Otago Polytechnic

Our staff

Our friendly community of Māori support staff are here to help you have a great OP experience. Find out about our team below.

For general enquiries please contact our administrator, Kylie.  


Kylie Hohaia
Taranaki, Ngāti Tama, Tainui


Kylie is one of Otago Polytechnic's success stories. 

While she was working as a cleaner, she witnessed two of her younger sisters receive Mana Pounamu Awards and succeed in their studies at Otago Polytechnic. Their achievements inspired Kylie to enrol at Otago Polytechnic when she was 30. 

Kylie graduated with a Certificate in Foundation Studies Level 2 before moving on to Business Administration and Computing at Levels 3 and 4. She is currently planning her next steps in her Otago Polytechnic education. 

Since graduating in 2016, Kylie has worked as an administrator at Te Punaka Ōwheo. She works 10 hours a week in that role, has another part-time position at the Otago Polytechnic Students' Association (OPSA), and also raises her two teenage children, Wyatt and Belle. 

Kylie loves meeting and getting to know students and enjoys the variety that her position has to offer. She is always  looking for funny, appropriate content for Te Punaka Ōwheo's Facebook page, and admits to "a bit of an addiction to taking selfies - with filters of course".  



Sarah Martin
Ngāi Tuhoe, Ngāti Porou

Kaiawhina Tauira Māori

Sarah was born and bred in Dunedin, and holds a Bachelor of Social Services and Graduate Diploma in Career Practice from Otago Polytechnic. 

Prior to joining Te Punaka Ōwheo, Sarah worked for Ara Institute of Canterbury in career development and student advice Māori; in community probation for the Department of Corrections; and as a Māori Mental Health Needs Assessment and Services Coordinator at Te Oranga Tonu Tanga at the Southern District Health Board. She has also spent time working and living in London and Sydney. 

Sarah believes true success is celebrating diversity, validated by an individual's strength to achieve self-directed goals. 

"I work very much from a strength-based perspective and carry a strong belief in empowering others to identify their own needs, towards positive progression forwards," she says. "My interests cover decolonising methodologies, kaupapa Māori models of wellness, career and employability transition, and social justice."

Sarah's spare time is often spent with her husband Tony, children Tim, Anna, Ashley and Cameron, and mokopuna Ryan, Ben, Lily and Norah. She enjoys hosting whānau and friends at her home and loves to cook sumptuous meals. 


Rebecca Swindells
Taranaki, Ngāti Tama, Tainui

Kaiawhina Tauira Māori

Born and raised in Dunedin, Rebecca won a Manu Pounamu Award which she used to complete a Bachelor of Applied Management at Otago Polytechnic. She is currently working towards her Master of Professional Practice with a focus on distance learning. 

She immersed herself in student life at Otago Polytechnic, serving as President of the Otago Polytechnic Students' Association (OPSA). It was in this role that Rebecca's passion for helping people blossomed.

In her Kaiawhina role, she is particularly well-known for her passion for student politics, student advocacy, expertise in budgeting and StudyLink knowledge. 

Rebecca credits her wonderful electrician husband for helping her to manage her work/life balance as they raise their three beautiful tamariki together. She is the middle child of five, and her whānau lives very much a papakainga lifestyle - her parents, siblings and nine nieces and nephews all live within a short walk of each other and see each other daily. 

If Rebecca is not at work, you are likely to find her with her large whānau, watching rugby or exploring the outdoors.   


Dr Helen Papuni
Ngāti Porou

Kaiawhi Wairua - Māori Chaplain 

Ko Hikurangi te maunaa
Ko Waiapu te awa
Ko Porourangi te tangata 
Ko Maraehara te turangawaewae
Ko Hinepare te marae. 

Kōkā/Whaea Helen is the Māori Chaplain for both Otago Polytechnic and the University of Otago, working closely with Māori students and staff to grow their spiritual well-being. Using Tā Mason Durie's Te Whare Tapawha model of Māori social health, Helen points to te taha wairua/spiritual health as one of the factors contributing to Māori student success alongside te taha tinana/physical health, te taha whanau/family health and te taha hinengaro/mental health. As part of the Otago ecumenical chaplaincy team, Helen works alongside people of all faiths and no-faith to help strengthen spiritual awareness from a uniquely Māori perspective. 

Email: Maori.Chaplain@op.ac.nz 

Mobile: 027 789 4516 


Desiree Williams (nee Mahy)
Ngāi Tuhoe

Tumuaki Whakaruruhau - Director of Māori Learner Success

Desiree's role is to realise the aspirations of the Polytechnic's Māori Strategic Framework for tauira Māori. She does this by leading strategies and initiatives that empower Māori learners to participate and succeed as Māori at all levels of Otago Polytechnic, and through her leadership of the Māori learner success team at Te Punaka Ōwheo. 

A lawyer, mediator and director, Desiree prefers to describe herself as an agent for social justice. She is particularly passionate about positively profiling things Māori, and is actively involved in the community - she serves on several boards, including as Chairperson of Te Hou Ora Whānau Services, for Trades Trust and Ngāi Tahu Māori Law Centre. 

Raised in Rotorua, Desiree grew up in various locations around Australasia. Today, she is a long-term resident of Port Chalmers, where she raised her nephew, Felix, and daughter, Irie, both of whom have grown up and moved out. Now, she lives with her partner and dog, Barker. 

Barker is regularly at work with Desiree. He has identified The Hub as one of his happy places. He loves the food smell and crumbs, the youthful vibe and the pats. 

Desiree is always interested in hearing about tauira experiences, both good and bad. She uses that feedback and her strong advocacy skills to create positive change and ensure an outstanding Māori learner experience.