Te Kukunetanga: our team

This research programme has been co-created with iwi, interdisciplinary researchers and people from various backgrounds and ethnicities.


  • $374,836 (Currently under NDA)
  • $29,971 (HRC)
  • $6,200 (AUT FHES SPRINZ)

The team

Patria Hume

Passionate about enabling people to be the best they can be, she has 35 years’ experience in providing research, teaching and community service focused on human performance, injury prevention, and human body composition.

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Hannah Wyatt

Hannah is fascinated by the key phases in life when substantial physical changes occur, including youth growth and pregnancy, and is devoted to furthering our understanding of how changes in body shape and size alter the way we move and stabilise ourselves.

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Dean Mahuta

Dean Mahuta, of Waikato, Tainui descent, is grounded in te reo me ngā tikanga Māori, and brings this knowledge into his role as cultural consultant for the research team. Dean and his wife are both fluent speakers of te reo Māori and acknowledge this privilege by continuing to raise their now 3yo daughter completely in te reo.

Sabina Just

Sabina has a broad professional background in midwifery, movement therapy, and nursing. Sabina is the creator of ‘Birth Signature’, a tool kit that assists and accompanies pregnant women in their birthing journey. Sabina’s mission is to give babies a better start into their lives. Her PhD is examining the connection between motion and emotions.

Sally Britnell

Sally is passionate about using innovation, education to motivate others to thrive. She is a Registered Nurse and Computer Scientist who uses her knowledge and data to improve health outcomes.  Such as estimating the weight of children from a photograph for resuscitation and designing nursing informatics education and guidelines and for nurses.

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Kelly Sheerin

As a trained physiotherapist and sports scientist, Kelly brings expertise in gait biomechanics, body composition and injury prevention to the project. Kelly puts his knowledge into practice at home running around after his two growing young children.

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Amy Kercher

Dr Amy Kercher is an experienced clinical psychologist from Sydney, Australia, and lecturer with AUT. Amy has an interest in the development of psychological difficulties across the lifespan, working with children and adolescents, as well as adults. Amy is interested in the challenges of the pre- and post-natal period, and in supporting wahine at this vulnerable time, with a focus on early intervention and prevention of emotional health difficulties.

Heather Donald

Heather Donald has balanced her career as a health professional with being a mother to 4 children and now being a grandmother to 8. Heather has worked as a Lead Maternity Care (LMC) midwife for over 20 years. Now she focuses on teaching and research to do with mother’s, babies and their whānau.

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Susan Crowther

Susan Crowther has been in health care since 1982 and a midwife since the early 90s. She has worked clinically across multiple global regions and currently professor of midwifery. Susan is passionate about woman/family centered maternity care. Her emphasis is primarily on experiences of health and social care, cultural and spiritual alignment of care provision and promotion of wellbeing.

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Judith McAra-Couper

Judith McAra Couper is a midwife, academic, educator and researcher. Judith has had varied midwifery career in New Zealand and Internationally. One of the highlights of her career has been working for the last 10 year with WHO and UNFPA in Bangladesh with midwives and midwifery educators. Judith continues to be passionate about making a difference, improving outcomes for whanau and how to be a good Tiriti partner.

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Elaine Rush

Over 40 years Elaine Rush’s work in nutrition, body composition, metabolism, food security and the growth of children has contributed to the understanding of the health of New Zealand multi-ethnic communities and the prevention of noncommunicable diseases.

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Nimisha Waller

Nimisha has been a midwife in the UK and in NZ since 1996. She has 3 children, one born in NZ! Nimisha has worked as a Lead Maternity Care midwife and within the DHB. She is passionate about midwifery and tries to balance practice, lecturing and research. Practice and being with and learning from women/whānau/family sustains her as a lecturer and researcher.

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Helen Kilding

Helen is the research leader for human performance and health research within the New Zealand Defence Force’s Defence Technology Agency. Helen is committed to enhancing the selection, preparation, protection, and recovery of military personnel, to enhance operational effectiveness and long-term health and wellbeing.

