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standing strong together in wellbeing


The University of Auckland

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Founder of  I am Hope and Gumboot Friday

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Prsenting with Debbie Watkins ADHB

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Psychologist, parent coach, and author

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Author featuring LGBTQ characters

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The University of Auckland


Podcaster and speaker

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Author, Autism

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E-speaker, author, researcher

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CEO Boma

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Chief Advisor Pacific Strategy, WelTec and Whitireia

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Clifftop Wellbeing

Sonja Macfarlane
Jace Te Patu


Professor Melinda Webber (Ngāti Hau, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whakaue) is a former Fulbright/Nga Pae o te Maramatanga Scholar who has published widely on the nature of Māori identity. Melinda's research examines the ways race, ethnicity, culture and identity impact the lives of young people, particularly Māori students. In 2016, Melinda was awarded a prestigious Marsden Fast-Start grant to undertake a research project examining the distinctive identity traits of Ngāpuhi, New Zealand’s largest iwi, and in 2017 Melinda was awarded an esteemed Rutherford Discovery Fellowship to tackle an important question facing educators – ‘How can we foster cultural pride and academic aspiration among Māori students?’ Professor Melinda Webber is currently Te Tumu, Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Education and Social Work. She was the 2017 Director for Phase Three of The Starpath Project and is currently the University of Auckland Co-Director for the Atlantic Fellowship for Social Equity programme and Associate Director of the Woolf Fisher Research Centre. She also spent six years as a co-principal Investigator on the Nga Pae o te Maramatanga funded project 'Ka Awatea' which examined the nature of teaching, learning and home socialisation patterns that support high-achieving Māori students in New Zealand.

Presentation: Kia tū rangatira ai: Ākonga motivation, engagement and persistence at school – what matters?

 In this kōrero I will discuss what motivates ākonga to engage, persist, and thrive at school, even when faced with academic and social challenges. This presentation with emphasise the ways kaiako can increase ākonga motivation, engagement and wellbeing by focusing on their strengths, interests, aspirations and role models.

DR Dawn Huebner

Dr. Dawn Huebner is a psychologist, parent coach, and the author of numerous books for children including perennial bestsellers What to Do When You Worry Too Much and Outsmarting Worry. Her books are practical and relatable, selling well over a million copies in 23 languages. Dr. Huebner’s work has been featured on a host of news and information outlets. She has a popular TEDx talk called Re-Thinking Anxiety, and speaks often to parent and professional groups about actionable plans to help anxious children live happier lives.

Dawn’s solo presentation: Anxiety Primer for Educators

Anxiety often follows children to school, holding everyone it touches hostage. Sometimes the anxiety is understandable, related to stressors that affect us all. Other times it makes less sense, focusing on dangers that don’t exist or are vastly overblown. Either way, it often falls on educators and administrators to help students manage their anxiety without taking away from the needs and demands of others. In this workshop by child psychologist and best-selling author Dr. Dawn Huebner, you will learn to recognize and respond effectively to anxious children, with the aim of helping them build skills for happier, more successful functioning at school.

Dawn and Lisa’s Presentation: Overlapping Circles: A Conversation About Supporting Anxious and/or Gender Nonconforming Kids

What do anxiety and gender nonconformity have in common? What do people get wrong about them? How can parents best support their anxious and/or gender-nonconforming kids? Listen in on this lively, wide-ranging, outside-the-box conversation between an expert on childhood anxiety and an advocate for trans and gender-nonconforming children who, by the way, are married.

