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

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 therapy and support for people who stutter.

Our team includes:

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

Janelle, a graduate of the University of Canterbury, joined the START team in 2009, having worked as a Speech Language Therapist for the Ministry of Education prior to this.  Janelle quickly developed her specialist skills and passion for working with people who stutter and their families. Having a particular interest in working with children, she has worked with some of our youngest clients and their whānau over her 14 years at START. Over time, Janelle’s belief in social support and quality relationships led to her consciously developing a START ‘community’ through a range of initiatives. This vision and leadership led her to being appointed Executive Director and Clinical Leader of START. Janelle brings her heartfelt concern for those who stutter, and her belief in the START community to her leadership and management of START. She is committed to working to extend the reach and influence of START to benefit those who stutter.

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. Brittney moved back to her home town of Invercargill in July 2022 and sees most of her clients via Zoom and she is available to see clients in person in Invercargill.

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

John has worked as a generalist Speech 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 enjoying 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.

Paolo Querubin, BSLP (Hons), MNZSTA – Speech Language Therapist

Paolo moved to Auckland to join the START team in April 2022 having graduated from the University of Canterbury with Honours in 2021. During his time at university, he gained experience working with children and adults with a variety of speech and language needs. Over time, Paolo became particularly interested in working with people who stutter. He is strongly committed to providing high quality therapy and further developing his knowledge and skills. He feels privileged to work alongside people who stutter, and their whānau, to help them make the changes that they seek, and to realise their potential. As a recent graduate, Paolo brings fresh energy and skills to the START team and is thrilled to be joining our START team as a Speech Language Therapist.

Chris Lawson, MSLTPrac (Hons), MNZSTA – Speech Language Therapist

Chris joined the START team in June 2023. He graduated in 2017 from the University of Auckland with a Master of Speech Language Therapy Practice, with previous undergraduate study in psychology. Chris has gained a wide range of experience working for the Ministry of Education and Talking Trouble Aotearoa New Zealand prior to joining START. His experience as a Speech Language Therapist and prior endeavours as a high school youth worker have led to an interest in working with people who stutter in a holistic way that supports their wellbeing. Chris values the personal experiences and expertise that clients who stutter bring, and is committed to walking alongside and supporting them in their journey. He also has a keen interest in clinical and community education to upskill others so that they can better support people who stutter.

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

Over the past eight 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. Felix brings a unique set of skills and experience to the START team and has completed further postgraduate courses at the University of Auckland including recently being trained in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. 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 is based in Mount Maunganui and delivers sessions remotely via Zoom.


Dr Anna Hearne, PhD

Anna is an experienced speech language therapist who has specialised in working with people of all ages who stutter for over 20 years. She has a heartfelt commitment to working with people who stutter. In 2006 she completed a PhD at the Australian Stuttering Research Centre (ASRC) investigating therapy for teenagers who stutter. Anna is a member of the Lidcombe Programme Trainers Consortium (LPTC) and delivers workshops internationally. She initially joined the START team in 2007 before moving back to Australia for a number of years. She re-joined START in 2015 and worked co-jointly at START and Massey University until the end of 2021. Since the beginning of 2022, Anna has taken on a full-time remote role at the ASRC which involves working with clients, lecturing, research and training of speech language therapists. Although Anna is now living in Australia, she is still an important part of the START community and will continue to facilitate our Lidcombe Program workshops.

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.