Past Speakers

Episode I

Our inaugural event starred:


Michele A’Court

Winner of “Female Comedian of the Decade” at the 2010 NZ Comedy Guild Awards, Michele A’Court is a fulltime professional stand-up comedian and freelance writer. Her work turns up everywhere - on stage, television, radio; in newspapers and magazines - and she is in demand as a comic, an event MC, and also as a social commentator across all media.

Michele’s solo comedy show, Stuff I Forgot To Tell My Daughter, was a sold-out hit at the 2013 NZ International Comedy Festival and the 2014 World Buskers Festival. Michele continues to tour the show with bookings taking her well into 2016. In 2015, the show became a bestselling book published by Harper Collins, debuting at number one on the Indie Top 20, and sitting cheerfully on the Booksellers Top Ten list for three months.

Michele is frequent voice on Radio NZ National’s The Panel with Jim Mora; and Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan and Te Radar; she has a regular spot reviewing the world’s weirdest news on TVNZ’s Good Morning; and she was a regular guest in the early years of TV3’s award-winning comedy show 7 Days. Michele has been writing a weekly column for The Press since 2008 and relishes the opportunity to comment on current social issues. She is also a frequent freelance contributor to several national magazines.

Michele is the Patron of the Moving & Handling Association of NZ (MHANZ) which cares for carers in the health sector. She is a proud member of Actors’ Equity, and a Life Member of the NZ Comedy Guild.

Michelle Dickinson

Dr Michelle Dickinson (MNZM) is a passionate researcher and teacher with a love of science and engineering. Her background in Biomedical and Materials Engineering have combined her interests in both biology and materials science to give her a unique insight into how nature and technology can learn from each other for future scientific developments.

Currently you can find her as a senior lecturer in Engineering at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Member of New Zealand Order of Merit and awarded the Sir Peter Blake Leadership in 2015 and winner of the Prime Ministers Science Media Communication Prize and the New Zealand Association of Scientists Science Communicators Award in 2014 Michelle is also Co-Founder of the charity OMGTech!.

Michelle strongly believes that science should be open, transparent and a topic of conversation over the dinner table, not just the lab bench, and her vision is to create positive role models in the world that our children can aspire to.


Lillian Grace

Lillian Grace

Lillian Grace is the CEO and Founder of Figure.NZ (formerly WikiNZ), the first organisation globally to designate everyone a user of data, and to build systems, software and partnerships to deliver to this standard. She believes that to get the best outcomes we need to be making informed decisions in all areas and at all levels.

Lillian was previously at Academy Award-Winning Massive Software, at think tank The New Zealand Institute, and is on the board of the NZ Innovation Partnership and of Te Pūnaha Matatini, New Zealand’s new Centre of Research Excellence.

She’s on a no holds barred mission to unleash data, the first step in her dream to help realise New Zealand’s potential.

Gemma Gracewood

Gemma Gracewood

Gemma Gracewood is a freelance producer of film, television and radio and tours the world as a member of the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra. Her screen credits include Frontseat, New Artland, Dead Letters, Flight of the Conchords: A Texan Odyssey, the recent NZIFF selection Joseph Gets Dressed and the forthcoming science-comedy series Jiwi’s Machines. She can often be heard on Radio NZ National’s Nine to Noon and Music 101 programmes. A fifth generation Pākehā New Zealander, Gemma loves feijoas, is a member of Women in Film and Television (who named her their “Woman to Watch”) and conducts her creative career between New York and Aotearoa.

Marianne Elliott

Marianne Elliott is a mouthy introvert who collects, treasures and tells tales. She's a slow but persistent runner and a fidgety, distracted yogi. By day she rallies New Zealanders to fight for truth, justice and a kinder way at ActionStation and by night she is the official margarita tester of La Boca Loca Mexican restaurant.

Many years ago she wore a horse-hair wig called Ringo and appeared before the High Court of New Zealand. More recently she tried to make peace between warring tribes in Afghanistan, where she discovered stories were her secret weapon, and yoga was her medicine. She is the author of Zen Under Fire and the bearer of many unanswered questions.

