Leadership Network members graduate in-person and virtually

In December, the Foundation said goodbye to 13 Leadership Network members who graduated from the network, with some celebrating 12 years of involvement.

Hear from some of our 2020 off-shore Leadership Network graduates.

Each year, the Foundation holds Leadership Network graduation events to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions made by outgoing members.

“For us, it’s great to be able to get everyone to together for these events to not only celebrate those graduating, but to acknowledge the value that being in the Leadership Network has - for network members and for the Foundation.” says executive director, Simon Draper.  

Leadership Network members gathered in Christchurch, Wellingtonand Auckland to mark the graduationwith Pania Matthews and Jay Waters graduating in person, and others joining virtually

After graduating from the network, former network members can remain connected through the Leadership Network Mentorship Programme, which pairs up experienced mentors with new mentees, to enable deeper connections and professional development.  

“This is a fantastic way for graduated members to give back to the network and pass on some of their experience,” says Leadership and Entrepreneurship director Adam McConnochie. 

"I've known some of these graduating members for almost a decade and watched them grow and progress on their leadership journey.

"We've experienced some incredible things together, both here and in Asia, sat down for korero about some of the big issues facing the world and become friends along the way.

"It's bittersweet moment, but I know we will continue to stay in touch and they will always be a part of the wider Leadership Network whanau."  


Group picture from the 2020 Wellington Graduation event.

For the graduates, graduating is also an opportunity to reflect and speak to their experiences with the network.

"I don’t see graduation as the end, but the beginning of the next stage of the journey. Thanks to all my fellow network members for the great times and here’s to many more!”  - Jeong Min Park

My most useful experience of the network was attending a media training session with Amanda Millar in July 2017. This was 'just-in-time' training for me, as two weeks later I had my first TV interview in the role of acting President of the National Council of Women NZ - soon after I was in the role permanently and the key spokesperson in September 2017. My workplace ran media training with Amanda late last year, and I was able to thank Amanda for the early tips.”  - Vanisa Dhiru 

"Graduating and becoming Leadership Network Alumni will provide me with new opportunities to connect and support members of the Network and work with the Foundation to help New Zealanders build confidence to thrive in Asia." - Jay Waters. 

On-shore Graduates

Sam Kamani 

  • Sam has been a network member since 2016. He is a serial entrepreneur, podcast host for ‘Want Money Got Money’, author, and co-founder of ProductDone and ensydr.com.  

Jeong Min Park 

  • Jeong has been a network member since 2015, and is a Foreign Policy Officer at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Jeong was a key figure in the success of the 2017 Korea Hui and MCed the 2019 Wellington graduation event.

Will Samuel 

  • Will has been a network member since 2015.  He is the NZ General Manager for Rhino Manufacturing and was one of 25 NZ Future Leaders with the NZ Leadership Institute. Will went on the 2019 Rethinking Leadership Hui and is currently taking part in the Foundation's mentoring programme as a mentor. 

Jay Waters 

  • Jay has been a highly engaged and active member of the network since joining in 2012 and currently sits on the Leadership Network Advisory Board. He lived in Korea for seven years, and has attended off-shore and on-shore hui during his time in the network.  

Vanisa Dhiru 

  • Vanisa has been a network member since 2012 and has been involved in a number of hui during her time in the network. She is a Commissioner for UNESCO and Library Information Advisory Commission and was honoured with the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2020  

Jeanine Foster 

  • Jeanine has been a network member since 2010. She is a Local Road Programme Lead at NZTA, and has been involved with Asia for 20 years, since studying in Japan, Thailand and Korea. She has been a highly engaged Christchurch member of the network, including sitting on the Advisory Board. 

Linton Rathgen 

  • Linton has been a network member since 2008 and was a previous business intern. He was the Co-founder, president, and charter member of New Zealand's first bilingual Chinese-English Toastmasters Club and is the Sister Cities New Zealand board director. 

Josh Wharehinga 

  • Josh has been a network member since 2016. Among other things, Josh is a father of six, the Deputy Mayor for the Gisborne District, an elected member to the District Health Board and a board member of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. Josh has attended a number of off-shore and on-shore hui during his time in the network and has been a great support for the Foundation over the years, particularly with its engagement with Māori.

Pania Matthews 

  • Pania has been a network member since 2010, after her brother Ben Matthews encouraged her to join. She is a National Programme Manager and tutor at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, and has travelled with the network to Manila and attended a number of on-shore hui. Pania played a leading role in the network's Kāhui Māori and has been integral in helping the Foundation engage with Māori and embed tikanga in our work.

Off-shore Graduates 

Rob Thompson 

  • Rob has been a network member since 2009 and is currently based in Hokkaido, Japan. He has been living in Japan for 13 years and is an assistant professor at Hokusei Gakuen University. Rob, who once skateboarded across China, was a key figure in the 2019 Japan Hui.

Corey Wallace 

  • Corey has been a network member since 2008 and currently lives in Kanagawa, Japan. He was inspired to join the network after a trip to Japan, and is currently an Assistant Professor at Kanagawa University. Like Rob, Corey was a key figure in the Japan Hui and has been involved in many hui over the years. 

Kerryn-Ruth Botting 

  • Kerryn-Ruth has been a network member since 2008, and currently lives in Korea. She has worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Seoul for over five years now as a Senior Protection Associate. 

Naresh Perinpanayagam 

  • Naresh has been a network member since 2016, and currently lives in New York. He was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in Auckland and Tauranga, and has been mainly working overseas, including in Asia, as a political advisor, human rights officer and lawyer at the United Nations.