Lisa bunker

Lisa Bunker is the author of the upcoming Almond, Quartz and Finch, as well as Zenobia July and other novels for young readers with lots of rainbow content. Before setting up shop as a full-time author Lisa had a 30-year career in non-commercial broadcasting. They now live in Sacramento, California with their spouse Dawn, an author in her own right. Between them Lisa and Dawn have three grown children. From 2018 to 2022 Lisa represented their town in the House of Representatives of the state of New Hampshire, making them one of the first out trans state legislators in U.S. history. Their other active interests include chess, birding, choral singing, and playing bass and piano

Presentation: Beyond The Tipping Point: The Present and Future of Gender Thought

Transgender and non-binary people have always existed, but in the past decade they have entered public awareness in a way they never have before, as our collective understanding of gender goes through a seismic shift. Some people feel uncertain or uncomfortable about these new ways of thinking about gender, and the fear-mongers have not been idle, manufacturing artificial panic and outrage about the trans and non-binary humans among us. Long-time trans/enby activist and author Lisa Bunker will discuss the complexities of the current gender landscape and the threats and opportunities that it presents. The hour will include an opportunity for candid safe-space Q&A. 

Jolene stockman

Jolene Stockman (Te Ātiawa) is an ultra-enthusiastic author, TEDx speaker, and instructional designer. She is also tangata whaitakiwātanga, autistic. After initially struggling with her diagnosis, Jolene is now a global educator on diversity and inclusion with the International Indigenous Speakers Bureau. Her first books about autism are being released by Jessica Kingsley Publishers (UK). The first, Autistic World Domination, is out now. Jolene lives in Taranaki and is excited to raise understanding and optimism around neurodivergence.

Presentation: Navigating Neurodivergence: The Power of Identity

Every brain and every human has a sacred purpose. Aniwaniwa tū wae rua. The legs of the rainbow stand in two places. We belong here, we walk between worlds, and our existence rewrites normal. It’s time to go from binary to spectrum. Embracing multi-layered ways of thinking, seeing, speaking, and being because neurodivergence delivers some of the very skills and qualities we need to redefine life in 2023 and beyond.



Abbe Waghorn is an experienced Mitey coach, joining The Sir John Kirwan Foundation after spending over 20 years teaching and leading in and across the primary sector. Abbe is part of a wider coaching team who are passionate about improving mental health outcomes for tamariki, supporting schools in developing a sustainable school-wide approach to mental health education.

Presentation: Mitey – A school wide approach to mental health education

Mitey is a free, school-wide approach to mental health education for Years 1-8, designed specifically for Aotearoa schools and underpinned by the Mana Model. Resources and professional development are provided across the whole school environment - teaching and learning, governance and policy, staff wellbeing and community engagement. Mitey coaches work with each school to ensure their approach to mental health education reflects their context and localises the teaching and learning. A key aspect of Mitey is the stepped progression of learning about mental health that supports tamariki to have the skills, knowledge and understanding to recognise and respond to their own and others’ mental health.

Kathryn Berkett

Kathryn has spent nearly 30 years understanding the impact development can have on behaviour. She understands how stress and trauma can impact our brains and bodies, and enjoys sharing this information with others. She is a mum of two adolescents, who teach her every day that life is a journey, and despite all the knowledge we might have, we all get it wrong at times.

Presentation: Neuroscience of Trauma

We know through extensive research that the brain develops sequentially. Each developmental stage builds on what has come before. It is for this reason that we need to understand the importance of the early years. These years set down the foundation of the brain. If there has been trauma, this can impact development throughout the lifespan. Only through understanding the impact this can have, can we support in a way that repairs, rather than perpetuates the trauma.



Mike King is a New Zealand mental health advocate, television personality, and former comedian. He is well known for his work on mental health advocacy, which began in 2009 with his radio show, The Nutters Club. It was broadcast on New Zealand's Radio Live and then Newstalk ZB. He founded the Key to Life Charitable Trust in 2021, which promotes suicide prevention and suicide awareness. Mike was named New Zealander of the Year in 2019 for his mental health advocacy work.

Mike is also the Founding Ambassador for I Am Hope. and is dedicated to driving a positive change in societal attitudes towards mental health and ensuring a better future for our young people. Over the past 10 years, I Am Hope has spoken to and listened to over 300,000 kids in schools from the top to the bottom of New Zealand. They have created books for our youngest kids, barista trained struggling youth with community coffee carts, and enabled free counselling for over 10,000 young people. Gumboot Friday is an initiative of I Am Hope with the purpose of raising funds to provide free and timely counselling for young people. The dream that drives Gumboot Friday is that one day soon any child in New Zealand can quickly get the counselling help they want when they need it - no questions asked.

