Our team is the only team of Speech Language Therapists in New Zealand who specialise in the treatment of stuttering.

Their commitment to ongoing professional development, excellence in practice and team collaboration means that they are leaders in this field.  The START team train other speech language therapists to work with people who stutter and frequently provide advice and support to other therapists.  They do this willingly to support better quality treatment and support for people who stutter.

Our team includes:


Janelle Irvine, BSLT (Hons), MNZSTA, GDipNFPMgt, Executive Director, Clinical Leader – Speech Language Therapy and Specialist Speech Language Therapist

Janelle worked as a general Speech Language Therapist for the Ministry of Education for many years.  In 2009 she moved to START and developed her specialism in stuttering. A graduate of the University of Canterbury, Janelle has a special interest in working with children and sees some of our youngest clients and their families. Janelle is also the Clinical Leader and Executive Director of START and is responsible for the professional practice of the START team.  She brings her heartfelt concern for those who stutter to her leadership and management of START. Much of her time is spent in these roles, extending the reach and influence of START to benefit those who stutter. Janelle is an experienced and highly effective trainer of speech language therapists who want to develop their ability to work with people who stutter.


Dr Anna Hearne, PhD – Specialist Speech Language Therapist

Anna has been specialising in the treatment of stuttering in people of all ages for 18 years. In 2006 she completed a PhD at the Australian Stuttering Research Centre investigating treatment for teenagers who stutter..  She has worked at a variety of clinics and universities in Australia and NZ. She initially joined the START team in 2007 before moving to Australia for a number of years. She re-joined START in 2015 and is based at Massey University‘s Speech Language Therapy clinic.  Anna is a member of the Lidcombe Programme Trainers Consortium and travels internationally delivering workshops. With the combination of her academic grounding, her research work and her strong practice background, Anna is uniquely able to contribute to the team by helping START collaborate with other researchers, translating research into clinical practice and providing specialist training. Anna works with clients of all ages and is START’s telehealth specialist. She sees many of her clients at the Albany Massey University clinic or via Skype.

Brittney Mackie, BSLP, MNZSTA – Specialist Speech Language Therapist

Brittney joined the START team in 2019. She graduated from the University of Canterbury in 2012 and worked for the Ministry of Education in Invercargill and then in the Hutt Valley. After this Brittney spent two years working as a locum Speech Language Therapist in the United Kingdom. She is experienced in working with children and young people with a range of speech, language and communication needs. Brittney has a keen interest in working with people who stutter and is an experienced and creative specialist in this area, able to offer a range of approaches. She values and enjoys helping people to build their confidence and abilities. Brittney involves key family members and others in this journey, where ever that works well for everyone. Brittney also values the opportunity to work with other education professionals to improve the lives of people who stutter.

John Doleman, MSLTPrac (Hons), PGCert Psychology, MNZSTA – Speech Language Therapist

John has worked as a generalist speech and language therapist with a long term interest in speech sound difficulties and stuttering. After graduating from the University of Auckland in 2008 and spending a year working as a speech language therapist in New Zealand, he moved to the UK in 2009 and spent the next 12 years working within the NHS and then building his own private practice in London. He moved back to New Zealand in July 2021 and, although he remains passionate about supporting people with a range of communication differences, he is looking forward to specialising in working with people who stutter at START and with people of different ages. Drawing on his extensive experience, John likes to work with families and other professionals in a collaborative way; he believes ‘therapy’ should be a two way process as this way of working brings about the best outcomes for people.

Felix Unger, BASocWk, PGCertICAMH, SWRBNZ, ANZASW – Social Worker

Over the past six years, Felix has worked in a variety of mental health and wellbeing positions across the upper and central North Island supporting young people, adults and families from all walks of life. He graduated from the Catholic University of Applied Science in Freiburg Germany in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Social Work, and made his way to Aotearoa in the same year. He is a (New Zealand) registered social worker. Born and raised in Germany, Felix is a person who stutters. He received speech language therapy in Germany and via START in New Zealand. He understands first-hand many of the ups, downs and challenges which can come with stuttering. He is passionate about combining his professional skills as a social worker with his own experiences as a person who stutters to support others who are impacted by stuttering in their lives. Felix brings new skills and experience to the START team, which he is delighted to be joining in his part time role.

Richard Baines – Consultant Psychologist

Richard is a registered psychologist who is contracted by START to work with clients who have issues such as anxiety that may be hindering their progress in speech therapy. He has a special interest in social anxiety, a topic that is often relevant to people who stutter. Richard is employed by the Ministry of Education.  But contracts to START to provide this service.  

Karen Cook - Accountant

Karen has been providing in-house finance and accounting services for a variety of businesses, large and small, for over 20 years. She provides a wealth of knowledge and experience gained over this time and has always tried to include some charitable work in her mix of clients. She aims to make the finance function a simple & efficient part of each business and for the businesses clients.

Nikki Draper - Grants Coordinator

Nikki has worked in a number of not-for-profit organisations over the years, as well as in the corporate world, in a variety of roles from marketing to events and fundraising. Nikki likes to be making a difference with the work that she does and loves seeing the difference that START makes to the lives of those who stutter, and their families. Nikki is our Grants Coordinator and her role is to apply for trust & grant funds for START.

Morgan McGregor - Marketing & Admin

Morgan has worked with a number of charities and small businesses on their marketing and administration, and is passionate about helping START reach more people who stutter, in more effective and helpful ways. She works across the organisation’s fundraising, marketing, the website, and START’s digital administration to help make everything function smoothly and securely.