Conference speakers

(More tbc)

We are honoured to welcome an exciting line-up of speakers for our annual conference. 

Full conference details

Matt for website

Matthew Gifford

Conference Master of Ceremonies (MC)

Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa, Ngāi Tuhoe, Tongareva (Cook Islands)

Matt works as a public policy and strategy advisor for his own consultancy business based in the Kāpiti Coast and Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

Matt has hosted a range of events over the past decade including the inaugural TedX Kāpiti, the national launch broadcast of the new health system for New Zealand, the Transport Knowledge Conference, the national Te Matatini Kapa Haka festival, as well as co-hosting the annual international Barbershop Harmony Society livestream. Matt was also a judge on the 2017 TVNZ acapella series The Naked Choir.


Fekitamoeloa Katoa Utoikamanu for website

Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu

Keynote speaker

Tonga's Minister for Foreign Affairs

Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu is a Tongan civil servant, diplomat and Cabinet Minister currently serving as Tonga's Minister of Foreign Affairs. Previously she was Tonga's permanent ambassador to the United Nations, and the United Nations High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

Ms. ‘Utoikamanu has a wealth of national, regional, and international experience in various senior leadership positions. Prior to her latest appointment, she was Chief Executive Officer of Tonga’s Ministry of Tourism,  and served as Acting Pro-Chancellor and Chair of the Council of the University of the South Pacific in 2015. 

president jose for website

José Ramos-Horta 

Keynote speaker

President of East Timor

José Ramos-Horta is an East Timorese politician currently serving as president of East Timor since May 2022. He previously served as president from 2007 to 2012, Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2002 to 2006, and Prime Minister from 2006 to 2007. He is a co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, for working towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor.

Nanaia Mahuta

Hon Nanaia Mahuta

Minister's address

New Zealand's Minister for Foreign Affairs

In the 2020 Labour Government, Nanaia became the first woman to hold the Foreign Affairs portfolio. She is also Minister of Local Government, and Associate Minister for Māori Development.

Minister Mahuta says that Aotearoa New Zealand’s independent foreign policy should be grounded in the principles that we aspire to, and apply at home, in the spirit of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  As a liberal democracy, we privilege fundamental human rights, and work actively to sustain, strengthen and evolve our democratic institutions.

On the Pacific, she has said that we must support resilience amongst our partners by listening, enabling partner-led solutions, using local and culturally-relevant approaches, and strengthening the capacity of partner countries to chart their own journey.


Emeline Siale Ilolahia for website

Emeline Siale Ilolahia

Keynote speaker

Executive Director, Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (PIANGO)

As Executive Director of PIANGO, Siale represents the interests of Pacific civil society in a range of regional and international fora. She has a strong history of over 10 years of experience and track record in promoting sustainable growth and social development in the pacific region and a reputation for developing strong partnerships within the civil society sector. 

In her previous role as Executive Director of the Civil Society Forum of Tonga, Siale was instrumental in bringing together and supporting coalitions working on issues as diverse as ethical leadership, women’s access to finance, women’s leadership and political participation. 


brianna fruean for website

Brianna Fruean

Keynote speaker

Activist and environmental advocate 

Brianna Fruean is a Climate Change Activist, who has been leading grassroots community projects from a young age.

At age eleven, she became a founding member of the Samoan chapter of the climate organisation At sixteen she became the youngest winner of the prestigious Commonwealth Youth Award for her environmental activism. 

Brianna turned heads with a passionate speech at COP26, telling world leaders 'we are not drowning, we are fighting.'


Kate Wareham


Chief Executive Officer, VSA

Kate was appointed as Te Tumu Whakarae / Chief Executive for Volunteer Service Abroad / Te Tūao Tāwāhi (VSA) in August 2022.  She is also currently Board Chair for Water Safety New Zealand and joins VSA most recently from Te Tari Taiwhenua / Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) where she was Deputy Chief Executive, Organisational Capability & Services.  Kate has extensive experience at an executive level in both the not for profit and public sectors.