Elizabeth Knox

Elizabeth Knox

Elizabeth Knox is the author of twelve novels and three novellas. Her book The Vintner’s Luck, won the Deutz Medal for Fiction in the 1999 Montana New Zealand Book Awards, and the Tasmania Pacific Region Prize. The Vintner’s Luck is published in ten languages.

Elizabeth’s book for young adults, Dreamhunter, won the 2006 Esther Glen Medal. Dreamhunter’s sequel Dreamquake, 2007, was a Michael L Printz Honor book for 2008 and, in the same year, was named an ALA, a CCBC, Booklist, and New York Library best book. A collection of essays, The Love School won the biography and memoir section of the New Zealand Post book awards in 2009. Her third young adult title, Mortal Fire, won the YA section of the NZ Post Children’s book award and was a finalist in the LA Times Book Awards.

Her horror/science fiction, Wake, was published in New Zealand in 2013 and the UK in 2015.

Elizabeth lives in Wellington with her husband, Fergus Barrowman, her son, Jack, and three cats.

Coco Solid

Jessica Lee Hansell aka Coco Solid

Ko Coco tōku ingoa me Jessica Lee Hansell ranei. He wāhine Māori au i te taha o tōku mama, nō ngā whānau a Muriwai me a Kingi hoki. Ko Ngāpuhi tōku iwi, ko Ngāti Popoto tōku Hapu, ko Mokonuiarangi tōku marae, ko Whakarongorua te maunga, ko Utakura te awa. Nō Hamōa ahau nō Tiamani (Germany) hoki i te taha o tōku papa. E toru ōku mahi, he kaitaurima ahau, he kaituhi me he kaiwhakatangitangi hoki. Kei konei ka taea e koe pānui e pa ana ki tōku mahi me ōku pakiwaitara. Mauri ora!

Coco Solid is the musician, writer, comic book creator, zine-maker and artist Jessica Lee Hansell. Acclaimed on her home-turf and abroad, the outspoken Māori/Samoan/German Aucklander has proven herself as an enduring and shapeshifting artist in recent years.

As a musician, Hansell is one half of Parallel Dance Ensemble and is a founding member of New Zealand noize collective Badd Energy. As a solo artist she has released cult records and mixtapes independently since 2004 with a wide roster of kiwi cohorts. Hansell also regularly collaborates with Portuguese rap duo A.M.O.R. and continues to work with artists and producers from Europe, The US, Asia, Latin America and the South Pacific

Hansell has attended the Red Bull Music Academy in Barcelona, she has been sampled by Princess Superstar, remixed by Jimmy Edgar, rapped with Grandmaster Caz, Flight of the Conchords, toured Mexico, New York, Berlin, Portugal, London and Tokyo, lived in South Korea at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul.

Hansell obtained her Masters in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victory University. She has been to the PAF art residency in France and was among The Listener’s top 10 records of the year, three years in a row. Hansell was voted the Best NZ Hip Hop Artist in 2007 (as voted by student radio stations nationwide) a year after she was christened ‘Lyricist of SXSW’ by the Austin Chronicle in Texas.

Episode II

Our second event starred:


Heather B. Armstrong

Heather B. Armstrong

Heather B. Armstrong is widely acknowledged to be the most popular “mommy blogger” in the world. Her website, dooce®, has twice been listed as one of the 25 best blogs in the world by Time Magazine. Forbes listed dooce® as a top 100 website for women and named Heather one of the 30 most influential women in media. She is a New York Times Best Selling Author with 1.5 million Twitter followers and an actively engaged audience. Not bad for a “mommy blogger.” But that title is a digital pigeonhole. Heather is actually a writer, a speaker, a consultant, and a huge fan of Britpop.

Judy Darragh

Judy Darragh is a prolific New Zealand artist renowned for her brightly coloured sculptural assemblages of found objects, recycled items, industrial materials, collage, photography, video, and poster art.

Emerging as an artist during the 80s era of conspicuous consumption, Darragh’s work displayed a fondness for everyday objects and played with our views of material consumerism.

‘Kitsch’ and a strong association with localised nostalgia is at the essence of Darragh’s work. Her assemblages appear as structurally makeshift piles of ‘materials’, incorporating elements ranging from bottles, glassware and plastic to corks, feathers, tikis, beads, paint, flowers, paua and cake tins. It is this mass of media that form the basis of her two dimensional and three dimensional installations.

