Our Board

Ako Aotearoa’s governance board is a eight-person board, representing leaders in Aotearoa New Zealand’s fields of tertiary sector teaching and learning, research, and Māori education.

They guide our organisation, providing strategic leadership and performance monitoring.

Board co chair Derek McCormack

Derek McCormack


Derek began his tertiary career as a Biochemistry teacher at Otago University and then Otago Polytechnic.  He then took on the role as national leader of Association of Staff in Tertiary Education, one of the two education unions that later combined to create the current Tertiary Education Union.  Moving then into education management, Derek became one of the architects of the transformation of Auckland Institute of Technology to Auckland University of Technology, becoming its Vice Chancellor in 2004. For the next 18 years, he led the advance of the new university into a major contributor of excellence and equity in higher education.

Derek has served on numerous governance and advisory boards, often as Chair, from institutional Academic Boards and Councils to national bodies such as the Authority for Advanced Vocational Awards, New Zealand Qualifications Authority, the Committee on University Academic Programmes, and Universities New Zealand, as well as various community and private education boards. Derek's governance experience also extends to the health, arts, and sport sectors at local and national levels.

Board co chair Professor Meegan Hall

Associate Professor Meegan Hall


Ngāti Ranginui | Ngāi Te Rangi | Ngāti Tūwharetoa

Meegan is Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Mātauranga Māori) at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington where she provides strategic oversight and guidance around Māori learning, teaching and research, and management oversight of Māori student support and external Māori engagement. Her research focuses on Māori in higher education, which combines her interest in tertiary learning and teaching with her doctorate in Māori studies.

She is a member of Te Kāhui Amokura (Universities New Zealand), the Kāhui Ārahi of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, and the TLRI Advisory Board of the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, as well as a Principal Fellow and Australasian Strategic Advisory Board member of Advance HE.

Giselle Byrnes

Professor Giselle Byrnes

Board Member

Professor Giselle Byrnes is Provost at Massey University Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa, where she is responsible for providing strategic leadership to supporting learning and teaching, academic innovation, and quality assurance, in addition to advancing research and research commercialization across the University. A former Fulbright Scholar, Giselle is an internationally recognized historian and her major research contributions have centered on the dynamics and politics of settler-indigenous histories, public histories, and the politics of national history-writing.

An experienced leader in the higher education sector, Giselle has senior management experience serving universities in both New Zealand and Australia. She has a strong commitment to driving initiatives that enhance equity and access in higher education and sees teaching excellence and innovation as key mechanisms in improving student outcomes and addressing social inequities. Giselle is an advocate for the role played by universities in creating social, cultural, and intellectual benefits to the diverse communities that public universities serve.

Board member Mel Barnes

Mel Barnes

Board Member

Mel Barnes is Principal Advisor to the Provost at Massey University, supporting the Provost with strategy, planning, policy, and reporting relating to the areas of teaching, learning, research, enterprise, and Pacific student success.

Mel graduated with Master of Arts (Education) from University of Otago and the Master of Business Administration from Massey University. Committed to fostering collaboration and innovation in education, Mel acts as a catalyst for positive change, committed to keeping Ako Aotearoa at the forefront of educational advancement in Aotearoa.

Board member Paora Ammunson

Paora Ammunson

Board Member

Ngāti Kahungunu ki Rangitāne | Rārua | Ngāti Whakaue | Ngāti Rongomai

Paora Ammunson is Deputy Chief Executive at Te Pūkenga.

Paora’s tertiary leadership journey began over 30 years ago, and he is a passionate believer in making a positive difference in our communities via equitable educational outcomes. Paora is an advocate for Tiriti excellence and growing mātauranga Māori and mātauranga a-hapu, ā-iwi. Paora is deeply committed to working together collaboratively for the good of the tertiary education system.

Board member Diane Lithgow

Diane Lithgow

Board Member

Di Lithgow is an experienced senior manager and education professional. She has held a range of operational, strategic and policy roles within Industry Training Organisations over the last 25 years. 

Since 2022, Di joined Te Pūkenga to support the establishment of a national network of provision bringing together in-work, on campus and online learning.  With a passion for best practice learning and development, Di is a strong advocate for quality outcomes that improve learner and employer performance.

Board member Dr Shireen Maged

Dr Shireen Maged

Board Member

Dr Shireen Maged is the Deputy Chief Executive (Teaching & Learning) for Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. She has a key role in realising their mission of tauira success by being responsive to the needs of our kaiako and leads tauira support services.   

Shireen has over 25 years of proven expertise in secondary and tertiary education as a strategic educational leader. Her scholarly interests are in cultural diversity and cross-cultural leadership and pedagogy.

She has advanced academic capability in research having written an award-winning PhD thesis in teacher education for cultural diversity.

Board member Rebecca Kiddle

Rebecca Kiddle

Board Member

Rebecca is Director of Te Manawahoukura, Centre of Rangahau at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. She has a background in urban design and urbanism with a PhD and MA in urban design from Oxford Brookes University, UK, a Certificate in Professional Studies in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education from the University of Liverpool, UK and undergraduate degrees in Politics and Māori and Women studies from Te Herenga Waka, Victoria University. Her PhD thesis explored the design of social learning space and was entitled - Learning outside the box: designing social learning space. 

Her current work focuses on Māori identity and placemaking/placekeeping in Aotearoa New Zealand urban settings and the nexus between community creation, social processes, and urban design. She holds a Marsden entitled Making Aotearoa Places: The Politics and Practice of Urban Māori Place-making and was an Associate Investigator (now Kāhui member) on another, Nature-based Urban design for Wellbeing and Adaptation in Oceania. She is the co-author of the award winning, best seller – Imagining Decolonisation and co- editor of the Our Voices series with First Nations academics and architects -  Kevin O’Brien and Patrick Luugigyoo Stewart.  

She has worked as an academic in universities in Aotearoa NZ, China, and the UK for the past 15 years in Architecture, Environmental Studies, and Urban Design. Most recently her practice-based mahi included a post as Head of Urban Development at Hutt City Council and urban design projects to amplify mana whenua voices for Wellington City Council and Let’s Get Wellington Moving.