Before DIA, Kate held roles as Chief Operating Officer at the Human Rights Commission and Director Corporate & Engagement at the Social Wellbeing Agency.  Kate has been in senior roles in service delivery and corporate areas at the Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.  Earlier in her career, Kate worked at Deloitte, Plunket, ANZ and Department of Corrections in a range of people & capability roles.  She also lived in Tamaki Makaurau / Auckland and North America whilst working for Deloitte.


Junior Ulu for website

Junior Ulu



Director Pacific Peoples Health & COVID-19 in the Community Lead

Junior was previously the Director Pacific Development at the Pasifika Medical Association and prior to this worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Oxfam, ChildFund, the United Nations Development Programme, Counties Manakau District Health Board and Volunteer Service Abroad.


Rachel Mason Nunn

Rachel Mason Nunn

Panel Chair

Board Director of the International Development Contractors Community

Rachel is a social development specialist and strategic advisor with 10 years' experience working on complex social change programs throughout the Indo-Pacific. Rachel has extensive experience in strategy development, program design and implementation and driving social change.

Rachel is the also a well-known podcast host and public speaker, including as the Founder and Host of Good Will Hunters, which has been downloaded over 100,000 times. Rachel is a Board Director of the International Development Contractors Community and holds a Masters in Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development, as well as being a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.


Simona Marinescu

Simona Marinescu


UN Resident Coordinator

Simona Anamaria Marinescu of Romania has more than 20 years of experience in international development and humanitarian affairs spanning all development contexts including Small Island Developing States. She is currently serving as UN Resident Coordinator in Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau where she oversees the implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA Pathway) and the UN Pacific Strategy 2018-2022 along with 29 UN agencies operating in the Pacific.

Prior to her current role, she worked with UNDP as Director of the Development Impact Group in New York in charge of programme effectiveness, evaluation, knowledge management and innovation, the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation and South-South Cooperation.


Michelle Reddy


Pacific Feminist Fund

Michelle Reddy is a Fiji based queer feminist who has been part of the women’s movement in Fiji and the Pacific for more than a decade. Michelle led the establishment of the first national women’s fund in Fiji and the Pacific called the Women’s Fund Fiji from 2017 to March 2022. Michelle serves as an advisory member on the Equality Fund’s Catalyse Program, Human Rights Funders Network - Announcing our Global Racial Justice Advisory Council (, and United Nations Pacific Insurance and Climate Adaptation Programme under the UN Capital Development Fund. Michelle is currently a Co-Coordinator for Prospera Asia and Pacific Chapter of Women’s Funds.

As a Co-Lead Consultant, Michelle is currently leading the establishment of the Pacific Feminist Fund.


Lucy Ross


EU Delegation to Aotearoa New Zealand

Lucy is the Adviser at the EU Delegation to New Zealand, part of the EEAS. She provides analysis about the political, trade, economic, climate change and development assistances shifts in New Zealand.


Gayle De La Cruz


Bynoe Community Advancement Co-operative Society

Gayle is working on the establishment of a Gulf Academy in the Lower Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia. 

Gayle has some 40 years of experience working with governments, the community services sector and, in particular, First Nations people and organisations across North Australia. She has a personal connection to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island Australia including family connection with her husband Gerry, a descendant from Erub (Darnley Island) in the Torres Strait and Kutjala people in North Queensland and children from the Maranunggu tribal group in the Northern Territory.


Frieda Crawford

Panel Chair

Wellington Pasifika Business Network

Frieda has recently joined the Wellington Pasifika Business Network, where she will lead the operational activities of the Network, including advocacy for Pasifika-owned and operated businesses in the Wellington region.

Frieda has 24 years of experience in private sector senior-level management, business and governance. Since August 2021, she has been on the executive committee of the Pacifica Inc. Wellington Central branch, dedicated to providing opportunities for Pacific women to contribute to cultural, social, economic and political development in Aotearoa.

