Phone - Carole 021 401 951

Meetings are held at the Te Awa Lifecare Woolshed, 1866 Cambridge Road, Cambridge, from 10am for 10.30 until 12.00 noon on the second Friday of each month.

Friday March 8th, 2024 - Rescheduled Speaker - Dr Sarah Gordon - From psychiatric patient to Associate Professor (and psychiatric patient)

Associate Professor Sarah Gordon PhD (Otago), MBHL, LLB, BSc

Sarah’s personal experience of mental illness shaped her university study with the areas of psychology, medical law, bioethics, and psychological medicine being the focus through to PhD level. Combining this theoretical education and personal experience, Sarah has spent the last 20 years working and advocating for an improved mental health sector and societal perceptions of mental health from the perspective of a person who personally experiences mental illness.

Since 2011 Sarah has worked as a service user academic with the Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago. Through this role, she has promoted and progressed service user-led and co-produced education and research.

This work has resulted in the establishment of "World of Difference" – a service user academia education and research team, which Sarah currently leads. The education and research programs being led or co-produced by the World of Difference team are focused on ending discrimination, and promoting recovery, inclusion, and respect for the human rights of people who experience mental distress.

From psychiatric patient to Associate Professor (and psychiatric patient)

Sometimes I wonder where to start. Should it be the serious assault I suffered at the age of eleven or should it be when I was officially diagnosed with a serious mental disorder after I was sent for my first ‘vacation’ at the psychiatric facility? Ultimately it doesn’t really matter – what does matter is that I have always had people in my life that have supported me unconditionally, despite the serious impact that my struggles have had on my life, and theirs, at times (and I will talk a little about this). Furthermore, their expectations about who I am and what I am capable of have never changed. Their perspective has always been that given the impact of my illness I'd just need a bit more support to realise my dreams and aspirations (and I will talk a little about this).  I never knew that my ultimate aspiration was to be a ‘disruptor’ which is how I describe what I have been doing for the last thirty years (and I will talk a little about this). Essentially, I try and disrupt the status quo – the status quo being the belief that people like me don’t recover and achieve, that a broken system can’t be fixed, and that most people really don’t care that much about any of this….unless it is personal to them (and I will talk mostly about this). I look forward to sharing my personal and professional knowledge and experiences, and most importantly, my hope and vision for the future with you.

Friday April 12th, 2024 - Dr Jonathan Warren - Is anaesthesia now safer than Boeing?

Dr Jonathan Warren B Med Sc MB ChB FANZCA is a recently-retired specialist anaesthetist who spent 40 years practicing  anaesthesia in various roles at Auckland City Hospital, Starship Children’s Hospital and several private hospitals around Auckland.

Friday May 10th, 2024 - Max Rashbrooke - Title TBC -  NZ Based writer on democracy and economic inequality

I write about two of the biggest issues in the modern world – democratic renewal and economic inequality – and their potential to shape our societies for better or worse.

New Zealand based but globally engaged, I carry out original research and bring it to a wide audience through my books, my collaborations with artists and data visualisation experts, and public lectures including my talk on upgrading democracy, which has had 1.5m views.

My writing and commentary appears in outlets such as the Guardian and Prospect magazine, and I write a fortnightly column for Stuff, New Zealand’s largest news site.

Threaded through everything I do is a profound belief that for societies to flourish, everyone needs their fair share of a country’s wealth and the opportunity to fully participate, as an equal, in the democratic process.


Friday May 24th, 2024 - TBC - Historical Society Joint Lecture

Friday June 14th, 2024 - Ben Skeen - There still is hope – educating youth for a bright future

Ben joined St Paul’s Collegiate School as Headmaster in May 2021 from Auckland Grammar School. 

Educated at St Peter’s College in Auckland, Ben graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in HR and Economics and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in NZ History with a minor in Political Studies, along with a graduate diploma in teaching from the University of Auckland. 

He held a variety of leadership and management positions at Auckland Grammar, including Associate Headmaster, Associate Dean, Dean, Assistant Boarding Housemaster, and Master in Charge of Student Leadership Programmes. He was awarded a Woolf Fisher Fellowship for excellence in education and leadership. 