Collecting is an integral part of Darragh’s work as she investigates the relationship between objects and their surroundings. It is, however, the process of making these large assemblages that is as important as the observation itself. She makes new from the old and provides objects with a fresh significance or value.

Darragh alters form and function of her found objects and they are transformed in meaning with each shift in context; most often taken out of their traditional domestic interior and placed within the realm of an artistic space or shop window. It is this process of reinvention that is significant, our engagement with the objects and the value we place on them.

Darragh is widely exhibited in New Zealand. Her works are held in various major collections including Auckland City Art Gallery and Govett Brewster in New Plymouth. In 2004 the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa featured a major retrospective of her work curated by Natasha Conland and entitled ‘Judy Darragh: So … you made it?’

Well known in artistic circles, Darragh is also involved with The Cuckoo Group an artistic initiative that organises shows in various galleries or spaces.

A writer, speaker and long time teacher, the artist lives in Auckland.


Zelda Edwards

Zelda Edwards

Zelda has worked in the arts industry for over 16 years. Highlights include working for The New Zealand Film Commission, New Zealand International Comedy Festival, New Zealand Fringe Festival, BBC, Gibson Group and the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra. She also is the founder and CEO of Mummies For Life, a mothers online support network.

Zelda's secret passion for dance was ignited when she became a member of the infamous Real Hot Bitches Dance Troupe.

After giving birth to her second child Zelda took a break from the fast paced arts industry to run exercise programmes for one of Kapiti’s leading retirement villages. She became addicted to Zumba Fitness® and sought work life balance in order to spend more time with her two pre-school children, untamed garden and free range chickens.

She made the leap into opening up her own Zumba Fitness® business Zumba® with Zelda “Z Squad”. Since then Zelda has helped people of all ages, fitness levels and abilities; gain strength, confidence while getting fit the fun way.

Cindy Gallop

Cindy Gallop

Cindy Gallop is a graduate of Somerville College, Oxford, whose background is brandbuilding, marketing and advertising – she started up the US office of ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York in 1998 and in 2003 was named Advertising Woman of the Year.

She is the founder and CEO of, co-action software launched in beta at TED 2010 and subsequently written up and taught as a Harvard Business School case study, and of, launched at TED 2009. She acts as board advisor to a number of tech ventures and consults on brand and business innovation for companies around the world, describing her consultancy approach as ‘I like to blow shit up. I am the Michael Bay of business.’

BusinessInsider named her one of 15 Most Important Marketing Strategy Thinkers Today, alongside Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin, and recently cited her as both number 33 on their list of 100 Most Influential Tech Women On Twitter, and number one on their list of Top 30 People In Advertising To Follow On Twitter.

Most recently Cindy acted as Jury President at CannesLions 2015 for the inaugural Glass Lion awards, driven by Sheryl Sandberg to shatter gender stereotypes in advertising and popular culture. She published ‘Make Love Not Porn: Technology’s Hardcore Impact on Human Behavior’ as one of TED’s line of TEDBooks.

Ria Hall

Ria Hall

With the release of her debut self titled EP, Ria Hall became a blazing new female force on the NZ music scene. Winning awards and critical acclaim, her sound fused furious hip hop beats and richly layered vocals in English and Māori, creating an epic soundscape that embraced and challenged multiple genres.  

Performing at national and international events, she is a powerful live performer, crafting an experience that showcases her enormous vocal range and ability to effortlessly transition between styles. 

Always in demand, Ria Hall has collaborated extensively with a diverse range of artists and producers such as J. Williams, Fly My Pretties, and Tiki Taane. Her most recent duet, Like It’s Over, with musical superstar Stan Walker explored a more pop-dance hall sound and was released as a single on his latest album, Inventing Myself.

Ria Hall is a fearless, independent artist with resolute ideas for the future of New Zealand music: “there is so much richness that New Zealand music can take to the world. We haven’t realised our own potential - and that’s exciting”. 

Recently signed with major record label Sony, she is currently creating new music with an urban yet distinctively Māori flare - not straying too far from where she’s come from, but teetering on the edge.

Ria Hall. Iconoclastic, edgy, and unapologetic.