Liesje Donkin
Kate Palmer Du Preez
Harish Behl

Dr Behl is a lifestyle consultant, pregnancy expert, and doctor in alternative medicine. Currently, he works as a pregnancy and postpartum massage trainer and lifestyle consultant at Bella Mama.

Bella Mama website

Mia Mclean

Mia is a developmental psychobiology researcher with an interest in the relationship(s) between perinatal maternal mental health, preterm birth and subsequent child development. An Aussie who has moved back down under after a postdoc in Vancouver, Canada, she is currently a senior lecturer in psychology and neuroscience at AUT.

Olivia Pilbrow

A postgraduate student studying counselling psychology at AUT. For her master’s thesis she is working on the Maternal Emotional Wellbeing study, specifically looking at the relationship between maternal mental health and exercise patterns.

Eva Filleur

An engineering student from France working at SPRINZ as an intern for 6 months. Eva is working on the Running Evolution through Pregnancy (REP) project.

Shilin Deng

A medical doctor from China on sabbatical with the TK study for 6 months working on the Guidelines for physical activity in pregnancy project.

Wendy Brown

Professor Wendy Brown is a behavioural epidemiologist focused on links between exercise science and public health. Wendy established the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, and 10,000 Steps Rockhampton. She led the 2014 Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Adults and the 2021 Australian Guidelines on Physical Activity during Pregnancy.

William Huang

A double majoring student in Sports Recreation and Sports Nutrition, William has been working at SPRINZ for almost a year. He is working on the Vitamin A levels in pregnancy Study and helping with Physical Evolution through Pregnancy (PEP) project data collections.

Alyssa-Joy Spence

Alyssa is a lecturer at AUT in anatomy and biomechanics. She is interested in how physical changes during pregnancy might change the way we move and balance and is working on the Physical Evolution through Pregnancy (PEP) project.

Christine Delaney

Christine is a school manager at AUT. She has over 10 years’ experience in the tertiary sector in business administration. She provides guidance and support in recruitment and finance processes and many administrative systems. Her daughter was born at the start of Te Kukunetanga so she holds an interest in this research programme as she experiences the changes in her own body and impact upon everyday exercise and movement after her pregnancy.

Judith Pullen-Burry

Judith of Te Aupōuri descent is a Finance Administrator at AUT. She has over 20 years’ experience in the tertiary sector. She provides guidance and support in finance processes and many administrative systems.

Full list of involvement

Staff involved

Patria Hume, Hannah Wyatt, Kelly Sheerin, Elaine Rush, Dee Holdsworth-Perks, Alyssa-joy Spence, Ajinkya Nafde (all SPRINZ), Heather Donald, Nimisha Waller, Susan Crowther, Judith McAra-Couper, Stacy Gillard-Tito (all Midwifery), Dean Mahuta (Te Ipukarea Research Institute), Sally Britnell (Nursing), Amy Kercher, Liesje Donkin (all Psychology), Katie Palmer Du Preez (Public Health), Sarat Singamneni (Engineering), Chris Tillack (Web Centre), Christine Delaney, Judith Pullen Burry (Sport and Rec).

Students involved

Sabina Just (PhD student), Oli Youlton (Bath Placement student), Alyssa Spence (Research officer), Teea Francis (AUT Placement student), William Huang (AUT Placement student), Isabel Neal (AUT Placement student), Anya Zoellner (PhD student and research officer), Jordan Rear (UoA Engineering Internship student), Oliver Viant (Bath Placement Student), Eva Filleur (Placement student), Hannah Creamer, Teea Francis (BSR students).

External staff involved

Sarah-Kate Millar (Christchurch), Sarah Ballard (Auckland), Dr Kim Herbet-Losier (Hamilton), Bridget Munro, Jane Cappaert, Emily Lawrence, Cailee Caldwell (all USA), Wendy Brown (Australia).

Te Kukunetanga: Developing Cycle of Life Research Programme

Find out what our research programme is about and what projects are currently running.

Find out more