In 2009, he initiated and led a flagship programme – a month-long biennial service programme for Auckland Grammar students. He was a teacher of history and social studies. Master in Charge of rugby for five years and Assistant Coach of Auckland Grammar First XV rugby team for eight seasons. 

Outside of work, Ben was contracted to NZ Rugby’s high-performance match official squad, where for 12 of his 15 years with the squad, he provided refereeing services to World Rugby. After officiating 70 test matches and travelling the world numerous times, Ben retired from refereeing at the end of 2019. 

Friday July 12th, 2024 - Fiona Sussman - Award Winning New Zealand Fiction writer

Growing up in a publisher's clicking here home in South Africa meant that I fell in love with language and the written word at an early age. Our house was always filled with manuscripts, books and colourful authors. This was during the apartheid era, and witnessing the brutal regime at work sensitised me to the issues of injustice and racial prejudice – experiences which would inform much of my early writing.

After school, I completed a BA in English Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand; however, the untimely death of my father from a terminal illness saw me change direction and pursue a career in medicine.

In 1989 I emigrated from South Africa to New Zealand, where I completed my medical degree and went on to work as a family doctor.

While I found practising medicine immensely satisfying, I still hankered after the literary world of my childhood. Finally, the call to write became too great. I hung up my stethoscope, returned to university to do a Master of Creative Writing and began to write in earnest.

Most of my days are spent writing, mentoring new writers and speaking at events. I have also been involved, alongside my husband, in establishing a charitable surgical service in Auckland to assist those who have fallen between the cracks in our health system.

Learn more about Fiona by clicking here.


Friday 9th August, 2024 - Emeritus Professor Roberta Farrell - Fire and Ice: Antarctica and Tales of Research from Mount Erebus and the Heroic Era Historic Huts

By the Antarctic Treaty, Antarctica is dedicated to peace and science.  It is also the coldest, driest, windiest continent on the planet.

The talk will describe what it is like as a scientist to be privileged to work on the Ice.

The lecture will discuss the work of Emeritus Professor Roy Daniel, whose research started on Mount Erebus in 1980 and the current research of his wife, Emeritus Professor Roberta Farrell, who has focused on Antarctic fungi, studies which initiated by evaluating the deterioration of the historic huts of the Heroic Period of exploration, the British National Antarctic Expedition (1901-04) and Terra Nova British Antarctic Expedition (1910-13) led by Robert F. Scott; and the British Antarctic Expedition led by Ernest Shackleton (1907-09)).  

When these expeditions ended and relief ships arrived, a rapid exodus allowed only essential items to be returned to England.  The huts and thousands of items were left behind and though the extreme polar environment protected them from rapid decay, it has not from significant biological and non-biological deterioration. The resulting findings led to the ‘hunt for decay fungi’ in pristine areas of Antarctica, with surprising results.

Roberta’s research has had impact in biotechnology, specifically  in the areas of enzymes, fungi, bio-control, and bio-remediation, the latter, in collaboration with Ngaio Awa, was  featured in the documentary "The Green Chain" as well as in Māori Television’s “Project Matauranga“.  

Roberta and Roy have 4 children, 7 grandchildren, are now retired from The University of Waikato, and have enjoyed a wonderful life together.

Friday August 23rd, 2024 - SPECIAL PARTNERSHIP HISTORY LECTURE - Richard von Sturmer - Walking with Rocks - Dreaming with Rivers - My Year in the Waikato

Richard von Sturmer is a New Zealand writer. He was born on Auckland’s North Shore in 1957. His recent books are the acclaimed memoir, This Explains Everything (Atuanui Press, 2016), Postcard Stories (Titus Books, 2019), Resonating Distances (Titus Books, 2022) and the recently published Walking with Rocks, Dreaming with Rivers: My Year in the Waikato (Titus Books, 2023). He is well-known for writing the lyrics of ‘There is No Depression in New Zealand,’ which has become the country’s alternate national anthem.

In 2020 he was the University of Waikato’s writer in residence. During his residency he explored the Waikato region, writing on its towns and geographic features. The result is now a book, Walking with Rocks, Dreaming with Rivers: My Year in the Waikato.

