Who we are

From left: Dr Geoff Hicks, Vicki Soanes, Professor Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop, Robyn Baker, Trish Carter, Dr Carol Mutch, Danielle Newton. Absent: Arapata Hakiwai. Photo credit: Stephen A’Court.



UNESCO New Zealand comprises a Chair, and a team of five National Commissioners and a Special Advisor for Youth, each of whom is a specialist in one area of UNESCO’s mandate and leads and advises on that area of our work.

The Secretariat – a small, specialised team based within the Ministry of Education’s International Division, in Wellington – maintains the formal UNESCO-New Zealand relationship and implements the decisions of the National Commission.

Current Chair and Commissioners

Chair – Robyn Baker

Robyn Baker’s career has been in the field of education where she has contributed as a teacher, researcher, curriculum developer, teacher educator and leader. She was the Director and CEO of the New Zealand Council for Educational Research from 2000 to 2014. As a science educator Robyn has been involved in many national developments, including science curriculum and environmental education initiatives. She was a member of the Royal Society Council 1997-2002 and more recently chaired its Education Committee.

Robyn led the management of the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (2003-2014). Currently, she chairs the selection and monitoring panels for the Teacher-led Innovation Fund. This fund is one aspect of the government’s Investing in Educational Success policy and provides funds for teachers to investigate new and innovative practices that have the potential to improve student learning.

Robyn has considerable experience of governance, as a senior manager working to a board and as a governor. Currently she is the Deputy Chair of the Board of the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER), a global research organisation with significant operations in a number of countries, including India, South America and Africa.

Robyn is an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education (2015) and in 2002 was awarded the Royal Society of New Zealand Silver Science and Technology medal.

Education Commissioner – Dr Carol Mutch

Dr Carol Mutch brings a strong education research perspective that is closely aligned to UNESCO’s work in nations experiencing rapid change, conflict and trauma. Dr Mutch is an Associate Professor in Critical Studies in Education at the University of Auckland.

Social Sciences Commissioner – Professor Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop

Professor Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop has considerable expertise and mana within the social sciences field, including experience on UNESCO’s Social Sciences Sub-Commission and other agencies of the United Nations. She is Auckland University of Technology’s inaugural Professor of Pacific Studies.


Natural Sciences Commissioner – Dr Geoff Hicks

Geoff Hicks has recently retired from the role of Chief Scientist at the Department of Conservation. He is Emeritus Research Associate at Landcare Research, co-chairs the End-User Advisory Panel of the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge and is a member of the Interdisciplinary Committee of the World Cultural Council.




Culture Commissioner – Dr Arapata Hakiwai

GL7270 WEBCulture specialist, Mr Arapata Hakiwai is of Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Porou, and Ngāi Tahu descent. A recognised authority on taonga Māori, he is currently Kaihautū at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.





Communication and Information Commissioner – Trish Carter

Trish Carter was the Asia Pacific establishment editor and bureau chief for Al Jazeera. She has held senior news and current affairs management positions in New Zealand broadcasting over a career spanning 30 years. She has particular expertise in establishing and managing complex media projects and has specialised knowledge in legal, cultural and ethical issues, competitive news formats and team management.





Special Advisor Youth – Raven Maeder

Raven Maeder is a fourth year Law and Environmental Studies student at Victoria University of Wellington. Her main passions are youth empowerment, environmental protection and climate activism.

In 2016, Raven was one of 14 young environmentalists selected to join the Sir Peter Blake Trust on an expedition to the Sub-Antarctic Islands for scientific research and conservation purposes. She co-founded Active Citizenship Aotearoa, helping to organise the 2016 ‘Shaping Aotearoa’ youth civics summit.

In 2017 Raven served as the Campaigns Officer for the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association.

In 2018, she represented the New Zealand National Commission at the ‘Our Ocean Youth Leadership Summit’ in Bali.

This year, Raven is Campaigns Coordinator for the Victoria University of Wellington Feminist Law Society, and has been active in helping to organise the School Strike 4 Climate movement across Aotearoa.

Current Secretariat

Secretary General – Vicki Soanes

Vicki Soanes has a decade of experience working in the NGO sector in Zambia, the UK, France and the USA. Immediately prior to returning to New Zealand in 2009, she spent four and a half years representing International Movement ATD Fourth World, an INGO focused on extreme poverty and human rights, at the United Nations in New York.

After a year as Advocacy Manager – International for UNICEF NZ, she joined the Secretariat of the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO in 2010, as Education Programme Officer with additional responsibility for the youth programme. She led the Looking Beyond Disaster UNESCO Youth programme, which began in 2011. Vicki became Acting Secretary General in January 2016, and was appointed to the Secretary General role in November 2016.


Communications Manager (part-time) Tania Guenter

Advisor – Gracielli Ghizzi-Hall 

Portfolios: Global Citizenship Education, UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders

Gracielli has a background in teaching and experience working as a policy analyst in the education sector. She was also a programme coordinator and Council Member for the United Nations Association of New Zealand for four years. She has a BA in Cultural Anthropology and a Masters with Distinction in International Relations, both from Victoria University of Wellington.

Senior Advisor – Zuleika Chang

Portfolios: Indigenous Knowledge, Oceans

Zuleika has previously worked for a range of government agencies, most recently as a senior policy advisor on the Migrant Exploitation Review. While working at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, she worked in a range of policy roles including in the immigration and international strategy teams. She was also the Sciences Programme Officer for the Secretariat for the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO between 2008 and 2010.


UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders

Raven Maeder (Chair)

Pete McKenzie

Ashlee Peacock

Nola Smart

Charlotte Steel

Liletina Vaka

Māia Tapsell

Morgan King

Nick Mailau

Shahin Najak