For 30 years the NZ Drug Foundation has worked tirelessly to shift policy, change attitudes and offer a helping hand. Here is the team that makes things happen.
Ross has been leading the work of the Drug Foundation since 2004. Since he joined the organisation it has grown in size, ambition and impact. He is committed to taking practical steps to bring harm reduction focussed services to NZ communities, as well as providing credible and fearless advice to politicians, government officials, public health allies and a whole host of others. Joining the dots between people working for change is a top priority for Ross, who regularly convenes people from diverse sectors to talk and collaborate. Ross has been a member of the NZ delegation at United Nations drug talks in Vienna and New York, and is regularly sought out to speak at hui, community meetings and conferences.
Before taking up the position, Ross worked as a university researcher, a foreign affairs adviser, a pizza delivery driver and a social justice advocate. He studied geography and Māori studies for a Bachelor of Arts before going on to complete a MA in Development Studies, both from Auckland University.
During his time with the Drug Foundation Ross has been on the board of the International Drug Policy Consortium, Global Alcohol Policy Alliance, and the NZ Needle Exchange Services Trust.
Alana has a strong research background in alcohol and other drugs (including tobacco), with a special interest in vaping. She has a PhD in the neuroscience of addiction, and spent three-and-a-half years researching population-level substance use for the Ministry of Health and Health Promotion Agency.
She has done extensive myth busting around the issue of vaping, including public talks, and she's passionate about communicating research findings in a way that everyone can understand.
Anna comes from a research, health promotion and public health background. She has a Masters Degree in Critical Health Psychology, and has previously worked alongside New Zealand communities to reduce alcohol and drug harms. After returning from a stint in the UK, she established and chaired the Tertiary Wellbeing Aotearoa NZ network, which connects local health providers to local and international health and wellbeing initiatives.
She is currently working on a range of drug policy issues, including drug law reform. In her spare time she is trying to see as much of the world as possible.
Ben has worked with young people in the drug and alcohol sector for over a decade, and has built up a strong network. He also has many years’ experience in developing and delivering treatment services for young people, including establishing and overseeing school-based, community, and residential drug and alcohol treatment programmes. He is a registered addiction practitioner and accredited clinical supervisor.
In addition, Ben is the Chair of the Addiction Practitioners Association of Aotearoa New Zealand (dapaanz). In the little spare time he has left, he loves searching YouTube for different covers and remixes of music.
Kali’s extensive background in international human rights has taken her to Berlin, London, Mexico City and Botswana. A highlight of that period was helping Survival International to run a high-profile campaign on behalf of the Kalahari ‘Bushmen’, seeing their land rights case successfully through the High Court of Botswana.
Before starting at the Drug Foundation, Kali helped develop youth crime policy at the Ministry of Justice. Now she works on a range of policy issues including drug law reform, methamphetamine-contaminated houses and emergency overdose harm reduction. Her inexplicable love of extreme cake decorating has recently culminated in a pineapple, an American bulldog and Hogwarts castle and grounds, complete with train.
Melanie started working as an Administrator with the NZ Drug Foundation in 2017, and now coordinates the organisation’s communities of practice. Prior to working at the NZ Drug Foundation, Melanie spent three years working for a drug and homelessness charity in a busy recovery hub in Scotland. She helped provide support based on harm reduction, moving towards recovery.
Bringing her unique brand of humour to the mix, Melanie embraces any opportunity to turn the everyday into something puntastic.
Natalie has a background in journalism, subediting and graphic design. A champion of plain English storytelling, she provides support to ensure online and print resources combine content and visual elements to effectively communicate the right messages.
Since starting with the Drug Foundation in December 2016, Natalie has learned how to film and edit video content, as well as managing social media – which she views as a tool rather than a way of life. In her spare time, she’d rather be out building a treehouse for her kids, or trawling for recyclable materials to improve housing conditions for both her chooks and her family.
Nathan brings more than six years of community development and social change marketing experience, previously focused on queer youth development and HIV prevention. Most recently, Nathan graduated with an MBA from the University of Otago which was followed by four years working in corporate marketing and branding based in Bangkok.
In his spare time, Nathan runs an online interest group dedicated to circuit house, a genre of house music, called CircuitX.
Samuel has been with the Drug Foundation for the past five years, initially as an intern while completing an honours degree in sociology.
As Harm Reduction Projects Adviser, he supports community responses to alcohol and other drugs, leads a culture change programme with the New Zealand Defence Force, and helped to establish drug checking at music festivals. Currently based in Auckland, he is completing a Masters of Health Science with a focus on reducing drug-related harm within the gay community.
Over the past 25 years Stephen has worked within in a variety of communications and community development roles for a broad range of NGOs and government agencies. After helping create the pioneering CommunityNet Aotearoa website, launched in 1998, much of his focus has been helping organisations to convert ideas for websites and other online tools into reality. Once sceptical of Twitter, he is now deeply immersed using social networks to achieve real world action.
Stephen has a BA (Hons) from the University of Canterbury and a MA (Hons) in Social Policy from Massey University. You’ll often find Stephen biking madly to the train station, or trying to catch up with his kids.
Tess Nichol has a solid background in journalism. She started in 2015 as a reporter for the NZ Herald in Auckland, first covering breaking news and then moving on to consumer affairs (where she developed a fixation on getting wheel clamping regulated – something the government acted on in 2018). She was digital editor and staff writer for Metro magazine, until Bauer NZ’s closure during the Covid-19 lockdown. She joins the Drug Foundation as an editor and senior writer for Matters of Substance.
Tess enjoys finding the nuance and humanity in each story she tells, and looks forward to helping increase the online presence of our Matters of Substance magazine. In her spare time she tries to read, while usually succumbing to pointless social media scrolling.
Tom’s work history has spanned a wide range of locations and vocations, having been interspersed over the years with studies and travel. He has a BA in History and Political Science and has most recently worked in the local government and legal sectors.
In his spare time, Tom attends as many gigs as possible, cooks up a plant-based storm, and pats his fair share of "floofy animals".
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