‘This beautiful object, this dream set down on paper, is travel writing regained, and put to rights. The first person invested in it is the reader. You are about to go on a journey. You are in good hands: great travel writing picks you up and swings you along like luggage.’ – Steve Braunias

‘An extraordinary meditation on settings across the Waikato – museums where he’s the only visitor, lifestyle blocks where “you can feel history evaporating,” lakes where the only images reflected are clouds.’ – Tracey Slaughter


Friday September 13th, 2024 - Dr Marnie Lloydd - Armed Conflict, the International Red Cross and Humanitarian Dilemmas: My Experiences

What role is there for law in the pain and madness of wars? What role is there for a neutral humanitarian organisation in the face of the dire protection needs of civilians? What is it like to be a New Zealander discussing such issues with the affected populations and the warring parties in countries like Afghanistan, Sri Lanka or the DRC?

Dr Marnie Lloydd specialises in international law related to armed conflict, forced migration, counterterrorism and foreign fighting, human rights and humanitarian law and policy.

Marnie’s current academic role at Te Herenga Waka | Victoria University of Wellington, builds on her extensive prior experience as a Delegate and Legal Adviser with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), representing the ICRC in Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Chad, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as at the Geneva headquarters where she advised on international law and institutional humanitarian policy in support of the ICRC's activities in the Middle East.

 Marnie has taught and spoken on issues of international humanitarian law and the humanitarian sector, foreign fighting, arms control and humanitarian affairs with diverse audiences around the world, including UN staff, diplomats, military legal advisers, and non-state armed groups. In 2022, she was awarded VUW's student association's supreme award of 'Lecturer of the Year' for her teaching. Marnie was also recognised as a Women Leader in Law by the Borrin Foundation in 2022, and has been selected as a Global Scholar with Harvard Law School's Institute of Global Law and Policy in 2018 & 2022. In addition to her teaching and research, she engages actively with Government, media and civil society. She is Associate-Director of the New Zealand Centre for Public Law and serves on NZ's IHL Committee, NZ’s Inter-governmental Working Group on Lethal Autonomous Weapons, and as Co-Chair of ANZSIL's International Peace & Security Interest Group.

Friday October 11th, 2024 - Professor Russell Snell - Centre for Brain Research

Professor Russell Snell was Born in Fielding and raised in South Otago. He studied Physics at Otago and completed a PhD in Genetics in Cardiff Wales in 1993. His research interest is in identifying the genetic basis of disease and also the use of genetics for improving New Zealand’s economy through cow and goat milk production. Russell has a diverse range of research areas but they have a single underlying theme of utilising genetic tools including whole genome sequencing to identify disease mechanism and the development of therapies.

An area of focus has been the long term project with the Minds For Minds group including Dr Jessie Jacobsen and Prof Klaus Lehnert discovering genes and mutations in people with Autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. This project has been very successful with many families benefiting from a definitive diagnoses and personal explanation for the cause of the condition.

Fragile X is a very common condition that often has autism as a co-occurring characteristic. The Cure Kids funding for Russell’s group is for the making of a sheep model of Fragile X to facilitate the testing of therapies. Russell has had extensive experience making and utilising sheep models with a unique very successful Huntington’s sheep line being used by many international groups and drug companies for therapeutic testing. The Fragile X sheep line will also be made available to the large number of investigators working on potential therapies. This work will bridge the gap between testing treatments in mouse studies which unfortunately have not translated into a successful therapies and trials in people with the condition. The Cure Kids funding will establish the line and subsequent funding will be sought with international collaborators to advance the use of the animals.

Friday October 25th, 2024 - SPECIAL PARTNERSHIP HISTORY LECTURE - Dr Warren Gumbley - Archeologist - Title of Talk TBC

Warren Gumbley has worked as an archaeologist for over 40 years and has a Ph.D. from the Australian National University. His principal areas of research interest are: The adaptation of Polynesian horticulture to Aotearoa/New Zealand, the development of pā, the archaeology of mission stations, and the archaeology of the Waikato  Land War of 1863-1864.

“Archaeology deals with the physical remains of what people have been doing, and often that’s associated with day-to-day activities: how people made a living, how they grew their crops, how they fished for eel, how they went about processing their food to eat and storing it, and what sort of houses they lived in,” said Warren.


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