• Diversity Works New Zealand | 0800 DIVERSITY (348 377) | 09 525 3023
Maretha Smit, Diversity Works New Zealand Chief Executive

Maretha Smit

 Chief Executive

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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.

Ola Ioane

Ola Ioane

Head of Membership

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Ola is drawn to roles that reduce inequities and has a decade of experience providing solutions in the finance and health sector. With his experience in managing dynamic projects and transforming equity initiatives through innovation, he is energised to also use his lived experiences of exclusion to convert conversations about inclusion and fairness into meaningful action.

Ola has a Bachelor's degree in Commerce from the University of Auckland and Master's degree in Business from the University of Queensland. From this, he has worked with clients in health, hospitality and not-for-profits to create messaging that improves organisational outcomes.

He is a proud brother to three beautiful sisters and the son of hard-working migrant parents of Samoan and Fijian descent from the villages of Vaisala and Vaivase-Tai. He is also a creative for the Odd Family arts collective, a songwriter, fitness trainer, natural bodybuilding champ, and a very proud resident of Aukilani i Saute.    

 

Helena Chan

Helena Chan

Member Success Manager

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Helena joins Diversity Works New Zealand as a Membership Success Manager after spending the past five years working within infrastructure, urban regeneration and social housing. Prior to this, she worked in various industries including a year abroad working for Mickey Mouse at Disney World in Florida, USA.  

She graduated with a Bachelor of Business majoring in Advertising and Marketing and a Postgraduate Diploma in Business (Marketing) both at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) on a Community Partnership Scholarship for people with disabilities.

Helena was born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau to immigrant and refugee parents from China and Cambodia. She was born with cerebral palsy and has experienced obstacles ranging from transportation to healthcare and education to employment and navigating public spaces.

Driven by her own lived experience, she is passionate about encouraging the inclusion and success of underrepresented groups in the workplace in Aotearoa.

Outside of work, she has a keen interest in keeping fit, investing, photography, reading self-development books and is a lover of podcasts and audiobooks.

Milica Van Leeuwen Bobic

Milica Van Leeuwen Bobic

Member Success Manager

+64 9 580 4446

+64 21 225 2706

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Milica joins Diversity works as a Member Success Manager after being immersed academically and professionally in the fields of gender, migration, inclusion, and education in various countries around the world. She has a strong academic background in gender and migration studies with her expertise lying in social and labour market integration of migrants. She has facilitated and written workshop proposals for asylum seekers and refugees.

Milica has a bachelor’s degree in Ethnology and Anthropology from the University of Belgrade and master’s degrees in Culturology and Gender Studies from the University of Belgrade and one in Sociology and Gender Studies from the University of Auckland. She spent a year at Lund University, Sweden, her first glimpse into other cultures and ways of living.

Having researched and experienced the barriers to workplace integration, Milica is excited to be a part of social change and apply her theoretical knowledge and personal experience in building a more equitable world.

Maia Hemara-Tylden

Maia Hemara-Tylden

Cultural Support Intern/Member Success Intern

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Ko Whakatere me Ruapehu ngā maunga 
Ko Waima me Mangawhero ngā awa
Ko Ngātokimatawhaorua me Aotea ngā waka
Ko Ngāpuhi me Ngāti Rangi ngā iwi
Ko Te Mahurehure me Ngāti Tui-o-Nuku ngā hapu
Ko Otatara me Maungarongo ngā Marae
Ko Maia Hemara-Tylden tōku ingoa 

Maia is of Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Rangi descent and maintains a strong connection to te ao Māori and hopes to incorporate this into Diversity Works New Zealand. She is a passionate Māori wahine who recently completed her Bachelor of Arts in which she focused on Māori development and Education. She is ready to learn and grow with us at Diversity Works New Zealand to support the Membership team and provide a Māori perspective in such an integral space.

Drawn to this role, Maia recognises that the element of workplace diversity and inclusion is not only intergral to our multi-cultural society in Aotearoa New Zealand, but it is also beneficial to creating success and educational advancements in the workplace.

Katriana Taufalele

Kat Taufalele 

Member Success Intern

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Kat has worked in a range of equity roles promoting advocacy and inclusion in the public sector. Through her studies, she hopes to work within the field of family law, focusing on the experiences of minority and migrant communities.

