Lupepe Saofai

Lupepe Saofai

Member Engagement Lead

Email Lupepe

+64 9 302 3841

Born and raised in Samoa, Lupepe comes from a family of five children and loving, hardworking parents with strong values of working to help and uplift each other - no one gets left behind. Her upbringing helped develop her passion for helping people. 

She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Education from the University of Canterbury. With experience working in customer service and at an internship in Auckland, Lupepe is adaptable and driven to promote diversity within workplaces as the right thing to do.

Lupepe enjoys spending time with family and friends. She is a proud Samoan Christian girl ready to make her own mark in making Aotearoa a more inclusive place.

Lyka Raagas

Lyka Raagas

Member Engagement Lead

Email Lyka

+64 9 302 3849

Lyka joined Diversity Works New Zealand as a Member Success Coordinator in 2022 and has stepped up to the role of Member Engagement Lead. Prior to DWNZ, she spent five years working within the education and migration sector which has given her the motivation to pursue a career in the diversity, equity and inclusion space. She also worked in the technology and financial sectors including nine years working within a Fortune 500 company.

She has a bachelor’s degree in communication from the Philippines and a Postgraduate Diploma in Management (Business) from Toi - Ohomai Institute of Technology in Rotorua. She migrated from the Philippines to Aotearoa New Zealand with her family in 2016 and has since made New Zealand their home.

With her background in business support and coordination, she has taken this new challenge to support the DWNZ team to empower organisations in navigating through their DEI journey.

Sheryl Blythen

Sheryl Blythen

Head of Marketing and Communications

+64 9 580 4447

+021 674 443

Email Sheryl

Sheryl has been working in the communications industry for more than 25 years, managing print and digital publications and helping New Zealand organisations connect with their communities and disseminate key messages.

At Diversity Works New Zealand, her role is to tell the stories of forward-thinking local companies that are maximising the benefits of a diverse workforce and creating an inclusive workplace culture. Sheryl also helps to foster public debate and grow people’s understanding of diversity issues by engaging with media and overseeing content development for the Diversity Works website, newsletters and social media platforms.

Sheryl joined Diversity Works New Zealand in 2016 after working the private sector as a journalist and editor.

Sarah Bayliss

Sarah Bayliss

Marketing and Engagement Manager

Email Sarah

+64 9 580 4440

Sarah joins the team with a marketing background and passion for empowering others. Driven to engage in the community and support others, she is excited to use her skills to tell meaningful stories and contribute to a diverse, inclusive Aotearoa. 

Trained in film production, she comes to Diversity Works New Zealand with experience across various charities and and has held roles in marketing, operations and managing movie channels, with a focus on brand management and engagement. Sarah’s strengths are in combining creativity with organisation and communication and she is excited to develop impactful marketing strategies that grow inclusivity and understanding within New Zealand workplaces.

An avid sports fan, Sarah enjoys being active, exploring and challenging herself. She competes in several sports teams, including waka ama and dragon boating squads that compete at national level.

Fiona Beal

Fiona Beal

Head of Shared Services

+64 9 580 4449

Email Fiona

Fiona uses her broad skillset, multi-tasking talents and range of experiences to provide leadership and support across operational and transactional services, helping to drive the strategic direction of the organisation.

Her background crosses a variety of industry sectors and covers administration, commercial contracts, tenders, project management, sales support, technical product knowledge, training and coaching, process improvement and reporting. Adaptable and open-minded, Fiona has taken on various roles within Diversity Works New Zealand as the organisation has grown, providing the foundation for her current role leading the finance, events, and administration support team.

Fiona enjoys finding what drives others to achieve while also appreciating their differences and the value that brings. She is a keen gardener and enjoys floristry in her spare time.

BBUS – Management, DipHRM, DipMgt – Unitec Institute of Technology

Sonya Mills

Sonya Mills

Events Manager

+64 9 580 4444

Email Sonya

With more than 10 years’ experience in event coordination and proven ability to project manage events, conferences, meetings, and incentive programmes, this support “superstar” is passionate about using her skills to support Diversity Works New Zealand’s members.

A natural organiser, Sonya thrives on new challenges in a dynamic work environment, converting team ideas and visions into appropriate action plans and delivering innovative outcomes. She is looking forward to working with a variety of stakeholders and members to assist them in achieving their strategic goals. 

Sonarli Jayaweera

Sonarli Jayaweera

Accounts Assistant

Email Sonarli

+64 9 580 4445

Sonarli has been working in accounts for almost 15 years in various roles covering different aspects of accounting across her career. She has worked in the commercial sector, and also in the not-for-profit sector. She enjoys liaising with creditors, customers and other stake holders.

Sonarli was born in Sri Lanka and moved to New Zealand as a teenager, completing high school in Auckland before studying at Auckland University. As a migrant, Sonarli knows how important it is for people to feel a sense of belonging where they live and work. Sonarli lives with an auto immune condition and her part-time, flexible role at Diversity Works New Zealand allows her to manage that while contributing to the workforce.

Sindy Senthuran

Sindy Senthuran

Digital Solutions Coordinator

+64 9 869 4180

Email Sindy

Sindy enjoys working in the digital project space in project management and business analysis. Previously she worked with Competenz (an industry training organisation) for four years and she is very passionate about education. She spends some of her weekends doing zoom tutoring and enjoys teaching about learning styles and techniques that help students study more effectively.

She has a Bachelor of Commerce (majoring in information systems) and Bachelor of Arts degree (majoring in anthropology) from the University of Auckland. 

Sindy has a diploma in traditional Indian dancing and enjoys choreographing and performing fusion dance. She believes it is important for people to learn and understand the beauty of diversity and she values learning.

கற்றது கை மண் அளவு கல்லாதது உலகளவு

Pronunciation: Katrathu Kai Mann Alavu, Kallathathu Ulagalavu
What one knows is only a handful, whereas the unknown is the size of the world.

Richard Mortensen

Richard Mortensen

Administrator

+64 9 525 3023

Email Richard

Richard joined our organisation in 1997, taking on a variety of administration tasks to support the Diversity Works New Zealand team. He suffered a serious brain injury as a result of a climbing accident in his early 20s, and as a result some of his physical abilities are limited. After his accident, Richard had casual administration jobs until finding a permanent part-time role with Diversity Works New Zealand.

In addition to his work here, Richard spends time at the Laura Fergusson Trust and Headway House every week as part of his rehabilitation.
As a committed member of the Brahma Kumaris spiritual movement, Richard makes an annual trip to Mt Abu in Rajasthan, India to spend time at the headquarters of the group to focus on meditation and learning and enjoy fellowship with other followers.

Anna Cable-Meunier

Anna Cable-Meunier

Business Support Assistant

+64 9 580 4441

Email Anna

Anna joins the whānau at Diversity Works New Zealand as an experienced and skilled administrator with a background in the tertiary sector and community libraries.

She is passionate about social equity issues and welcomes the opportunity to work in an organisation that centres the values of compassion/manaakitanga and support/āwhinatia. Anna loves to celebrate Aotearoa’s diverse communities and is a big fan of normalising the use of te reo Māori in everyday life.

Having graduated with a Bachelor in Music from the University of Auckland and many years of performing behind her, Anna is also an accomplished musician and recording artist. These days she enjoys sewing and gardening and spending time with her young family.

 


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