Our Ambassadors play an important role in speaking up about being a person who stutters.

For people who stutter, meeting people who have lead successful lives with a stutter is incredibly important and inspirational. The ability – and opportunity – to see yourself represented across different media, board rooms, industries, and arenas is beginning to be recognised as a key factor in confidence. Our wonderful ambassadors are here to lead the way, and show people who stutter that they can achieve as many great things as they want. Our ambassadors also come from a variety of backgrounds but all offer similar experiences growing up with a stutter – we hope you find their stories inspiring.

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Rod Drury – CEO of Xero

Growing up in Hawke’s Bay, tech entrepreneur Rod Drury had a stutter that dogged him into corporate life in his twenties. “I couldn’t use the phone or anything.” says Drury, of his first job at accountants Ernst & Young. At 27, he took a course to master his stutter, practising his new knowledge by talking as much as possible. These days he addresses 1000 people a week, as the salesman and chief executive for Xero. “That’s why I really enjoy public speaking, because it’s terrifying. It’s very satisfying to do it.”

Nikki Hart – Nutritionist

“My parents always said that with hard work you can achieve anything. Their unwavering belief in me meant I knew I’d deal with it. I had to ‘own it.’ I couldn’t pretend it would go away, but I couldn’t let it define me either – it was only just one small aspect of me. Although there were times I was exhausted and frustrated by my stutter I knew I had places to be, things to do and my stutter wasn’t going to stop me from doing all of it.”

Royce Willis – Former All Black

“Growing up I found stuttering tremendously challenging and it created many self-esteem issues. Today I view the hardship as more of a gift than a curse – necessary for me to reach my full potential. Organisations like START have been responsible for helping me over the years, by giving me the tools to successfully manage my communication, for which I am most grateful.”

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Judge Andrew Becroft – Principal Youth Court Judge and Children’s Commissioner

“There has scarcely been a day in my life where stuttering hasn’t affected me – it influenced me particularly in my teenage years and early adult life. My dream was that one day I could be a court lawyer and my firm paid for me to go on a course where I learned how to control my stutter. Because the treatment I received as a child was not in line with today’s practice, it was ineffective so it could never be eliminated. But it could be controlled, and that gave me the building blocks from that point on. With these techniques I can control my stutter – I could never have imagined myself in a role which involved so much public speaking, but it shows you that with good help, with those building blocks, with good support, having people believe in you – it’s survivable.”

Matt McCarten – Labour Chief of Staff

“From a young age, well into adulthood, I never spoke in a public place. I can’t remember not stuttering, so I was always a child that wrestled with language. It took me a few years until I found START, but they fixed it for me because I understood what the problem was and was given the tools to overcome my stutter. If START had been around decades ago, it would have made my life a lot easier. Over the years, I’ve been involved in politics and always done a lot of talking – not bad for a stutterer.”

Ian Grant – Parenting Guru and Founder of The Parenting Place

“If I had a disastrous phone call, I used to hide for a week…now I’ve learned to get back on the bike. So many people – friends of mine – have never dealt with their stutter and hide it. I’d tried everything, but when I was about 30 years old I attended a course – it was great and taught me the techniques that helped me to become more fluent. It was important knowing there was an answer. I see lots of people with young children who have started to stutter – I just say to them – go to START – they are absolutely excellent.”