Presentation: I Am Hope/ Gumboot Friday

Kaila colbin

Kaila Colbin is founder and CEO of Boma, an organisation building a world of intentional, intelligent, courageous leaders. An award-winning leader renowned for impact, Kaila developed TEDxChristchurch into New Zealand’s flagship TEDx event, brought Singularity University to New Zealand and Australia, and founded the non-profit Ministry of Awesome. Her work to champion Aotearoa New Zealand on a global stage saw her given the 2022 Kea World Class New Zealand “Friend of New Zealand” award, and her purpose in life is to be an uplifting presence.

Presentation: The courageous future our kids need

The world is changing in ever more dramatic ways, which, combined with the pressures of our roles, can make our work feel daunting and overwhelming. But there is a way forward, one that doesn't require false optimism or happy-clappy platitudes, one that allows us to sit with the reality of the challenges we face while keeping our gaze firmly focused on the future we want to create. Kaila Colbin, founder and CEO of Boma, has seen that way forward, and is excited to share it, mō tātou, ā, mo kā uri a muri ake nei: for us, and for our children after us.


DR Jean mitaera

Jean Mitaera is Chief Advisor, Centre for Pacific Health & Social Practice: WelTec & Whitireia: Te Pukenga.

Kia orana. My family are from Rarotonga, I am born and bred out of Newtown, Wellington. I have over 30 years in tertiary education and active research. Served on a range of government and non-government boards. I am a stalwart member of the Pacific women’s organisation PACIFICA Inc.


Presentation: Growing the children’s workforce capability to work with Pacific families.

It is critical that the children’s workforce in Aotearoa New Zealand have the capability to effectively serve Pacific communities. Cultural competency is a requirement for health and social sector professionals, fundamental to ensuring access to quality service, enhanced community and family satisfaction with services and equitable outcomes for Pacific peoples and their families. This presentation introduces participants to the Cultural humility framework and discusses the three principles.


Paul tupou-vea

Paul Tupou-Vea is a passionate and experienced wellbeing consultant specialising in education and youth development. With 20 years in the field, Paul has vast experience in secondary & tertiary education and not-for-profit organisations. As the founder and director of Clifftop Wellbeing, Paul is dedicated to supporting leaders, educators and ākonga to thrive in supportive, wellbeing-generating environments by integrating systems thinking, social science, psychology and culturally responsive practice. Paul is also a papa to three boys, Associate at Ed Connect, Co-Founder of Teachers Well (AU), board member for the Graeme Dingle Foundation and former president of the NZ Association of Positive Psychology. 


Presentation: Being Well and Pacific-in Aotearoa 

Content covered:

  • Wellbeing barriers and boosters for Pacific youth

  • Good practice tips for working with Pacific ākonga

  • Strength based approaches in particular for our tamasi'i/ boys 

  • Examples of initiatives that have been effective

DR Kristy Goodwin

Dr Kristy Goodwin is an award-winning researcher, speaker, author, and mum on a mission to help parents and educators raise happy, healthy children and teens who thrive online and offline.

As a researcher and educator herself, she’s spent most of her professional career researching and speaking about the ways in which technology shapes children’s and teens’ wellbeing, health, and learning. She provides research-based but realistic advice and strategies to teachers and parents on how they can teach their children to use technology in productive and purposeful ways without reverting to phone bans or constant digital detoxes.

Dr Kristy, author of Dear Digital, We need to talk shares realistic, research-based micro habits that people can apply to tame their digital habits and thrive in the digital world. Dr Kristy also authored the book Raising Your Child in a Digital World and has conducted numerous evaluations and research studies for the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities.

Prior to becoming a speaker and consultant, she worked as an educator for 14 years with schools in both the public and private sectors. She also lectured at Macquarie University and University of Notre Dame and has completed a PhD on the impact of digital technologies.

