The Foundation is honoured to have the support of these influential people who exemplify our vision to end avoidable blindness in the Pacific.
Gabi has been a driving force behind The Fred Hollows Foundation since she and Fred established it around their dinner table almost 20 years ago. She’s the public face of The Foundation, a founding director, and patron of The Fred Hollows Foundation Miracle Club in Australia.
Gabi was born in 1953 in Newcastle, New South Wales, and grew up on an orchard on the Central Coast of NSW.
“I was quite cross-eyed when I was about three years old. After visiting doctors and having an operation to correct my eyes I decided that I wanted to help people with eye problems.”
In her teens Gabi worked every Saturday morning as a receptionist for a local GP, and graduated as an orthoptist in 1972. Orthoptists specialise in disorders of eye movements and associated vision problems.
She first met Fred Hollows during her training. In 1976 she joined the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program (NTEHP) which was initiated and led by Fred and sponsored by the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists and the Australian Government.
Over three years, Gabi and Fred visited over 465 remote Indigenous communities with a team of people, treating Indigenous Australians for trachoma and other painful eye conditions.
Gabi had previously known very little about Indigenous Australians and says that working on the program was a tremendous honour.
“I saw so much of Australia and have beautiful memories. I was very privileged to be initiated into Aboriginal culture the way I was. Those years changed my life and the way I see things.”
Gabi and Fred were married in 1980 and had five children: Cam, Emma, Anna-Louise and twins Ruth and Rosa.
In 1992, four years after Fred became sick with cancer, Fred and Gabi realised he didn’t have long to live. They got together with friends and set up The Fred Hollows Foundation to continue his work.
Since Fred’s death on February 10, 1993, Gabi has continued to work tirelessly for The Foundation while caring for her large family. In 1996 Gabi married lawyer and family friend John Balazs, who has a daughter Kate from a previous relationship.
Gabi has been recognised for her work through an Advance Australia Award for Community Service and a Paul Harris Fellowship from Rotary International. She has also been named one of Australia’s 100 Living National Treasures. In 2003 she was awarded a Centenary Medal by the Australian Government. In 2012 she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney in recognition of her tireless work in the field of blindness prevention.
Dame Patsy is a lawyer and non-executive director who has served as the 21st Governor-General of New Zealand since September 2016. She is the third woman to be appointed to the position.
In the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours she was appointed a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the arts and business. In 2016, Dame Patsy was appointed as a Dame of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem.
In 2016 Dame Patsy was promoted to an additional Dame Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and appointed an additional Companion of the Queen’s Service Order in preparation for becoming Governor-General.
Our Executive Team, headed by Executive Director Andrew Bell, is responsible for the day to day running of The Foundation.
Andrew Bell joined The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ in June 2010. As Executive Director, Andrew’s role is to champion the vision of Professor Fred Hollows of a world where no one is needlessly blind. Andrew works closely with staff, supporters and the Board of Trustees to achieve this goal in the Pacific. The Foundation enjoys the support of the New Zealand government, Trusts, Foundations and the generous public. Andrew has managed significant infrastructure developments including the Pacific Eye Institute and Mobile Eye Clinic in Fiji, the National Eye Centre in Timor-Leste, the eye clinic expansion at Modilon General Hospital, Madang, Papua New Guinea and the world-class Regional Eye Centre in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
Born and raised in South Africa, Andrew’s career in community development started soon after he graduated from university. Andrew developed his broad skillset working in both urban and rural contexts. Andrew established a school for underprivileged children and actively participated in the movement for change to democracy whilst working in rural Zululand. In 1996, an opportunity to work and study in New Zealand was too good to ignore and Andrew and his family moved to Auckland. Andrew has had a challenging and rewarding career in community and international development in New Zealand, completing a Masters Degree in International Studies at the University of Otago.
Marleen was appointed Programme Director for The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ in December 2016, following two years in the role of Regional Programme Manager for the Foundation. Before that, she worked for more than two years as Country Manager for the Foundation’s programme in PNG. Marleen has a Masters Degree in Cultural Anthropology and Sociology of Non-Western Societies from the University of Amsterdam. During her studies and early working career, she predominantly focussed on the effects of globalisation and neo-liberalism in Latin American countries, and spent a considerable amount of time studying and working in that region.
