Governance

Life Unlimited Board of Trustees

Karen Coutts, Chair

Karen was appointed chair in June 2021. She has had a life-time involvement in the disability sector firstly through her mother Margaret Coutts who lost her hearing from scarlet fever as a child.

She worked for several years in the UK disability sector and back in New Zealand, Karen led and delivered successful transformations of services, large organisations, sector and systems through changes in priorities, purpose and ethos, use of technology innovation and efficient shift of resources.

In her role as principal advisor for Te Puni Kōkiri, the Government’s principal advisor on Māori outcomes, she focused on supporting Māori-led approaches with a strong response to Māori economic development.

Karen has been a member of the New Zealand Parole Board since November 2019 and Te Rūnanga o Moeraki representative on Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, the leadership body for Ngāi Tahu since 2016. Read more.

Michelle Bentham, Trustee

Michelle lives in Auckland where she has worked as a business consultant and advisor for almost 20 years.

She has strong commercial business experience from a range of industries specialising in strategic development, performance improvement and focusing on long term objectives and sustainability. She also offers 15 years of successful business ownership experience, which provides practical expertise and enables her to have a broad understanding and empathy of all stakeholders.

Michelle is new to the disability sector but she has had an immediate family member experience the difficulty navigating through some of the organisations so she has a drive to make this easier and more accessible.

Michelle recently completed a Masters of Business Administration (with Distinction). She is a member of the Institute of Directors and holds a Diploma in Business Management.

Mary Cave-Palmer, Trustee

Mary is an experienced business adviser and director with skills including governance, business planning and analysis, coaching, and education.

Mary has experienced corporate governance on both sides of the board table in a variety of industries. She’s held senior management and/or governance roles with district health boards, Crown Research Institutes, Local Government-owned commercial companies, Tertiary Education Institutes and Government departments. In 2017 Mary completed 15 years on the Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec) board, including five years as chair.

She has worked in tertiary education, conservation, manufacturing, business consulting, civil construction, quarrying, waste management, public health services and scientific research. She currently works at the Department of Conservation, providing financial advice and business support for many “green” investment initiatives that are primarily for environmental and social impact.

She is a Chartered Member of Institute of Directors NZ, a Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia & NZ, and a Fellow of Corporate Governance NZ.
Outside of work Mary is an active member of the Riverlea Environmental Society, and a member of the Waikato Rivertones Chorus which raises funds for many charitable organisations in the Waikato.

Vaughan Mikkelson, Trustee

Vaughan has an extensive knowledge of the health and disability sector through advisory work ranging from Enabling Good Lives Waikato to Hamilton City Council’s Access Advisory Group. Through these experiences he has gained valuable and extensive knowledge on how the health and disability system currently operates and how it may be transformed.

Vaughan has a passion for advocating for disability rights and inclusion. He has presented work base trainings, seminars and lectures around the social model of disability and health through the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
This interest has been developed through obtaining his Masters in Political Science, Masters in Philosophy, Bachelor in Applied Communications, and a Post Graduate Diploma in International Relations.
Currently he is studying a Graduate Diploma in Psychology part-time at The University of Waikato.
Vaughan comes from a rugby loving family. He is an avid cricket follower. He enjoys reading, following foreign affairs and a good coffee.

Tiffiney Perry, Trustee

Tiffiney is a Trustee of the Brian Perry Charitable Trust. The Trust supports community projects in the Waikato and partners with organisations to build stronger communities. She is vice chair of Parafed Waikato, a not for profit organisation that promotes and provides sport and recreation opportunities for people with physical disabilities and visual impairments and secretary of New Zealand Wheelchair Tennis.

Tiffiney is herself a passionate sports person. She has represented NZ at the Paralympics in 2004 in Athens playing wheelchair tennis. More recently she has represented New Zealand in hand cycling at various world cups and world champs around the world. In 2018 she received a Hamilton City Council Civic Award for her services to sport and the community.

She is married to Chris Harvey and has two children Emma and Jack. Read more

Pati Umaga, Trustee

Pati has been working in the disability sector for more than 10 years. He is also the president of the Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA).

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has underpinned and inspired much of Pati’s work. He has been involved at a strategic level with Whānau Ora and worked closely with former Minister of Disability Issues Tariana Turia for 18 months as a Whānau Ora champion. Pati has also worked with the Ministries of Social Development and Health, as well as the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).

This accumulated experience has honed his passion for providing strategic direction and effective policy development, particularly to enable people in the Pacific community to better utilise Needs Assessment and Service Coordination (NASC).

Gary Williams, Trustee

Gary is Ngati Porou and lives in Christchurch. He is particularly interested in issues for disabled people, especially disabled Māori; leadership development and training; the rights of disabled people; and effective organisational governance and management.

He was involved in the development of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and has very clear ideas about what it means and how it should be implemented.

Gary was the CEO of the Disabled Persons Assembly for 11 years. Before that, he worked as a specialist software developer for the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences.

Gary was on the AccessAbility Board from 2010.