2021 Speakers + Facilitators

Introducing our 2021 conference speakers -

Paula Tesoriero dressed in a black suit jacket, with her MNZM award ribbon on her lapel.

Paula Tesoriero MNZM - Keynote Speaker

NZ Disability Rights Commissioner

Paula Tesoriero is New Zealand’s Disability Rights Commissioner. It is her role to protect and promote the rights of disabled New Zealanders.

Paula is Chef de Mission for the NZ Paralympic team heading to Toyko. She is also a Paralympian cycling gold medalist, a former lawyer,  was a general manager at Stats NZ and at the Ministry of Justice. She is a life trustee with the Halberg Foundation, and has held a range of governance roles on various Boards, and she is a mum.


A man with short greying hair and beard, smiling at the camera

Brendan Roach - International Speaker

Director of Strategy and Networkology, PurpleSpace

Brendan is a globally respected leader in the field of disability inclusion in business.

On a mission to create impact at scale, Brendan ensures that we help disability ERGs/Networks to drive cultural change by developing our Networkology life-cycle approach to resource group development and cascading that know-how to every corner of the globe. He leads PurpleSpace’s strategy to remain and grow the world’s only network of disability employee networks and resource groups through the delivery of high-quality Learning & Development.

With 15 years’ experience supporting organisations and government in the UK and internationally to improve disability confidence, Brendan is passionate about disability inclusion in business and on a mission to create impact at scale. Prior to joining PurpleSpace, Brendan developed and led Business Disability Forum’s global strategy where he supported governments, global businesses and national business and disability networks around the globe to build a better working world for people with disabilities.

Naturally curious and a born collaborator, Brendan loves connecting people and ideas. This means you’re most likely to find him listening and working with our members and partners. A Dyslexic thinker with a gift for connecting people and ideas, Brendan is a born collaborator who loves working with others to make things happen.


A man with short hair and wearing glasses sits in front of steps holding a notepad and pen. He smiles at the camera.

Callum McKirdy - New Zealand Speaker

Callum McKirdy is a speaker, author, mentor and facilitator specialising in workplace dynamics and behaviour. With a successful 20-year career assisting leaders and teams to develop radically authentic workplaces by leveraging their uniqueness across Australasia.

Proudly dyslexic and ADHD-positive, Callum champions organisations to think differently about different thinking, and views neurodivergent people as the innovative super-workforce of the future.

Callum speaks at industry conferences, facilitates high-impact workshops, trains teams, and mentors professionals who are looking to reconnect people with purpose in their workplaces.

The author of The HR Catalyst: A Guide to the New Practice of Leading HR, published in 2019 and a contributing author to the 2020 Amazon Bestseller What The Hell Do We Do Now? – An Enterprise Guide to COVID-19 and Beyond, Callum is due to publish his second book TILT: Thinking Differently About Different Thinking in late-2021.


A man (Christopher Patnoe) dressed in a blue polo shirt, smiling.

Christopher Patnoe - International Speaker

Head of Accessibility Programs and Disability Inclusion for Google

Christopher Patnoe is the Head of Accessibility Programs and Disability Inclusion for Google. He leads Google’s efforts around the accessibility of product, people (both Googler and end users) and partnerships.

He has more than 20 years experience in tech working at companies like Apple, Sony Ericsson and Disney where he’s built hardware, software, and services.

His current passion is Accessibility at the intersection of immersive technologies (AR/VR) and consumer hardware. He is the chair for the Immersive Captions Community Group with the W3C, is a co-Chair of the XR Association Accessibility Working Group, and sits on the Board of Trustees for the American Foundation for the Blind and the GAAD Foundation.

Christopher has a degree in Music from UC Berkeley.


alt="Image of a man (Jared Hutcheson) with dark hair and beard. He is wearing a business shirt and tie. He is smiling."

Jared Hutcheson - NZ Speaker

Co-chair Westpac's Accessibility EAG

Jared Hutcheson is the current co-chair of Westpac’s Accessibility EAG (Employee Action Group). The EAG’s main goal is to raise awareness around accessibility and make our facilities and products accessible for our customers and staff.

Being in the bank for 10 years in the procurement division, Jared has been able to leverage his skills and experience within the bank to drive initiatives for Westpac’s Accessibility EAG. This includes retaining The Accessibility Tick, promoting NZSL Sign Language Week, working with our technology squad to make Westpac’s website more accessible as well as hosting events to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities.


A blonde haired woman (Julie Woods) smiling. She has a black lace top on and a pearl necklace.

Julie Woods - New Zealand Speaker

'That Blind Woman'

When Julie Woods went blind in 1997 as a 31-year-old mother, she thought her life had ended; little did she realise it had only just begun.

After turning down the chance to go cross-country skiing, Julie realised she wasn’t going to make a very good blind person unless she learned to say WHY NOT to opportunities that came her way. Learning to read with her fingers, embracing how to touch type and getting speech software on her computer were her first steps in gaining greater access to the world around her.

But she couldn’t stop saying WHY NOT!