Through a capacity building in developing countries programme, funded by the Dutch Government, Marleen worked as a technical advisor alongside a grassroots NGO which focusses on advocacy and lobby on disability rights in Papua New Guinea. After more than two years in this role, Marleen started working with The Fred Hollows Foundation in PNG.
In her current role, Marleen manages the programmes team in Auckland, which focusses on service delivery and manages training centres in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands, as well as a variety of eye health strengthening projects in other Pacific Island countries. Marleen is responsible for the design, implementation and continued evaluation of the Foundation’s work, and maintains strategic partnerships with the New Zealand Government, institutional donors, Ministries of Health in Pacific Island countries, and other stakeholders.
Having joined The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ in March 2017, Sharon is a relative newcomer to the Not-For-Profit sector. However, with her extensive knowledge and experience in the corporate sector across a wide variety of industries, Sharon has been instrumental in strengthening the financial reporting, compliance and operational oversight of The Foundation and the many entities that form part of the group. The Foundation’s 2016 financial statements received a ‘Highly Commended’ award for a Tier 2 entity from Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand at the November 2017 Charities Services Awards.
Sharon qualified as a Chartered Accountant in the Waikato having been born and raised within the farming community. Her career commenced in audit followed by twelve years overseas in Australia and UK working in senior finance positions in medium to large multi-national organisations. She returned to New Zealand to raise a family and to continue to work in the corporate sector, both in nurturing and guiding her own business in Auckland to success and managing the financial role, within Auckland, of another global organisation based in Singapore.
She is keenly aware of the generosity of The Foundation’s donors and the outcome from the services delivered by The Foundation. She feels extremely privileged to work alongside the passionate and inspiring team at The Foundation and knows that she and her highly regarded finance team are well positioned to provide the financial stewardship required and to add value to the organisation.
Margi joined The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ in March 2017 as an accomplished senior leader with broad experience encompassing all aspects of marketing, communications, sales and fundraising.
She spent much of her early career in the Museum and Festival sectors and prior to joining The Foundation has been a member of the leadership teams at The Spirit of Adventure Trust and World Vision NZ.
In her current role as Engagement Director Margi leads a team responsible for engaging with the public and The Foundation's donors through marketing, fundraising and external communications.
Dr Telaite Biu is the Director of the Pacific Eye Institute in Fiji, and lead ophthalmologist for the Pacific Eye Institute and Pacific-wide diabetes eye programme. Diabetes is the third most common cause of visual impairment in Fiji, and Dr Biu and her team provide diabetes eye screening and treatment in central Fiji, and train eye care professionals from around the Pacific in diabetes eye care.
Dr John Szetu has been with The Foundation since it started delivering programmes in the Pacific in 2001. He currently holds the position of Programme Medical Director, based at the Regional Eye Centre in the Solomon Islands.
Among his myriad other achievements, Dr Szetu (with the support of The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ) established the Pacific Eye Institute in 2006, a training centre for Pacific eye health workers now located in Suva, Fiji. At around the same time he formed the Pacific Eye Care Society (PacEYES) to represent the interests of eye care professionals working in the Pacific Islands region. Dr Szetu also held the position of IAPB Western Pacific Region Co-Chair for the Pacific Islands Sub–Region from 2009–2012.
Dr Szetu had long recognised the importance of training Pacific eye health workers to deliver eye care in their own communities, and has always advocated strongly for formalising ophthalmic training, both of doctors and nurses in the Pacific. He realized that more of both cadres were badly needed to cater for the particular needs of the small but scattered populations across the islands. He has an impressive track record in designing and implementing training courses for eye care nurses and supervising registrars in the Pacific. His successful programmes in training and clinical service in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are held in high regard throughout the Pacific eye health sector.
The growth of the Pacific Eye Institute reflects the respect that Dr Szetu commands amongst his Pacific Island colleagues as well as those from New Zealand and Australia. He has been able to inspire others to realise that, like him, they can stand on their own feet and provide increasingly high-quality eye health care and leadership for their own communities. Dr Szetu is highly respected by the global eye health community and has inspired others to join the fight against avoidable blindness.
The Board has overall governance and accountability for The Foundation, and is responsible for our strategic direction and key policies.
The Board meets quarterly and members are elected annually at an annual general meeting in May.