Kat is in her fourth year at the University of Auckland, studying a conjoint degree of Law and Arts, double majoring in Sociology and Pacific Studies. She has also completed a three-year research module, ‘Art Scholars,’ focusing on the experiences of Pacific female students within tertiary education. Using both a western sociological and Pacific-centered approach, Kat aims to empower people within systematically inequitable institutions.

Kat was born in the beautiful kingdom of Tonga, and raised in South Auckland alongside her two brothers. As a poet, she is a lover of words and stories, and the many ways a conversation can be told. With Aotearoa at the forefront of leading with diversity, Kat hopes to add her perspective into this ocean of a discussion one drop at a time.

 

Guillermo Merelo

Dr. Guillermo Merelo

Head of Research and Innovation

+64 9 580 4448

+64 21 451 639

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With a strong background in public management and public policy, Guillermo has worked as a senior public officer, columnist, lecturer and academic researcher in Latin America, Europe and New Zealand. He is a published author on integration and inclusion. His academic work revolves around the value of migrants’ processes of integration to their receiving societies. He is also a HR specialist with more than 20 years of experience in talent management, organisational development and change.

Brought up in a family of strong women and being a member of the LGBTI community, Guillermo truly cherishes diversity and he is convinced that diverse workplaces have the potential to foster understandings of the self and others, unleash organisational potential and make this a better world.

BL, MPA, PhD University of Auckland

Nata Tolooei

Dr. Nata Tolooei

Research Associate 

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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.

 

Pete Mercer

Pete Mercer

Content Development Manager

+64 21 437 909

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With 12 years of experience in diversity, equity and inclusion related roles and a penchant for membership bodies, Pete is thrilled to be a part of the Diversity Works New Zealand whānau. He views employers as not just a reflection of society, but as crucial vehicles for driving both structural and cultural change.

Prior to this, Pete spent 6 years delivering and managing membership programmes and content development for an equalities charity in the UK, specifically advising public and private sector organisations alike on LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace. His latest role there as Head of Global Partnerships involved building relationships with multinational employers and LGBT+ charities across the world, and leading a team to develop resources, policy frameworks and global indices. Pete has an MA in International Diplomacy from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, in which he focused on the global politics of human rights.

At the end of 2020, Pete moved from the UK to Aotearoa New Zealand with his fiancé and is delighted to call Auckland their new home. He loves natures, so is constantly in awe of the sheer beauty of Aotearoa – and takes any opportunity he can to take a dip in the water!

Dave Watson

Dave Watson

Programme Delivery Manager

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Dave is a project manager with a deep understanding of social and environmental sustainability in global and business contexts who is dedicated to supporting businesses improve their sustainable practice and connect to purpose.

He views equity and inclusion as the foundation of sustainable practice and believes the front line to positive change is in the hearts and minds of the people - He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

Dave has run his own sustainability consultancy, GreenShoot Pacific NZ, worked as an energy efficiency consultant for the built environment and held head of department and leadership roles both in the screen production industry, and in the sustainability sector.

He joins Diversity Works New Zealand to facilitate the co-creation of a diversity and inclusion roadmap for the construction sector. He is excited to be on this part of his journey as a white, straight male of privilege addressing the barriers to a diverse and inclusive Aotearoa.

Sheryl Blythen

Sheryl Blythen

Head of Marketing and Communications

+64 9 580 4447

+021 674 443

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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 Executive

+64 9 580 4440

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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

+021 606 972

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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

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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. 

Cherry Kura

Cherry Kura

Business Support Administrator

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Cherry joins Diversity Works in our business support role after working in various fields of tertiary mentoring, tutoring, customer service and education. A keen organiser, Cherry supports the day-to-day running of the business by assisting with clerical and administrative processes. Cherry holds a bachelor’s and honours degree in Psychology from the University of Auckland, and is currently studying her Masters in Counselling Psychology. She has facilitated multiple focus groups and performed systematic literature reviews as part of her research on psychological safety and reverse culture shock.

Outside of her office and academic roles, Cherry volunteers on a national Anxiety Helpline and clinic through providing support and education to New Zealanders navigating their mental health journey. As someone who has researched about wellbeing, culture and identity - Cherry is excited to be part of an organisation which honours diversity and inclusion as integral aspects of enhancing wellbeing in the workplace.

Sonarli Jayaweera

Sonarli Jayaweera

Accounts Assistant

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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.

Richard Mortensen

Richard Mortensen

Administrator

+64 9 525 3023

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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.


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