Not only that, she went on to say WHY NOT to walking 10 half marathons, visit the Seven Wonders of the World and refereeing not one, not two, but three games of nude touch rugby…

Find out what Julie did last year in response to reading a newspaper article on disability awareness that horrified her, and how it inspired her to create the Accessibility Game.


Image of a man (John Eatwell). He is smiling.

John Eatwell - New Zealand Speaker

Organisational Psychologist

John has over 30 years experience, leading teams of professionals in the delivery of generalist HR as well as specialist services. In the course of his career he has delivered projects in Australia, Dubai, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Vanuatu, Venezuela, United States and the United Kingdom.

John is currently Director of Strategic People Group, Health and Safety Association of New Zealand, Keep New Zealand Beautiful, Chair of the Institute of Organisational Psychology, on the Advisory Board for Telpower Canterbury Ltd and Treasurer for the Queen Charlotte Track Landowners Cooperative.


A man (Phil O'Reilly) in a blue suit, business shirt and tie.

Phil O'Reilly - New Zealand Speaker

Managing Director, Iron Duke

Phil O’Reilly ONZM is Managing Director of Iron Duke Partners, a Wellington based Public Policy Advisory Firm.  He is a global business leader and advocate.

He was until recently the Chair of the Board of Business at OECD, based in Paris, which is the representative of businesses in OECD member states and was a member of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation based in Geneva.

He has worked closely with the B20, advising G20 leaders and was also a member of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).

He has acted in a governance or advisory capacity to a number of New Zealand and overseas organisations in areas as diverse as trade, sustainability, diversity, pay equity, manufacturing, tertiary education, child poverty, social welfare and the future of work.

He was previously Chief Executive of BusinessNZ, New Zealand’s leading business advocacy group, representing thousands of businesses of all sizes.


A man, Selwyn Cook, with short brown hair and glasses, smiling at the camera.

Selwyn Cook - Conference MC

Selwyn Cook enjoyed a career as a Shell and then Z retailer in the Waikato owning and operating a multiple service station business for 27 years. His discovery of the talent pool that identified with disability had a significant impact on the positive performance of his business.

He has worked with organisations such as Workbridge, Enrich+, Idea Services and Blind & Low Vision New Zealand to recruit people with physical, mental and intellectual disabilities, In the last three years in business he employed over seventy job seekers through Workbridge alone.

Selwyn has won a number of awards for his work including the Attitude ACC Employer Award 2014, Diversity Works Diversability award in 2015, a City of Hamilton Civic award for Community, People and Wellbeing and was the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Local Hero winner for 2016.

This led to Selwyn to take up a new challenge as the Workbridge Employer Ambassador. He has always been committed to reflecting diversity in the workplace and ensuring businesses become more inclusive of those living with a disability or illness.

Now as an independent facilitator of Disability Employment this allows him to continue to promote the benefits to employers so to consider the disability talent pool. He is now also very much involved in supporting young disabled job seekers on their employment journey.

His work with providers, the wider disability community and with employers not just supports the building of more inclusive workplaces but also a more inclusive New Zealand.


Woman (Suzanne Colbert) in an office. She is wearing a red blazer and she is smiling.

Suzanne Colbert AM - International Speaker

After stepping down as CEO of the Australian Network on Disability (AND) in December 2020, Suzanne is consulting to organisations and assisting them to recruit suitably skilled and talented people with disability. She brings clarity and simplification to understanding the complexity of employment services, providers, and programs so that organisations can create efficient and effective recruitment strategies tailored to their needs.

Suzanne continues to support AND’s Disability Champions by equipping and encouraging newly appointed Disability Champions and facilitating meetings.

Under her leadership AND grew from 2 members with 40 employees to 310 members collectively employing 1.75 million Australians and became the ‘go to’ for employers committed to building disability confidence. AND built a suite of best practice publications, policies, facilitated and eLearning sessions and developed the Access and Inclusion Index and the Disability Confident Recruiter recognition program.

Suzanne pioneered the internationally acclaimed Stepping into Internship Program, mentoring programs, and the highly effective and successful Intellectual Disability Business Administration Traineeship program.

Prior to the Australian Network on Disability, Suzanne was the founding General Manager of a successful disability employment service for 7 years and the inaugural Chair of Ace National Network (now Disability Employment Australia).

She is a member of Disability Employment Australia’s ‘Hall of Fame’.


A woman (Victoria Lessing) with blonde hair, smiling at the camera.

Victoria Lessing - New Zealand Speaker

CEO Merge NZ

Victoria identifies as culturally Deaf and she is a social advocate for the Deaf community. Victoria is a qualified New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) teacher. She has been teaching NZSL for almost 20 years and has been involved in the development of NZSL teaching curriculum.

Currently studying a BA double major in education and business, Victoria is also fluent in five languages. Victoria has a huge passion in inspiring people through teaching language and Deaf culture programmes.

Victoria now leads Merge NZ, which is a social enterprise with the aim to normalise NZSL in many towns and cities in New Zealand so organisations, service providers, businesses, schools and individuals can appreciate one of the official languages in NZ.