Craig Fisher is a Chartered Accountant and has been an audit partner since 1996. He’s a director of RSM Hayes Audit and Chairman of the RSM New Zealand group. As well as being a recognised specialist in not-for-profit and charitable issues, and acting for a wide variety of commercial and not-for-profit clients, Craig is a licensed auditor under the Auditor Regulation Act and an Approved Auditor for the Office of the Auditor-General. A trustee of The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ since 2011, Craig stepped into the Chair role in late 2014.
“Having an eye condition myself I realise how fortunate I am to live in a developed country with easy access to eye care. Fred’s legacy and The Foundation’s work is fantastic and life changing for people in countries less fortunate than us. It is an honour to serve and help continue the positive difference,” says Craig.
Martin is the Chief Operating Officer of Ngāti Paoa Group. Martin has held executive positions in listed corporates, professional service firms, start-ups and NGOs. He has worked in New Zealand, Australia, Asia, India, the Pacific and the US.
Martin began his career as a banking and finance lawyer in Sydney before moving into business. He was Executive Director and head of business development for Warner Bros. International TV Asia-Pacific for almost 8 years. He returned home in 2013, initially to take up an appointment as Director and member of SKY TV’s executive team. There he looked after content acquisition, anti-piracy, and subscription video on demand. Last year Martin worked in Otara with a charity helping at-risk young people.
Martin has served on the boards of a dozen companies and NGOs. He has lectured on business and media topics at both graduate and under-graduate level since 2000. He’s in his fifth year as a judge, mentor and speaker on the University of Auckland’s Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship Velocity business planning program, and supports local Iwi-led business development.
Martin is a graduate of Otago University, University of NSW, the Australian Graduate School of Management, London Business School, Oxford University and the Australian Film TV & Radio School (AFTRS). He’s a member of the Institute of Directors New Zealand and was appointed to the Leadership Panel at AFTRS. He’s s been admitted as a Barrister & Solicitor in New Zealand and as a Solicitor in several Australian jurisdictions.
Dr Mantell is an eye surgeon specialising in cataract and retinal surgery. Following thirteen years of medical training to qualify as an ophthalmic surgeon, Dr Mantell spent a further three years working at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne, and the Royal Manchester Eye Hospital.
He has performed thousands of cataract and vitreoretinal operations, and helped to pioneer day stay vitreoretinal surgery, making him one of the most active and highly trained surgeons in New Zealand. Dr Mantell has also been involved in the teaching of optometrists, training junior doctors and junior ophthalmologists at the University of Auckland Medical School. He helped to establish a cataract clinic in Fiji, and additional Eye Institute clinics in the North Shore and Manukau.
Debbie Sorensen is a health strategist and management expert. She specialises in projects that address the health challenges facing Pacific communities in New Zealand and the Pacific region. She played a leading role in the establishment of the Pacific health sector in New Zealand, and continues to deliver specialist health services and build workforce capacity and capability in partnership with Ministries of Health. In 2011 Debbie was awarded a prestigious ANIVA Fellowship which enabled her to travel to Harvard to undertake additional executive development study. In 2015 Debbie was presented with the Royal Order Crown of Tonga Dame Commander by His Majesty King TupouVI, in recognition of her services to the people of Tonga.
Debbie is currently Chief Executive of Pasifika Futures, the Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency for Pacific families in New Zealand; Chief Executive of the Pasifika Medical Association; Director of international consultancy firm Health Specialists Ltd; and Chair of “Make a Wish” Pacific. She’s an Advisor to the Minister of Health Tonga and to Prime Ministers and Health ministers in the region.
Kath Watson has been involved in the advertising and marketing industry for all of her career. She’s held senior roles in television, advertising and media. Kath is the former CEO of OMD New Zealand, the country’s largest and most awarded media agency; a role she held from 2007–2017. The agency works with a wide range of global, regional and local clients.
Kath is also an active executive member of the communication industry’s organisation, CAANZ, which focuses on industry professional development providing awards and training programmes.
Sir Maarten Wevers was Chief Executive of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet from 2004-2012. He led the Government House Conservation Project, chaired the Better Public Services Advisory Group, and led the implementation of the review conducted into New Zealand’s intelligence and security agencies. He was Regional Director of New Zealand Post International Limited and General Manager of Government Business for New Zealand Post.
Sir Maarten is a former diplomat and served as counsellor to the New Zealand Embassy in Brussels, High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand’s Ambassador to Japan. He was Chair of the APEC Senior Officials Meeting in 1999, during New Zealand’s year as APEC host. In 2000, Sir Maarten was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the 1999 APEC summit.