Keavy McMinn

Keavy McMinn

Keavy is a software engineer at GitHub. Previously, as an independent consultant, over the previous decade, she has enjoyed pairing up with some of the top development shops across Europe and the U.S. Like many of her fellow Irishmen, Keavy enjoys telling a good story. Unlike many, she trains for Ironman triathlons and is not a fan of whiskey.

Imogen Parry

Imogen Parry

Imogen is the co-founder of information design micro-studio The Infographers, which has seen her help a Crown Research Institute visualise the impact of polluted waterways, Oxford University Press teach students, TEDx Wellington capture ideas, and a Nelson-based greengrocer sell potatoes.

She is a founding member of Fail Club, where she has learned that exploring her failures with others builds connectedness, courage, and empathy. And she blogs about wellness, renewal, resilience, and wild places at Tiny Sanctuaries.

Episode III

Our third event starred:

Emily Writes

Emily is a 31-year-old mother of two boys under three. Her first blog post in March 2015 went viral, reaching more than one million people in a few days, and her recent review of the film Tarzan has been called "the best film review ever, in the history of all the world". She is the parenting columnist for both the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly and the New Zealand Herald. 

Emily founded and runs a charity called Ballet is for Everyone that provides free ballet lessons for children from low-income homes and children with disabilities and high health needs. She is a Plunket and Mother’s Network volunteer and an advocate for children’s and women’s rights. Her first book is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. She also runs The Lighthouse events for mothers, and has a popular podcast called Dear Mamas.

"I write about parenting the way I see it. My blog is a judgement-free zone that talks about the exhausting reality of parenting with humour and grace. It is for all of the parents who love parenting their wee ones but crave solidarity and support from other parents, and incorporates a philosophy that no parent is alone. We’re in this together."

Hera Lindsay Bird

Hera Lindsay Bird

Hera Lindsay Bird has a MA in poetry from Victoria University of Wellington, where she won the 2011 Adam Prize. Her work has been published by The Toast, The Hairpin, Sport, Hue & Cry, The Spinoff, The New Zealand Listener and Best New Zealand Poems. She is currently living in Wellington.

‘I think there’s a pretty strong case which suggests Hera Lindsay Bird is like the most exciting newish poet in NZ.’ —Steve Braunias

‘Hi, dear, have to say how much we enjoyed, if right word, the Hate poem. Really made us think, loved the line about the ancient cannon.’ —text message from Ashleigh Young’s mum

'The wickedest problem in Hera Lindsay Bird is not sex but taste.’ – John Newton

Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern

Labour List MP in Auckland Central. Spokesperson for Justice, Arts, Culture and Heritage, Children, and Small Business. Associate Spokesperson for Auckland Issues

Jacinda's passion for social justice led her to the Labour Party at just 17 years old. She was elected to Parliament in 2008. Jacinda ran in the 2011 election as Labour’s candidate for Auckland Central, halving the incumbents’ majority down to approximately 700 votes. Jacinda lives in Freeman's Bay, and would include her hobbies but it would most likely become a list of things she likes to eat.

Jacinda's background experience ranges from policy development through to managing a large international non-governmental organisation (NGO). Before entering Parliament Jacinda worked for two and a half years for the Better Regulation Executive in the UK Cabinet Office. Her role as an Associate Director was to improve the way that local authorities, in particular, interfaced with business. She was also seconded to the Home Office to assist with a review of policing in England and Wales. In 2007 Jacinda was only the second woman to be elected President of the largest international political youth organisation in the world – IUSY, a role which saw her spending time in places ranging from Jordan, Israel and Algeria through to China.

Melissa Clark-Reynolds

Melissa Clark-Reynolds ONZM

Serial entrepreneur Melissa Clark-Reynolds was a gifted child, a teen mum, and the youngest woman to ever attend university in NZ at just 15 years of age. She graduated with a BA with Honours from Victoria University. She later went Rutgers University in New Jersey in the United States, where she completed a combined Masters Degree in Health and Environmental Studies.

Melissa has been the founder and chief executive of several technology business over a twenty-year period, including Looxie, MiniMonos, software firms PayGlobal, Intaz, GMV Associates (sold to Southern Cross) which became Fusion – New Zealand's largest private ACC insurer. She is one of the few New Zealand women to raise investment money both nationally and internationally. In 2012 she was named one of the top-10 female company founders to watch by Forbes Magazine.

