SLIANZ Committee

Alan Wendt - President (Interim)

Term: 1/2

Based in: Wellington


Tote Hemehema

Tote Hemehema - Secretary

Term: 2/ 2

Based in: Auckland

I was born in West Auckland and grew up in Helensville, a small town in the country and have always lived around the West Auckland region. I am part Tongan, part English and my Nana is from Nottingham in England (like Robin Hood).

I graduated in 2013 (the last breed of the Diploma students) and enjoy working in all areas especially medical and education. 

I studied for four years at Auckland University (Medical School) many years ago when I wanted to be a Paediatrician. I didn’t complete it because I got pregnant with my son Rhythm. I also have a daughter, Baylie.

My years of experience at University and in medicine have been great assets in education and medical interpreting. 

I’m learning more Te Reo and would like to eventually look at trilingual and legal interpreting too.

I’m looking forward to using my skills and experience to help build on the foundation set by the previous Committee’s. I’m excited to learn more about SLIANZ and where I can support my Team and the SLIANZ members. 

Cheryl Astley

Cheryl Astley - Treasurer

Term: 2/ 2

Based in: Auckland

I am from Wellington originally. I attended Victoria University from 2009-2011 and that was where I discovered NZSL and met my first Deaf friend. I love languages and have a degree in Linguistics and Modern Language Studies from Vic. I have studied Mandarin, French, and Te Reo Māori. I am currently trying to learn some Spanish. I have many interests including theatre, gaming, and painting. 

I graduated in 2018 and have worked with a wide range of service providers/organisations since graduating. I have had some wonderful support and am glad to be in the Tuakana Teina program. I still have so much to learn but I’m so glad that I’ve had this opportunity to learn about the interpreting world while giving back to those who have been helping me. 

My goals for this year on the committee are to ensure that the Treasurer’s role is clear and that there are clear protocols in place to help future treasurers. I also want to make sure we are in a healthy financial position with a strong idea of our general income and outgoings to enable us to budget for future events and eventualities. I am also the membership portfolio holder this year.

Fran Collins- Committee Member

Term: 1 / 2

Based in: Wellington

I was born in England, then made the decision with my partner to travel the world. We landed in New Zealand at the start of 2017 and spent a year exploring this beautiful country, which is when we fell in love. We then spent the most part of 2018 travelling Australia whilst awaiting our residency to be granted to come back to New Zealand permanently, we landed for Christmas 2018. 


Originally a BSL interpreter I didn’t leap into NZSL interpreting as soon as we landed and worked as a PA/Office Manager for an Architecture firm in Wellington. Since being in New Zealand permanently, I have spent time developing my NZSL skills with the support of the Interpreter and Deaf communities. This led to me accepting a Staff Interpreter role based in Auckland, I was based ther Mon-Fri and Wellington Sat/Sun. I have recently been transferred to Wellington to start a new adventure in my role as Staff Interpreter. 

I’m currently holding the PD portfolio, having received an excellent handover I am keen to continue the wonderful work of those before me. My goal for these 2 years is to develop a programme of PD that works on progressional pathways, developing sector specific skills drawing upon the experience of colleagues nationally. I look forward to working with you all and thank you for this opportunity.

Melissa Sutton - Committee Member

Term: 1 / 2

Based in: Wellington

Ko Ngāti Maniapoto tōku iwi

Ko Te Kōpua tōku marae

No Otorohanga tōku whanau


Tēnā koutou katoa. I have a wonderful family who originated in Waikato and parts of the United Kingdom. I was mostly raised with my two sisters (we are triplets) but my beautiful mixed family includes nine siblings in total. The three of us grew up in New Plymouth, were boarders at one of the local high schools and then moved to Pōneke to study at Victoria University. I started my NZSL journey there before moving to Tāmaki Makaurau to do the NZSL-English interpreting degree. My sisters also both completed Deaf studies papers at Victoria University and continue to use NZSL. While studying, I met my partner and we made the move to Te Awakairangi (Lower Hutt) at the very end of 2018 to be closer to our nephews.


This year I am currently studying te reo Māori and enjoying spending time with our nephews who seem to be ‘growing bigger and bigger everyday’ (their words). Now that I’m back on the committee I also look forward to attending NZSTI meetings as our SLIANZ representative and keeping the SLIANZ filing organised in addition supporting other portfolios when needed. I am looking forward to working alongside colleagues from all over the motu and the wider membership as well.


Ngā mihi ki a koutou. 

Amy Hewgill - Committee Member

Term: 1 / 2

Based in: Christchurch

Kia Ora! I was born in America but moved to Christchurch in 2006 and started learning NZSL.  After being encouraged by the local Deaf community (and lots of earthquakes) I started my retraining at AUT to become a NZSL/English interpreter.  I graduated with a BA in interpreting in late 2015 and returned to Otautahi.  I now do community work but especially love the challenges that medical interpreting offers.  


I originally trained in Sound Engineering, working on video games and movies in Austin, TX.  I have an interest in all things wool and owned a wool shop many years back teaching people to knit and dyeing wool, hence the sign name “wool”.  I have a husband and two young clever little girls who keep me very busy.  I am a sustainable maker/mender and love all things crafty.

I currently hold the Tuakana/Teina and Mentoring portfolios.  I am a graduate of the Tuakana/Teina programme and hope to continue to see it flourish.  My goal over the next two years is to support the members in the programme and carry on building the programme to best serve their needs.

Phoebe Leyten - Committee Member

Term: 2/ 2

Based in: Christchurch

Kia Ora, I am from Christchurch born and bred. My parents are originally from Holland and immigrated to Aotearoa before my siblings and I were born; we grew up communicating in Dutch and NZSL as my mother, Josje is Deaf. I became interested in the interpreting course after completing a Bachelor of Musical Arts in 2014 where I worked on a research project that looked at the science behind making sound visual. My objective was to produce music in a creative way accessible to the Deaf community. However, at that stage in life, my NZSL skills were very minimal and I was keen to improve and learn more about the Deaf world in order to communicate and gauge effectively. This inspired my journey to Auckland. It was during interpreting studies at AUT that I began to understand the value and beauty of NZSL and Deaf culture in more depth. 

 I graduated from the interpreting course in 2018 and currently work as a community based interpreter in Christchurch. I especially love working with Deaf youth and feel passionate about Deaf Education. I’m learning a lot of new ropes as a recent graduand and look forward to developing these skills and experiences. 

During my term as a SLIANZ committee member, I will be involved with the Tuakana-Teina programme, conference liaisons and fundraising projects. I’m very excited and grateful to be part of this team and wider profession.