Laura 3

Laura Keil-Hall 


Founder & CEO of The Pacific Business Hub

Laura has over 10 years’ experience in the retail, finance and banking industry in New Zealand. Most notable is her time as a Business Manager at BNZ which led her to pursue her passion for helping and supporting Pacific business owners with the establishment of The Pacific Business Hub in 2019 where she is currently the CEO and Co-Director while also working as its Principal Consultant.

This is an ‘empowering’ environment to encourage entrepreneurship, business creativity and innovation. A place of business of the people, by the people, for the people of Pacific heritage.


Richard Jefferies


Māori Development Consultant

Experienced businessman and organisational manager, consultant, director, and strategist with wide interests in Maori development in many different fields of endeavour. Passionate about the development of Maori and New Zealand society in general. Dedicated husband of 34 years and proud father of six amazing children.

Toleafoa Alfred Schuster

Toleafoa Alfred Schuster


Director, Tutulumanulagi Ltd

Toleafoa Alfred created Tutulumanulagi Ltd, an independent Pacific facing consultancy in 2021. Prior to moving into the consultancy space, he served the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Pacific regional development and political affairs. He has worked in Pacific regional and multilateral organisations, including the United Nations in areas of education, health and has advocated for the Pacific in international fora on issues related to development and aid effectiveness.  Within Aotearoa, he has served Pacific communities during his time at AUT and UNITEC.

He is a proud graduate of the University of the South Pacific, Fiji and Auckland University, Aotearoa/New Zealand.

jo spratt.

Jo Spratt


Oxfam Aotearoa, Communications and Advocacy Director

Jo joined Oxfam in mid-2018, eager to use her experience to build a world without poverty. She recently completed her doctorate thesis, which explored changes in overseas aid policy. The A&C Director role is the perfect opportunity for Jo to put this academic knowledge into practice. Prior to her doctorate studies, Jo worked as a consultant in various Pacific Island Countries. She was Director at the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s Pacific Regional Office, and International Director at Family Planning in New Zealand.


Vaitofiga Fuimaono


Youth facilitator and mentor

Vaitofiga Fuimaono is a student at the University of Auckland studying towards a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Pacific Studies and History, a Youth Facilitator and mentor for Tula’i Pasifika, and a Youth Advisor in Community Engagement at the New Zealand Electoral Commission. He is passionate about advocating for Pasifika youth by ensuring that they have equitable, accessible, and sustainable opportunities to grow in their respective communities. It is our youth that define the future of our communities here in Aotearoa, and their Pasifika homelands.


Eliala Fihaki


Tearfund New Zealand

Eliala Lotoala Fihaki works as a Monitoring and Evaluation Senior Programmes Specialist in Tearfund New Zealand. She has 17 years of professional experiences in the environmental sector in the Small Islands Development States with recent experience in gender study and analysis in the area of climate finance. Eliala holds a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and a Master’s degree in Governance. She is also interested in examining  climate change adaptation frameworks in Kiribati and Tuvalu. 


Peter Rudd


Executive Director, Council for International Development

Prior to joining CID, Peter was appointed by DT Global (on behalf of Australian Department Foreign Affairs & Trade) to lead the transition, establishment and operations of the Pacific Island Food Revolution (PIFR) to a stand-alone Non-Government Organisation (NGO) and registered Charity in New Zealand to continue their innovative development programmes in the Pacific.



Christine Nurminen


Pacific Koloa Collective

Christine Nurminen is the Chair of the Pacific Koloa Collective (PKC) which was first convened in June 2019. The PKC is a safe cultural space and platform for thought leadership amongst Maori and Pacific international development and humanitarian practitioners in INGO sector. Christine’s background is educational research and she has built strong Pacific connections through a public service career and through executive and governance responsibilities in the NGO sector in the last 20 years. Christine has embraced her role as a change agent with interests in indigenous women’s perspectives, social justice and interface of Maori and Pacific peoples relationships in Aotearoa. Christine is raising a young family and she also works as the International Portfolio Manager at Oxfam Aotearoa.