Neurological Foundation Council

The Neurological Foundation Council is the governing body of the Foundation. The Council sets strategy for the Foundation and governs its operation, approving the appointment of key staff, sign off on operations and financial strategies for the Foundation, and ensure the Foundation is being run according to its guiding principles.

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The Council is made up of business experts, neurologists and neuroscientists who volunteer their time without remuneration. During the grant rounds, the Council are responsible for approving the grants, Fellowships and Scholarships that have been recommended by the Scientific Advisory and Personal Awards Committees. Whilst the Council does not deviate from the committee’s recommendations, they can decide to increase funding for the round to encapsulate additional research projects that straddle the funding limit.

Professor Cathy Stinear


Cathy is a Professor at the University of Auckland, a clinical neuroscientist at Auckland City Hospital working with patients to promote recovery following stroke and was the Chair of the Neurological Foundation Scientific Advisory Committee from 2015-2019. She joined the Scientific Advisory Committee in 2008 because of the essential role the Foundation plays in helping researchers make new discoveries, and led the committee review process in 2018. Cathy has been a principal investigator on a range of clinical rehabilitation trials with patients at Auckland City Hospital and is the Director of the Brain Research Clinic at the Centre for Brain Research.

Colonel Baden Ewart (retired)

Deputy Chair

Baden is a former officer in the New Zealand Army, serving for almost 50 years before retiring at the rank of Colonel. Baden has also held several managerial appointments in both hospital and primary care organisations including being a former director of Pegasus Health, Canterbury’s largest privately run Primary Health Organisation. Baden recently served as the Director of the Christchurch Central Development Unit, tasked with managing the rebuild in the Christchurch CBD.

Baden holds a Masters in Public Policy from Victoria University of Wellington, an MBA from Massey University. Baden was invited to join the Council in 2014 because of his connection to the health sector. Baden is the Chair of the Audit & Risk Management Committee and the Investment Committee.

Barbara Bridger

Barbara lives in Dunedin and has recently joined the council.  A Chartered Accountant by background she completed a Bachelor of Commerce at Otago University in the mid-1980’s.  In 1996 following a career in Banking and Financial Services both in New Zealand and overseas Barbara’s career took a different turn and she commenced working in Primary Health care, firstly as Practice Manager for one of the country’s largest medical centres and then as CEO of the the Country’s first stand-alone Primary Health Organisation (PHO).  Since 2014 Barbara has been the CEO at Otago Community Trust, a philanthropic Trust based in Dunedin.

Barbara has also been involved in several not-for-profit organisations as a volunteer and board member as is currently Deputy Chair of the Cosy Homes Trust an organisation which seeks to improve the quality of the housing stock in the Otago Region.

Barbara has a keen interest in her local community and in particular in issues affecting young people and vulnerable communities.  

James Hellaby

James joined the Council in 2006. He is currently a member of the Audit and Risk Management Committee.  His background is in finance, systems and business management, having completed a Bachelor of Agriculture (Economics) at Lincoln University and an MBA at Auckland University.

James has been involved for many years in the NZ meat industry through his family’s company, Wilson Hellaby Limited.

Simon John

Simon is a neurosurgeon, with a sub speciality interest in paediatric neurosurgery and complex brain tumour surgery. Currently full time in the public system Simon also has governance roles in the Christchurch hospital’s detection and response to deteriorating patients. He is actively involved with the trauma team, co-ordinating multi-disciplinary care of complex trauma patients, and helping to improve their journey through the hospital.

With an interest in education Simon is the New Zealand representative for the Neurosurgical society of Australasia’s Surgical Education and Training Board. He is also a regular teacher on the Asian-Australasian Advanced Course in Paediatric Neurosurgery.

Deborah Peters

Deb is a management consultant in education and health with expertise in human resource and change management. Deb is a former Registered Nurse and Sister Tutor and is currently involved developing learning modules for allied health practitioners in dementia and palliative care. Deb also serves as the Chair of the People and Performance Committee for the Council, overseeing key appointments in the Foundation.

Deb spent many years caring for her mother-in-law, who developed motor neurone disease in the late 1990’s. This experience of neurological disease led her to join the Neurological Foundation Council in order to give back to the health community by fostering research. She joined Council in 2003.

John Kelly

Taranaki based, John has strong ties to the New Zealand rural sector both as a farmer and successful livestock operator. With a background in leading and operating in National Stock and Station Company's Livestock Divisions he is the Business Manager/Director of his own livestock company. John's governance experience includes being the current Chair of TSB Ltd, Board Member of Taranaki Veterinary Services, TRFU and a number of farming based enterprises. He is proud to have joined the Council in November 2019 and is highly motivated by the aspirations of the Foundation. He is a member of the Audit, Risk and Finance Committee.

Sonja Clapham

Sonja is a barrister at Shortland Chambers, Auckland.  She was a foundation member of Shortland Chambers, was a member of the first executive of the NZ Bar Association, has been a member of the executive of the Auckland Women Lawyers Association, and currently is a member of the Auckland District Law Society’s Family Law Committee. 

Sonja is primarily engaged in providing advice and advocacy in disputes regarding wills and deceased estates.  She presents seminars for the legal profession on issues regarding wills and the administration of deceased estates.

After experiencing an episode of Guillain-Barre syndrome in 2009, (from which she fully recovered) Sonja has a heightened awareness of, and interest in, disorders and diseases of the nervous system.  She was invited to join the Council of the Neurological Foundation in 2019. 

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