Our People


The ASST team is a group of professionals and volunteers dedicated to the advocacy and support of all people seeking asylum in New Zealand.

Supporter

  • Dame Susan Devoy

    Race Relations Commissioner

    New Zealand's Human Rights Commission proudly supports the work of the ASST. Most Kiwis will never know what it's like to flee our home, and put our lives on hold as we wait for another country to offer refuge. Refugees are everyday people who've faced extraordinary challenges. I am always deeply moved when I meet refugee Kiwis and hear their inspiring stories of survival. I also understand that coming to New Zealand isn't the end of their journey but the beginning of a whole new journey and life in a very different country and culture.This is why the work of the ASST is so important. The Council works tirelessly and passionately to support refugees and asylum seekers and to also advocate policy change on their behalf. Above all refugees need a sporting chance, an opportunity to get a fair go and to build a great life for them and their families here in Aotearoa.

Staff

  • Dr Michele Cox

    CEO

    Michele has recently returned from living in Europe where she has been running a Swiss based consultancy company specialising in social development through sport. She has worked on behalf of large international organisations such as FIFA, UEFA, the Asian Football Confederation, and the Asian Football Development Project (AFDP) with their affiliates and stakeholders in over 60 countries, covering all continents. As the Director of Marketing and Development Programmes for AFDP, a foundation established by HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan to support NGO's and sports organisations across Asia, Michele was also heavily involved in the development and implementation of support programmes for refugees, particularly in the Za'atari camp. Complementing her experience in the NGO and corporate sector as a former Senior Sponsorship and Corporate Development Manager for ASB, Michele has a PhD in Health Promotion, an MA in Psychology and a Dip Bus in Marketing.

  • Freyja Stocker

    Hostel Manager and Social Worker

    Freyja began her journey at Asylum Seeker Support Trust as a volunteer in 2014. In 2016 she took on the role of social worker and hostel manager for ASST. She has a masters in social work from the University of Auckland. Freyja has a long standing passion for human rights and social justice, particularly around refugee and asylum seeker issues. Freyja enjoys the opportunity to work with diverse communities and cultures through ASST.

  • Andrea Smythe

    ASST Administration

    Andrea and her family immigrated to New Zealand in 2000. After working with the New Zealand German Business Association, she joined the OSCAR Foundation in 2003, supporting after-school and holiday programmes for children.Andrea spent her formative years in a wide variety of countries, and she has experience working with people from a range of cultures. She loves working with ASST.

Board Members

  • Fiona Taler

    Member

    Appointed President in 2012, Fiona's involvement with ASST stems from her concern for the welfare of migrants, and her passionate desire to see asylum seekers settled successfully in New Zealand.Born in Guatemala and educated in El Salvador, England and New Zealand, Fiona holds a Master's Degree from the University of Auckland. She is also currently the President of the Auckland Latin American Community.

  • Laura Fear

    Secretary

    With a post-graduate diploma in Development Studies with a focus on human rights and gender issues, Laura is passionate about advocacy for people without a voice.Employed in the financial services sector for about a decade, Laura currently works for ASB Bank on digital projects.https://www.linkedin.com/pub/laura-fear/1b/1a7/785

  • Tracy Hickman

    Treasurer

    Tracy brings to the Board years of experience in commercial governance, strategic planning, and an understanding of not-for-profit fundraising challenges. Previously living in UK and Germany and now a migrant to New Zealand, she has faced some of the issues of settling into a new country. Through her skills and networks, Tracy wants to establish sustainable funding sources to support the Auckland Refugee Council's ongoing work with asylum seekers.

  • Rebecca Holdsworth

    President

    With tertiary qualifications in business and management, Rebecca has worked in service, aviation, and technology industries - and her most recent appointment is to the role of Privacy and Data Governance Officer at Vodafone NZ. She moved to New Zealand from Australia in 2013, and feels fortunate to now call New Zealand home. Through involvement in the Board of ASST Rebecca hopes to achieve more just, compassionate and empathetic treatment to those faced with seeking asylum.

  • Anchali Anandanayagam

    Vice-President

    Born in Sri Lanka, Anchali came to New Zealand with her family in 1987. They were refugees sponsored by the Anglican Church, giving her a real understanding of the challenges and opportunities that refugees face. Anchali is a senior commercial lawyer (Principal at Hudson Gavin Martin) specialising in technology, media and telecommunications. Anchali has worked both in-house and in private practice for over 15 years. Anchali has a unique perspective on corporate governance and risk mitigation, and feels it is time to pay forward the assistance her family so gratefully received.

  • Debby Bell

    Member

    Debby's career spans over three decades within the financial services industry with roles ranging from Corporate Money Market Dealer with various international banks, then moving to ASB to manage their Events Marketing and Sponsorship team, after which she took up the challenge to lead their Corporate Communications and Sustainability department. When she ran out of steam for banking, she joined World Vision to help shape up their Major Supporters area. Four years later she is still working for NZ's largest charity - loving the sense of fulfilment this role offers. Debby lives with Kurt and their two daughters Ella (19) and Kate (21) both at Uni, and a menagerie of animals.

  • Carsten Bockemuehl

    Member

    Carsten brings to the Board years of experience in human rights advocacy and humanitarian policy. He currently leads World Vision NZ's advocacy work in support of children affected by poverty, conflict and climate change. He has previously worked as an advocate for Amnesty International, including at UN headquarters in New York. Carsten was born in Germany and holds an MA in Modern History.

  • Rez Gardi

    Member

    Rez was born in a United Nations refugee camp in Pakistan as her Kurdish family escaped persecution in their home land of Kurdistan. After years of struggle, Rez and her family were fortunately given the opportunity to resettle in New Zealand to and create a new life for themselves. Arriving with nothing, Rez has sought to use her difficult start in life as motivation to succeed recently becoming New Zealand's first Kurdish female lawyer, working for premier law firm Chapman Tripp in the litigation team. She was awarded the Young New Zealander of the Year for 2017 for her services to human rights and a Women of Influence Finalist. Rez also recently founded 'Empower' – a charitable organisation aiming to address the underrepresentation of refugee students in tertiary education through a mentoring and support programme.