Te rangapū ārahi Our leadership team

Our leadership team provides strategic guidance for Te Hiringa Mahara.

The team includes Chief Executive, Karen Orsborn, and four directors who are responsible for our core workstreams. 

Karen Orsborn, Tumu Whakarae | Chief Executive

Karen is the Chief Executive of Te Hiringa Mahara. During 2020, Karen led the establishment of Te Hiringa Mahara as Head of Secretariat for the Initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.

Karen has held a variety of health management and leadership roles that focus on improving outcomes for people through working with people and communities. Previously, Karen was Director Health Quality Improvement and Deputy Chief Executive at the Health Quality and Safety Commission (HQSC). In this role she led national patient safety and quality improvement programmes across public and private hospitals, primary and community care, mental health and addiction services, and aged care.

Karen has also held roles as National Lead for Elective Services and Group Manager Funding at the Ministry of Health, as well as operational roles in a District Health Board.

Karen is a Fellow of the Australasian College of Health Services Management (ACHSM) and a former President of ACHSM-Aotearoa.

She holds a Master of Business Studies (Management) and has completed the Advanced Management and Leadership programme at Oxford University. She is a Registered Nurse.

Ella Cullen, Kaiwhakahaere Pūnaha Toiora Arataki | Director of Wellbeing System Leadership

Dr Ella Cullen is the Director Wellbeing System Leadership and Insights, with a focus on cross-government system leadership, monitoring, and advocacy to address determinants of improved individual and whānau mental health and wellbeing outcomes. Ella will lead the ongoing development and implementation of the dual-framed He Ara Oranga Wellbeing Outcomes Framework, including measurement development, in partnership with Māori and our priority populations. Ella also leads the data and insights team as part of the core monitoring and reporting role at the Commission.

Ella has held a variety of roles in the public sector most recently advising the Chief Māori and Equity Officer at ACC. In this role Ella established the first Māori Wellbeing Outcomes Framework for ACC, Te Kāpehu Whetū which has informed the measurement approach for organisational performance and championed approaches to achieving equity for Māori.

Ella holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Developmental Psychology from Otago University which explored Māori adolescent identity development and the link to psychological wellbeing, and a Post Graduate Diploma (Science) which explored developmental benefits of imaginary companion play among Māori 5-year-olds.

Maraea Johns (nee Turuwhenua), Kaitohu Māori | Director Māori

Iwi – Ngai Tūhoe

Maraea is Te Hiringa Mahara Director Māori, the role that partners with the Chief Executive and Leadership team to provide strategic and operational advice and direction that reflects the commitment of Te Hiringa Mahara to being grounded in Te Tiriti o Waitangi (Te Tiriti).

She leads the design and development of a Te Tiriti framework and implementation plan, building on Te Tiriti Position Statement to drive and inform all the functions of Te Hiringa Mahara. Authentic Te Tiriti partnerships with iwi, engaging effectively with Māori, increasing the capability of Te Hiringa Mahara and reviewing policies and procedures from a Te Tiriti lens are a key focus and driver of her work at Te Hiringa Mahara. Maraea has a grounded understanding working with (and as a member of) whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori communities. Māori provider knowledge and experiences, past roles at programme, policy, and senior management levels in the Ministry of Health, DHBs, ACC and other sectors including education, justice, and defence, complement her role in Te Hiringa Mahara.

Holding strong interest both personal and professional in Māori mental health and wellbeing, te reo Māori, te ao Māori, mātauranga Māori and Te Tiriti, Maraea embraces all these ‘taonga tukuiho’ as lifelong pursuits of continuous learning for all.

Maraea holds a Diploma in Rehabilitation, BA double major in Psychology and Māori Studies, PGDip in Management Studies, Masters in Business Administration and is part-way through a Masters in Clinical Psychology.

Sonya Russell, Kaiwhakahaere Hauora Hinengaro, Waranga | Director Mental Health and Addiction Leadership

Sonya is of Ngāpuhi, Croatian and Pākehā descent and lives in Tāmaki Makaurau with her whānau. She is an experienced leader in mental health and addiction.

Sonya is Director Mental Health and Addiction Sector Leadership and leads the monitoring, provision of advice and promotion of better and equitable mental health and wellbeing outcomes. He Ara Āwhina (Pathways to Support) Monitoring framework provides the foundation for this work. She leads relationships across the health and community sectors at all levels, working collaboratively with tangata whaiora, those with lived experience, whānau, and the mental health and addiction sector.

Sonya brings to all her work a strong commitment to strength-based approaches that enable people to enhance their health and wellbeing and thrive. She is passionate about addressing inequity and understands the importance of working collaboratively to ensure the best health outcomes for our communities.

Prior to joining Te Hiringa Mahara, Sonya has worked in both health and community sectors. Positions have included Principal Advisor and Programme Director for Manatū Hauora Ministry of Health, acting CEO for a non-government organisation (NGO) and Regional Portfolio Manager for Te Whatu Ora. She has led a broad range of initiatives including maternal crisis respite, perinatal and infant mental health service development, and youth respite. Sonya has also led national strategy processes, including leading development of the Commissioning Framework for Mental Health and Addiction and re-development of the Workforce Action Plan.

Sonya’s professional qualifications include a BSc in Psychology & Biology, PGCertHS Community Development and MSc in Psychology. She recently completed her thesis on perinatal anxiety and sleep. Sonya currently sits on the board of WALSH Trust, a mental health NGO.