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

    Board 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.

  • Keith Locke

    Vice Chair

    Keith has been on the ASST Board since 2013, and he has a long history of service to New Zealanders. From 1999 – 2011 he was an MP for the Green Party, and spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Defence, Ethnic Affairs, Pacific Affairs, Police, Auckland Transport, Immigration and Human Rights.In recognition of his advocacy service, Keith was presented the Amnesty International Human Rights Defender Award in 2012, and the Harmony Award from the Federation of Islamic Associations of NZ in 2013.http://keithlocke.org.nz/

  • Sirpa Gunn

    Board member

    With a Master's Degree in Management, business owner Sirpa Gunn is skilled in change management, innovation and the implementing of new technology. She's been on the Board since 2013, now in the Treasurer's role. She's also been supporting ASST through the development of the website and the use of social media.https://www.linkedin.com/in/sirpagunn

  • Laura Fear


    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

  • Erin Ajygin


    After completing a Master's Degree in Migration and Refugee Studies in Egypt, Erin migrated to New Zealand in 2010. Since 2011 she has worked in refugee resettlement, and joined the ASST Board in 2013.Erin's 15 years' experience with asylum seekers helps her specialise in case management, refugee status determination, and programme management. She also has first-hand experience: her father was a refugee from the former Soviet Union following World War II, resettling in the US.

  • 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

    Chair

    With tertiary qualifications in business and management, Rebecca has worked in service, aviation, and technology industries - and most recently in HR. Her focus is on valuing and creating value from individual abilities while maintaining compassion, inclusiveness, and social justice.Rebecca is an active planner with a sense of humour. She moved from Australia in 2013, and her family is happy to call New Zealand home.

  • Anchali Anandanayagam

    Senior Associate, Hudson Gavin Martin

    Born in Sri Lanka, Anchali came to New Zealand with her familiy in 1985. They were refugees sponsored by the Anglican Church, giving her a real understanding of the challenges and opportunities that refugees face.A commercial lawyer with over 12 years' experience, Anchali has worked in the technology teams of large and small firms in both New Zealand and London. She has gained a unique perspective of corporate governance and feels it is time to pay forward the assistance her family so gratefully received.