Occupational Therapy New Zealand Whakaora Ngangahau Aotearoa
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Past Presidents

Penny Ngaheu (President Tangata Whenua) May 2021  – November 2021

Penny was co-opted to the President (Tangata Whenua) role after being an OTNZ-WNA councillor since 2018. She also served as the chair of OTNZ-WNA’s audit and finance committee since 2020.  She has worked for community based, private practice, providing assessment and rehabilitation services, and has assisted clients to regain their independence, maximize their function and return to their everyday life roles.

Julia Battersby (President Tangata Whenua) February 2021  – May 2021

Julia stepped in to the Executive Director role just three months after becoming council president (tangata whenua) following Georgina’s resignation. Prior to this, Julia was a councilor for almost two terms. Her specialty is in physical rehabilitation and has Julia has worked in both DHBs and private practice. Julia is a descendant of Ngāti Awa ki Whakatane (Bay of Plenty).

Gilbert Azuela (President Tangata Tiriti) September 2020  – February 2021

Gilbert served OTNZ-WNA in the capacity of Tangata Tiriti Councillor from 2018 to 2020. He was seconded into the position of Tangata Tiriti President in September 2020.

Gilbert is passionate about the use of sensory based interventions to assist people in managing mental distress. Working with people and supporting them to achieve their potential has been the focus of his career.

Georgina Davis (President Tangata Whenua) September 2016  – February 2021

Georgina shared her president role with Harsh Vardhan with the establishment of the Treaty Relationship Governance Model. Georgina holds a master’s degree in the field of Māori health and has presented in conferences, whilst simultaneously leading our Māori OT rōpū.

Harsh Vardhan (President Tangata Tiriti) September 2016  – August 2020

During his tenure as president tangata tiriti Harsh was employed as an occupational therapist at the Child Development Service, Hutt Valley DHB. Harsh had a strong voice of advocacy for occupational therapy and occupational therapists. Harsh stated in his election bio “I believe that in order to have a healthy community it is indispensable to keep our workforce valued, happy and healthy. We live in an era of increasing consumerism, advancing technology, fiscal constraints, and focus on primary health care, with an emphasis on outcomes. Our association needs to be visible and tuned to the current sociopolitical trends in order to be heard in this environment. I am passionate about promoting occupational therapy as a significant medium of prudent health and social investment. In this current climate there is a need to keep the government well informed of the powers of our occupational therapy superheroes”.

20 vid Karen Molyneux  Karen Molyneux 2013 – 2017
My vision is for the association to accomplish a strong public profile where occupational therapy is recognised as an innovative workforce and therapists are seen as leading contributors to the improvements in the health and wellbeing of all people living in Aotearoa / New Zealand. I am further encouraged in our move towards being a treaty relationship organisation, a journey we all must take with confidence, openness and consideration.
 19 vid Rita Robinson Rita Robinson 2011-2013
“Our profession’s core beliefs are around the valuing of people, the importance of meaningful engagement in daily routines and rituals, collaboration, and client centredness. These concepts also reflect the principles of partnership, participation, and protection as articulated within Te Tiriti o Waitangi (from my understanding). For me seeing parallels between partnership and collaboration, participation and client centredness, and protection and meaningful engagement has assisted me to start to unravel these complex concepts and to feel safe to seek out more learning. “
18 vid Tracey Partridge  Tracey Partridge 2010-2011
“An association is vital as it supports and connects occupational therapists, thereby strengthening our professional identity, giving us a bigger voice and creating opportunities to work together.”
17 vid Elizabeth Rowland  Elizabeth Rowland 2007–2010
“The realisation of what great taonga (treasures) we possess within our profession and the calibre of the people that we stand on the shoulders of is humbling. These treasures provide the links to our ancestry as an Association and indeed show the power of collective strength.”
16 vid Nancy Wright  Nancy Wright 2005-2007
“OTNZ-WNA is about people. The organisation exists to support occupational therapists, and indirectly, the communities in which they live. Without its members the organisation would fade away.”
15 vid Jane Wilson Jane Wilson 2003-2005
“Belonging to my professional association means I have the opportunity for professional and personal growth and development.  I also belong to a fantastic group of like-minded professionals – a national and international support network.”
14 vid Christine Rigby  Christine Rigby 1999-2001
“As a profession, we must ensure our ongoing social activism, and to paraphrase Elizabeth Townsend, ‘we must look to fulfilling our potential to change the world’.”
13 vid Shirley Milligan  Shirley Milligan 1997-1999
“My vision for OTNZ-WNA is to have 100% membership of all New Zealand registered occupational therapists and for every member to be proud to be actively involved.”
12 vid Janet Taylor  Janet Taylor 1995-1997
“The role (of  President) helped me see beyond my day-to-day work and to consider national strategic and policy issues that impacted on occupational therapists and their clients.”
11 vid Val Wright St Clair Valerie A Wright-St Clair 1989-1991“Belonging to my professional association means being involved, being politically aware, and working to shape the future.”


10 vid Frankie Morgan  Frankie Morgan 1987-1989
“My term of office was both exciting and turbulent. The most significant event was the Government of the day’s decision to open two new occupational therapy education programmes and to close the current school based at the Central Institute of Technology.”
9 vid Beth Gordon  Beth Gordon 1983-1985
“My vision for OTNZ-WNA in 2020 is for members to stand tall within New Zealand/Aotearoa and internationally. I envisage a priority shift with less emphasis on professional self-interest. NZAOT will endorse outward looking actions of members and their contributions to society.”
8 vid Elizabeth Saville Smith  Elizabeth Saville-Smith 1981-1983
“Looking back, I think the real work was done in the 50’s when the then executive was working towards reasonable recognition, salaries and conditions in the light of the rapid and exciting advances right across the health spectrum. It was a privilege to have worked in those days!”
07 joan davidson  Joan Davidson 1975-1977
“We held a conference in Christchurch during my time as president and it was exciting seeing how it all came together so well. We had support from local dignitaries as well as some attending from the medical profession. Amazing!”
06 chris milligan  Chris Milligan 1973-1975
“The big issue of the day was pay parity with physiotherapists, seen as a milestone for occupational therapists and for the OTNZ-WNA.”
05 Sue De Gilio  Sue de Gilio 1971-1973 and 1979-1981
“Belonging to my professional association meant as a new graduate occupational therapist in a rural area, the association became the vehicle for me to communicate and be part of the wider world. The association was probably the only, and certainly the most valuable, link at the time.”
04 vid denise groot  Denise de Groot 1969-1971
“A recollection from my training days (mid- 60s) was that we (OT students) were regarded as second in the marriage popularity stakes, next to air hostesses, according to an article in the NZ Woman’s weekly at the time. Those were the days when, if you weren’t engaged by the time you were 21, you were considered to be on the shelf. Thank goodness attitudes have changed in that regard.”
03 vid lyn dancer  Lyn Dancer 1967-1969
“The OTNZ-WNA was a small, struggling Association, but had an enthusiastic core group who were committed to developing the profession in New Zealand. It is wonderful for me to see NZAOT now a thriving, energetic, professional body, which has taken its rightful place in New Zealand society.”
02 vid isacs  PM Isaacs 1960-1962
“The Association was important to all graduates working as professionals in small numbers in the isolated institutions in the 1950’s and 60’s and we established friendships that still hold.”
01 vid skiton colour  Hazel Skilton 1949-1950
“Never underestimate your influence on those you treat. You will be remembered as someone who has had an effect on their lives as you take a personal interest in them and as you give them the means to improve their health.  Good luck to you.”