Occupational Therapy New Zealand Whakaora Ngangahau Aotearoa

Council Profiles

Georgina Davis

President, Tangata Whenua

Georgina works in community mental health for CMDHB, her specialisation is in Maori mental health and addictions. She hails from Nga Puhi, Ngati Porou and Ngai Tai. Her interests are in Maori, Pasifika and non-traditional roles in occupational therapy. In her role with council she aspires to ensure that the spirit o te Tiriti is implemented in all aspects of OTNZ-WNA.  Email: [email protected]

Harsh Vardhan

President, Tangata Tiriti

Harsh is President, Tangata Tiriti of OTNZ-WNA. Harsh  is a registered occupational therapist, an experienced programme manager, and a committed Aotearoa New Zealand public servant. In the day job, Harsh leads an interagency national programme on behalf of a government department. He holds a Master of Management (Health Services) degree from Massey University, Wellington. He is a peer reviewer in the editorial board of the Indian Journal of Occupational Therapy and a former advisory committee member for Choosing Wisely New Zealand (Council of Medical Colleges).

Harsh has over a decade of experience as a clinician and leader in the public health system, hospital, community, private practice, school system, and NGOs. He has a special interest in contemporary leadership, systems approach, Te Tiriti relationship-based governance, health equity, public services, and disability, including FASD, autism, dyspraxia, and sensory processing.

Joy Aiton

Council Member, Tangata Tiriti

I feel that now is an exciting time to be an OT.  With a changing focus in health care, we have the opportunities to lead some of these changes and be at the forefront of new service developments.
I have experience to participate in the leadership and governance role of Council, but am also keen to learn, grow and support the future development of the profession of occupational therapy in New Zealand. Email Joy

Julia Battersby

Council Member, Tangata Whenua

I am a descendant of Ngāti Awa. My passion is to commit to and educate others professionally and socially about the importance of keeping the Treaty of Waitangi alive, aiming to bring about social change.


Dr. Gilbert Azuela

Council Member, Tangata Tiriti

I am a specialist in the area of occupational therapy practice with extensive professional experiences as a clinician, leader, coordinator, advisor, facilitator, and educator. I have a strong interest in occupational therapy.  I have worked in different health and disability sectors both government and non-government organisations where I developed resilience and increased capacity to sustain good judgement and decision making even in a most challenging situations in providing advice and directions to various stakeholders.

I have been involved in leading and facilitating local and national projects to support mental health and addiction workforce development such as smoking cessation, sensory modulation, talking therapies, motivational interviewing, intentional practice model, least restrictive practice, mental health and reintegration services. As a trained educator, I have remained passionate 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 am passionate about the use of sensory based interventions to assist people in managing mental distress. My passion for 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 service users and staff.

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

I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Perpetual Help and a post-graduate certificate in Health Professions Education from the University of the Philippines. I have a master’s degree endorsed with merit in Occupational Therapy from the 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.

Penny Ngaheu

Council Member – Tangata Whenua

Ka ora te wairua,

Ka ora te hinengaro,

Ka ora te tinana,

Ti hei mauri ora

Te taha o toku papa

Ko Mataatua te waka

Ko Pūtauaki te maunga

Ko Rangitaiki te awa

Ko Ngāti Awa te iwi

Ko Te Pahipoto te hapu

Ko Kokohinau te marae

Ko Hinerana Ngaheu ahau

I completed a Bachelor of Health Science Degree in Occupational Therapy at Auckland University of Technology and graduated in 2005.  Since graduating I’ve worked for community based, private practice providing assessment and rehabilitation services, and have assisted clients to regain their independence, maximize their function and return to their everyday life roles. Becoming a health professional has been a life changing career move that has taken me on an exciting and rewarding journey.  It’s extremely satisfying, knowing that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life. I look forward to the next part of my journey and taking my career to yet another level. Ka nui te mihi ki a koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa. Ehara tōku toa i te toa takitahi my strength is not due by me alone, he toa takitini tōku toa but due by the strength of many.

Isla Emery-Whittington

World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) Delegate – Tangata Whenua

Ko Tainui te waka
Ko Kakepuku o Kahurere te maunga
Ko Waipa te awa
Ko Te Kopua te marae
Ko Ngāti Unu, Ngāti Kahupungapunga
nga hapu
Ko Ngāti Maniapoto te iwi
Ko Isla Emery-Whittington tenei e mihi

E nga tini waka, tena tatou katoa.

Our whānau lives in Manurewa, South Auckland near where I grew up. I have worked primarily in mental health and addictions sector in District Health Boards, Non-Government Organisations and iwi health organisations across Auckland and in the United Kingdom. My doctoral research, which is about Decolonising Occupation is based at SHORE Whariki Research Centre, Massey University. The study is a theoretical and philosophical journey exploring a Kaupapa Māori theory of mahi.

My governance skills and experience have developed on council (prior to adoption of new governance structure) and in education, hāpu, community organisations and committees. Experience in audit and accreditation in the tertiary education sector and health organisations will contribute to those aspects of the WFOT roles.