Melissa is passionate about entrepreneurship and represented NZ at the APEC Forum on encouraging Women Entrepreneurs. As well as being a judge for EY Entrepreneur of the Year (2000 and 2004) she is also featured in Her Business magazine's Hall of Fame and was named as one of the 150 most powerful women in NZ Business by Unlimited Magazine 2002. She has been featured in a number of books including Success in New Zealand Business V2 (1997), A New Generation of Business Leaders (2000), Living Life Out Loud (2001) and The Kiwi Effect (2004) and has been on the cover of both Her Business and Management Magazine.

Melissa was chosen as one of only two New Zealanders to train with Al Gore to present his updated Climate Project slideshow as seen in the film An Inconvenient Truth and is helping to spread his global warming messages to the masses.

She sits on a range of boards, including Radio New Zealand. As a Board member at Creative HQ, she helped to establish the Lightning Lab in Wellington.

In 2015 received a Queens Honour for services to Technology.


Moana Maniapoto

Moana Maniapoto

"In the landscape of New Zealand music, one genre stands out: music by Maori artists, which is a solid cornerstone, and within itself powerfully diverse. One of the most distinctive, articulate and significant Maori voices is Moana Maniapoto who - first with Moana and the Moahunters and latterly as Moana & the Tribe - has taken her often politically conscious music to festivals across the world. (Graham Reid)

Long acknowledged for having consistently pushed the boundaries of Maori music in both her recordings and live performances, singer/songwriter Moana Maniapoto is a self-confessed political junkie whose lyrics are rooted in the NZ landscape, culture and experience - inspiring her to "produce her own blend of traditional and contemporary styles without compromising either (Graham Reid, music critic)." The NZ Herald described Moana & the Tribe as "the most powerful, enjoyable and important act on the mainstage at Womad 2014 delivering a thumping, visually powerful and cleverly calculated implosion of waiata, haka and electronic-flavoured soul-funk."

Formed in 2002, Moana & the Tribe has played hundreds of stages in Istanbul, Moscow, Florence, Berlin, Warsaw, Toronto, Venice, Shanghai, Seoul, Vienna, Toronto and Taipei. They have taken their haka-funk-dub-fusion to the Herodus Atticus (Athens), Sydney Opera House (Australia) as well as to the Montreux Jazz Festival (Switzerland), Sziget (Budapest), Sarawak and Norway. In July, the band performed in and around Glasgow 2014 as part of the "Boomerang Project" collaboration with Scottish and indigenous Australian musicians.

In 2004, Moana became the first non-American to win a major U.S.A based songwriting contest with her song Moko. Moana beat over 11,000 compositions to win the Grand Jury Prize of the International Songwriting Competition.

Moana is a recipient of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM), a Life Time Recipient of the Toi Iho Maori Made Mark (denoting authenticity and quality) and received the 2005 Te Tohu Mahi Hou a Te Waka Toi Award from Te Waka Toi (Creative New Zealand) in recognition of ‘outstanding leadership and contribution to the development of new directions in Maori art.’

In 2007, Moana joined four other outstanding artists who were made Art Laureates by the NZ Arts Foundation. The following year, Moana was honoured by the Waiata Maori Music Awards for her special contribution to the Maori music industry.

Offstage, Moana is one half of an award-winning documentary team led by her partner and band member Toby Mills. Recent documentaries include ‘Guarding the Family Silver’, which screened in the National Geographic All Roads Film Festival and ‘The Russians are Coming’ which played at the Sydney Opera House during Message Sticks (2012).

The band toured across Europe in 2013, heading into Korea for the first time. In 2014, the band was invited to represent NZ in the tri-nation Boomerang Project, which was launched at Womad NZ, played at the Sydney Opera House then as part of the Glasgow 2014 Festival.

In an era defined by protest and challenge, singer/songwriter Moana is more compelled than ever to connect with audiences in New Zealand and around the world. Reaching back to her musical and cultural roots, Moana crafts songs destined to get feet moving, hearts feeling and minds thinking.

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