Presentation: Neurobiology in a Digital Age

Dr Kristy Goodwin will explore how children's and teens' digital habits and behaviours are impacting their mental wellbeing. She'll share science-backed micro-habits that leaders, educators, parents and professionals can implement to help young people develop healthy and helpful digital habits that will allow them to thrive in the digital world, without having to 'digitally amputate' young people.

Dr Karolina Stasiak

Dr Karolina Stasiak is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Psychological Medicine (University of Auckland). She teaches psychology and e-health classes in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, supervises postgraduate students in digital health projects, and has numerous publications in the field of youth mental health and digital interventions. Dr Stasiak is one of the creators of SPARX, an award-winning online therapy program for young people, and is currently leading the national implementation of Headstrong, an app designed to strengthen adolescent mental wellbeing. In her leisure time, she indulges in the meditative art of embroidery and can be found hanging out with her dog.


Presentation: Byte-sized Resilience: How Digital Tools Can Foster Mental Health in Aotearoa

The talk will explore the digital landscape where today's tech-savvy teens increasingly rely on online media for mental health information. With numerous mental health apps available, navigating the maze of options can be overwhelming. It is important to understand the digital preferences of young people and know how to identify reliable apps. You will learn about a range of free-to-use, New Zealand developed and evidence-based apps and tools that foster well-being of Kiwi teens and those around them.

Alison Leversha is a Community Paediatrician at Starship and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Auckland.

Alison works closely with teachers, schools, and RTLBs in the Manaiakalani Kāhui Ako and has followed a cohort of new entrants since 2017 in the Welcome to School Study. This revealed our current health and education systems are not working equitably: a significant proportion of children were starting school with a developmental and emotional level of a 3–4-year-old: despite approx. 90% having had a B4SC and 90% attending ECEC. Alison is currently leading a team exploring parental understanding of development and developing and testing the kiwiASQ: a development and behaviour screening tool specifically for Aotearoa New Zealand. This will be done at 3 years of age, replacing the current B4SC, and increasing early identification, support, and early intervention.


Alison is also part of the Northern Region Health and Education Collaborative: exploring how health and education can work together for child and whānau wellbeing. The curriculum refresh with mental health as one of the key learning areas in the health curriculum, Te Tūāpapa o He Pikorua, and the RTLB and PB4L refresh all offer wonderful opportunities for us to work together.

Wellbeing Stories Presentation with Debbie Watkins


Lawrence Lotze is a passionate podcaster and advocate for building connections through shared experiences and challenges. After overcoming a brain tumour diagnosis in 2019, he has become an inspiring speaker, delving into the realms of mental health and healing through community-building. With unwavering resilience and a dedication to empowering others, Lawrence's journey serves as a testament to the power of human connection and the strength that arises from life's adversities.

My Keynote:


Presentation: "Rebounding from Adversity: Navigating Life's Challenges and Building a Supportive Community"


In this inspiring keynote address, Lawrence Lotze shares his remarkable journey of overcoming life's greatest challenges. As a successful podcaster and advocate for building connections through shared experiences, Lawrence's life took an unexpected turn when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in April 2019.

Lawrence will take the audience through his personal struggle with the diagnosis, the emotional toll it took on him and his family, and the subsequent financial impact of medical treatment. Through sheer resilience and the unwavering support of his loved ones, Lawrence managed to overcome this life-altering situation, emerging physically healed but facing new mental health challenges and financial strain.

Drawing from his experiences, Lawrence delves into the crucial topic of mental health, not only from a personal perspective but also with insights into the broader societal context. He emphasises the importance of understanding and addressing mental health challenges in educational institutions and society at large.

Amidst his struggles, Lawrence found solace and strength in building a support community. He shares how connecting with others, both through his podcast and the inspiring individuals he met along the way, became a lifeline in his journey to recovery and self-discovery.

Kaila Colbin
Mike King
Paul Tupou
Kristy Goodwin
Karolina Stasiak
Melinda Webber
Dawn Huebner
Lisa Bunker
Abbe Waghorn
Kathryn Berkett


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