Occupational Therapy New Zealand Whakaora Ngangahau Aotearoa - Election and Appointment of Council - AGM 2021 - Occupational Therapy New Zealand Whakaora Ngangahau Aotearoa
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Election and Appointment of Council – AGM 2021

Rule 8.3.3: Where the number of nominations received is equal to or less than the number of vacant positions those nominated shall be deemed to be elected.


Dr Gilbert Azuela- President Tangata Tiriti

I currently work as a Project Lead from Te Pou, national centre of evidence-based workforce development in mental health, addictions and disability sectors in New Zealand. I lead the successful delivery of a range of projects within the Practice team. The portfolio includes least restrictive practice initiatives, six core strategies in reducing and eliminating seclusion and restraint, sensory modulation, talking therapies, brief interventions in primary care, and mental health act guidelines resources. I have worked in a variety of work settings, in both government and non-government sectors, prior to moving to Te Pou. My most recent experience was as clinical advisor for the implementation and evaluation of the Mental Health and Reintegration Services at the Department of Corrections.

I have been involved in leading and facilitating local and national projects to support the development of the mental health and addiction workforce. Topics have included smoking cessation, sensory modulation, motivational interviewing, and intentional practice model.

I obtained a bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy and a post-graduate certificate in Health Professions Education. I have a master’s endorsed with merit in Occupational Therapy from Otago Polytechnic and a Doctor of Philosophy (Clinical Health Science) with a focus on the implementation and impact of sensory modulation in acute mental health care from the Auckland University of Technology.

My research interests include least restrictive practice, sensory modulation, process and outcome evaluation and talking and doing therapies.

I am 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 my career. This has included initiation, development, implementation and evaluation of sensory modulation for mental health organisations, service users and staff.

As a trained educator, I have an ongoing passion for working with people to support them to achieve their full potential by providing clinical supervision, coaching and mentoring. I use holistic, client-family centric, rehabilitative and community-oriented approaches using contemporary, outcome-focused and evidence-based methods.

I have served OTNZ-WNA in the capacity of Tangata Tiriti Councillor from 2018 to 2020. I have been seconded into the position of Tangata Tiriti President in September 2020. I would like to express my sincere interest to continue my service to the association by standing for the position of Tangata Tiriti President. I believe in this role I will be able to support the future direction and development of the occupational therapy profession in Aotearoa New Zealand. Additionally, having already been working under the Treaty Relationship Governance Model as a Tangata Tiriti councillor and current President, I am accustomed to working together with Tangata Whenua councillors towards achieving the association’s strategic goals, strengthening effective governance, and building high performing organisation.

Nicole Merrilees – Tangata Tiriti Councillor

My name is Nicola Merrilees. I am 45 years old, married with two kids and a very needy cat. I am an OT that took a while to ‘find my niche’ in the profession. Six years ago, however I started working in neurological rehabilitation and found my place. I love being an OT in Neuro rehab and I am excited and passionate about the role OT’s can play in supporting the recovery of people affected by neurological illness. I think the association plays a key role in advocating for the profession and helping clinicians to provide the best possible support for people we work with. In applying for a position on the council I would like to bring that passion and energy to the table and to be a part of ensuring that our professional profile continues to adapt and grow to meet the needs of the people we work with.

Janine Appleby – Tangata Tiriti Councillor

I would bring to the council a breadth of experience in quality and governance from a professional and personal perspective. I have participated in service development and clinical governance throughout my career in both NZ and overseas at clinical and management levels. Since returning to NZ six years ago I have broadened that experience to include being a Parent Rep on my child’s School Board since 2018. I was recently voted as Presiding member (Chairperson) from September 2021.

I believe in and work diligently to uphold the values equity, fairness, transparency, and consistency. My particular areas of special interest and knowledge are working with older people, in particular Dementia care and Rehabilitation.

I relish the opportunity to further develop leadership and governance roles; although living rural those opportunities can be few and far between. With the insurgence and variety of telecommunication options now available it has become possible to engage with such a wider network of people all within the comforts of home!

Leana McKay – Tangata Whenua Councillor

Tēnā koutou katoa
Ko Rangiuru te Maunga
Ko Kaituna te Awa
Ko Te Arawa te Waka
Ko Tapuika toku iwi
Ko Ngati Tuheke toku hapu
Ko Makahae toku marae
Ko Papamoa ahau
Ko Jason toku matua
Ko Maxine toku whaea
Ko Leana McKay toku ingoa

I graduated from the school of Occupational Therapy at the Auckland University of Technology in 2017. I began my Occupational Therapy career in 2018 at Rotorua Hospital before moving to Tauranga Hospital in February 2020 to join the advanced rotation programme. I have had the opportunity at both hospitals to have gained experience in several areas including medicine, orthopaedics, surgical, rehabilitation and community. In all areas of practice I have grown exponentially in my learning and capabilities as a therapist, especially in my current role in the community. This current role is very broad and I have had the opportunity to work with numerous conditions, acute, chronic, and neurological to gain more skills into my kete.

My work as an Occupational Therapist is continuing to help me grow as a person and develop in ways I never thought I was able to. I am passionate about my clients and I am a strong advocate, and together with them to help achieve their goals big or small. My strengths are not only being able to work with my clients but to draw on their positive networks surrounding them to ensure better outcomes. From a Maori lens I hope that in this new role I am able to continue being the strong advocate, good communicator and bring a collaborative approach to the team. I am excited about developing my skills further within this group and what value I am able to bring.

“All your dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them”- Walt Disney

Dawn MakoTangata Whenua Councillor

Ko Parapara tōku maunga
Ko Parewhakaoho tōku awa
Ko Tokomaru tōku waka
Ko Ngāti Tama ki te tau ihu raua ko Te Āti awa ki tau ihu ōku iwi
Ko Onetahua tōku marae
No Tākaka ahau
I tipuake au i Te Puke
Kei Tauranga ahau e noho ana
Ko Ward-Holmes tōku whānau
Ko Wiremu Mako tōku hoa rangatira
Ko Hāpai Te Rama raua ko Kōpere āku tama
Ko Dawn Mako tāku ingoa
Tihei Mauri Ora

I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to represent tangata whenua on council. I was an alumni of Otago Polytechnic (2012-2014) via Wintec, Hamilton and received the OTNZ-WNA Aotearoa Graduate Award for 2014.

Since graduating, I have worked at Tauranga Hospital in a rotational position, going between community, the acute wards; orthopaedics, surgical and medical wards and part rotations (due to unforeseen circumstances) on the rehab ward. I enjoyed the variety of work this position offered and I am grateful for the skill set developed and the connections I have made. Although I work in an acute setting, the practice of whakawhānaungatanga (developing a relationship through shared experiences and working together) remains crucial to me. I believe it helps to build the rapport required to keep interactions patient and whānau centred. Going forward, I hope to continue building my practice skills and strengthening connections, not only with patients and their whānau, but with colleagues and service providers within Tauranga Moana.

Concurrently, I enjoy participating and engaging with other tangata whenua in our Māori occupational therapy rōpū, and have been a part of this group since my first year of study. During the last 6 years I have also taken maternity leave twice and now have two beautiful boys, one aged 3, and one at 6 months.

I am excited at the prospect of being on council and the challenges that may lie ahead. I look forward to navigating and working under Te Tiriti Relationship Governance Model and building the skills required to fulfil this governance position.