Meet the Te Ārai group members:


Professor Merryn Gott – I am Director of the Te Ārai Group and passionate about improving palliative and end of life care, particularly for people already facing potential disadvantage and discrimination. My hobbies include yoga and playing the piano (preferably Chopin).

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Natalie Anderson – I am a Senior Lecturer and Emergency Nurse with a background in psychology. I’m interested in death, dying and bereavement in acute-care contexts. My PhD explored paramedics’ decisions to start or stop resuscitation efforts. My MSc research explored nurses’ first experiences with patient death. When I’m not nursing, researching or teaching I enjoy nature photography and travel.

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Dr Deborah Balmer –  I joined the School of Nursing in 2015 to work on the End of Life with Dementia (ELDER) research project, an absorbing and very interesting project.  This was just after completing my doctoral dissertation exploring health literacy – an area I still pursue within the ELDER project.


Ms Stella Black –  Ko Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Whakaue, Whakatōhea, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Tūwharetoa ōku iwi (tribal affiliations). I have been a Maori Health Researcher in the School of Nursing since 2011. I am passionate about working with Maori young and old across a range of research topics, including palliative and end of life.


Associate Professor Michal Boyd – I have pursued creative models of care for older people as a provider, leader and researcher since the early 1990s.  Improving care for older people and those that love them is the life force behind my work. In my nurse practictioner practice in aged care I am constantly amazed at the resilience of people as they age, and this work grounds my teaching and research. I have been with the Te Arai research group since 2012. Amusements include exploring new places, music, documentaries and being outside.

Helen Butler

Helen Butler – I  joined the School of Nursing teaching team in early 2018, and I am getting a real chance to mix my 2 passions – mental health and palliative care.  I am excited to be here and be part of the Te Arai group.  In New Zealand people diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI) have high rates of physical illness and die at an earlier age than the general population.  My masters study found people with SPMI are 3.5 times less likely to access specialist palliative care services compared to the general population in one NZ DHB.  It raised more questions about the palliative and end‐of‐life care needs for people diagnosed with SPMI who are diagnosed with life limiting physical illness so I am embarking on my PhD to find out more!


Dr Aileen Collier – I am delighted to have recently joined Te Arai. My research program is focused on human agency, safety and quality of palliative care. My research undergirds a commitment to my practical work, with moral and pragmatic questions always being anchored to clinical ‘realities’. When not in the School of Nursing, You can find me hanging out with horses or searching for my musical forte as a beginner Scottish fiddler.

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Dr Ofa Dewes – I am a Pacific health researcher and committed to improving health outcomes for Pacific peoples across the lifespan. Before joining the University of Auckland in 2005, I worked in the public, private and international sectors. I am Fiji-born of Rotuman/Tongan/Tuvaluan ethnicity, with affiliation to Ngati Porou. I love rugby and my medicine is laughter. :- )

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Dr Rosemary Frey – I’m a social psychologist whose research is related to culture as well as social justice issues in health research.  I have a particular interest in improving palliative care for older adults. My likes include Jamaica, puppies, kittens and jerk chicken. Dislikes include thunder, papercuts, and war!

Whaea Whio Hansen

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Kristy Kang – I first joined the School of Nursing as a summer student in 2016. Currently, I am working as project manager and research assistant of a National Science Challenge Ageing Well project on social isolation and loneliness among older New Zealand adults. My background is in Public Health and I’m interested in exploring the role of caregivers in a palliative care context. Outside of work and study, I am a keen traveler and hiker and love opportunities when I get to combine these passions together.

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Heather McLeod – I am an honorary research fellow with Te Arai. An actuary by training, I’ve been a consultant in healthcare financing since 1993. A country girl at heart, I consult from the small rural village of Hanmer Springs on the edge of the Southern Alps, South Island, New Zealand.


Dr Tess Moeke-Maxwell  (Ngāi Tai & Ngāti Pōrou) – I joined the School of Nursing in 2013  as a Research Fellow. My research interests include indigenous palliative care (Māori) and Kaupapa Māori and Māori centred research methodologies.


Ms Tessa Morgan – I started at the School of Nursing as a summer student in 2014. I managed an MBIE-funded study looking at older people’s experiences of social isolation and loneliness. I started my PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2018 focusing on palliative care and gender. I hold a BA(hons) in history where I was particularly interested in early modern Europe. In my spare time I love reading and doing yoga.

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Dr Jackie Robinson – I am a Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner and Lead Clinician for the Auckland City Hospital Palliative Care Team. I have a joint appointment as a Senior Lecturer in the School of Nursing.  I have just been awarded my PhD exploring the benefits and burdens of hospital admissions for patients with palliative care needs.  My research interests are around the provision of palliative care in non-hospice settings, including the acute hospital and residential aged care, and the way in which advanced nursing roles can be utilised in palliative care.
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Dr Julia Slark – I am Academic Director of the Undergraduate Nursing Programme. I established the first postgraduate stroke nursing paper in New Zealand and have research interests in stroke and teaching and learning. I work as a nurse consultant one day a week on the hyper acute stroke unit at Auckland DHB and enjoy sailing and walking my dog on the weekend!


Mrs Susan Waterworth – I’m a Senior Lecturer in the School of Nursing. My research interests centre on long-term conditions in older people including palliative and end of life care.My teaching focuses on supporting experienced nurses to develop their leadership in order to develop and implement innovative approaches to improving quality in health care. As a research supervisor, it is a pleasure to work with students who want to conduct research that is based on exploring practical issues that can have a direct impact on making a difference and improving patient/client care. Importantly, it is also about conducting research to ensure that nurses themselves get the support they need to provide the best care they can.

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Matua Rawiri Wharemate is of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou, Tainui, Ngāti Pūkenga descent. He has been Senior Kaumātua with Te Ārai since its inception and is a named investigator on the Pae Herenga project.


A/P Janine Wiles – I am a human geographer with research interested in social gerontology, ageing in place and care. I teach qualitative research methods through a number of courses in the School of Population Health and am Australasian Regional Editor for the journal Health and Social Care in the Community.


Dr Lisa Williams – I’m interested in issues related to gender and palliative care as well as the creative dissemination of research findings to audiences beyond academia. One focus of mine has been creating digital resources based on our research for use in our undergrad and grad nursing programmes as well as to train health professionals. I believe in the power of stories to change lives – as a result, telling the stories of our research participants as they care for family members at the end of life is very important to me. In a parallel universe I write novels and do yoga – sometimes Tessa Morgan and I practice crow pose in the office. I used to work in Antarctica.

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