Trustees of Speech New Zealand


Gabrielle Thurston, Chairman of Speech New Zealand, is an Examiner for Speech New Zealand and a teacher of Drama holding LSB (Public Speaking), Diploma of Professional Speaking, and Adv ASB (Speech and Drama) with Speech New Zealand. Fellowship status FTCL with Trinity College London. A Diploma of Teaching, current Registered Teaching Certificate, and Certificate of Adult Teaching (CAT) .

Gabrielle is currently Head of Department – Drama at John Paul College (Years 7-13) in Rotorua where she has taught for many years. Currently teaching Drama NCEA Levels 2 and 3 and Scholarship Drama she has also marked NCEA Drama external papers. Outside of John Paul College she operates a large, private speech communication studio Catch a Rising Star in Rotorua.

She is a theatre director, accredited adjudicator with SCA and a professional ballroom dancing teacher. She examines Eisteddfods, Competitions and examinations throughout New Zealand.


Pauline Prendergast, Vice-Chair, has been teaching speech and drama for 32 years and has a large teaching practice in primary and secondary schools in the Wellington/Lower Hutt area.  She also has a private speech studio.  She holds a LTCL with Trinity College and a LSB in Public Speaking with Speech New Zealand.  Pauline is an accredited examiner with Speech NZ and a trained primary school teacher.  She is actively involved with Hutt Repertory Theatre in both directing and acting.  She trains the readers in her church community and adjudicates at speech competitions and drama festivals.


Karen Austin, Chair of Examinations, is a Fellow of Trinity College, London and has an LSB Public Speaking. Her qualifications include a Masters Rel Ed, a BA, an Advanced Teaching Diploma, a Trained Teachers Certificate, a Diploma in Rel Studies and a Diploma of Catechetics. Karen has been an Accredited Performance Speech NZ examiner since 1994 plus she has written and marked Speech NZ theory papers.

Teaching Speech and Drama/ Public Speaking has been part of Karen’s life for the last 40 years. She established a large Speech & Drama/ Public Speaking practice in Oamaru teaching all levels . Some of her students are now teaching Speech and Drama. Karen has three adult children who all did Speech & Drama/ Public Speaking examinations. At the end of the 2013 school year Karen retired as Assistant Principal of St Kevin’s College, Oamaru (Y9 -13 ) In her senior management role, Karen’s responsibilities included Director of Religious Studies, girls’ discipline, promotion,Chair of Pastoral Care, Year 9 Dean and overseeing cultural activities.Throughout her 18 years teaching at St Kevin’s College, Karen was very involved in preparing students for local, regional and national speech and debating competitions. She was the school coordinator and coach for Bishop’s Shield, continuing an involvement started when she was a Yr 10 student.

Karen and her husband moved to Nelson in 2014 so they could be ” hands on ” grandparents. At the moment Karen is establishing a Speech and Drama/ Public Speaking practice in Nelson and doing some part-time teaching and relieving.

Pam Logan, has taught voice, speech, oral communication, public speaking, drama, acting and directing at all levels, including tertiary for over 35 years.

Pam has a specialist interest in voice, acting and directing. She was a founding member, actor, administrator and assistant director for Kempe’s Jig Theatre Collective, which toured Shakespeare to schools from 1991-4. For several years Pam tutored voice and acting techniques at Nelson Polytechnic School of Performing Arts. She is also a qualified adjudicator of plays and competitions.

Pam is an examiner for Speech New Zealand and has enjoyed the challenge of serving on the Board of Trustees for many years. She is a past Chair of the Board and past Chair of the Examinations’ Division.

She is a past president and a life member of both Marlborough Repertory Society and of the NZ Theatre Federation and was awarded a 1990 medal for services to theatre. Pam still enjoys acting and directing when the opportunity arises.


Pauline Douglas lives in Dunedin, and until recently was employed by the University of Otago College of Education, as the ESOL Advisor to schools for the Otago-Southland region.

She has a long standing interest in ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) learners, and the development of their oral language skills.  Speech NZ provide a special graded syllabus for ESOL speakers and Pauline acts as NZ Speech Board representative for this ESOL Syllabus, which is called Oral Communication for Speakers of Other Languages (OCESOL).  Pauline has a background in ESOL teaching and in Professional Development for teachers.  She promotes the OCESOL syllabus as an excellent tool to enhance both confidence and fluency for ESOL speakers, from Beginner ESOL to Advanced ESOL speakers.  She can be contacted at any time on :


Claire Marsh, Manager, Operations division.   Her passion for creativity is at the heart of all her work.  She works across New Zealand and in London as teacher, business trainer, voice coach, director and both examiner and adjudicator in speech and drama..  She has specialist expertise in theatre, oratory and public speaking, poetry, communication and creativity.

She is an accredited adjudicator for both the Association of New Zealand Drama Adjudicators and Speech Communication Association.  Claire is Voice Coach and tutor in Communication at the Holy Cross Catholic Seminary and the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary Inter-provincial Novitiate in Ponsonby, Auckland.

She specializes in facilitating training workshops in Presentation Skills for District Council personnel and in the Business Community.

Photo M Theron 03 2015

Dr Margriet Theron, is the Chair of both the Finance and Marketing Committees and the Editor of ClipBoard. She was invited to join the Board of Speech NZ 14 years ago for her governance, marketing, financial and planning skills. She has lived in Rotorua for 37 years. After retiring from a career in science management at the NZ Forest Research Institute and the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology and as Dean of Forestry at Waiariki Institute of Technology, she took on governance roles at the Rotorua Chamber of Commerce, the Geyser Community Foundation, Community Foundations of NZ, and the Rotorua Multicultural Council. She was Project Manager for the fundraising and building of the Turangi Community Health Centre, and member of the Rotorua District Council’s BrightEconomy Advisory Board and the East Coast Bay of Plenty Conservation Board. She teaches a Professional Speaking for Migrants course in Rotorua, and mentors teachers and organisations around New Zealand offering or planning this course.

Helen - mug shot

Helen Balch 


 Helen is a fulltime teacher of speech and drama and public speaking.  She teaches at St Andrew’s College where she has around 140 students and also has a private studio with 40 students.  Her students range in age from five year olds to tertiary students.

Helen is the President of the Christchurch Competitions Society and was the convener of the speech and drama section for over 20 years. She is also actively involved in the local branch of SCA and has held various positions on the local committee over the years. She tries to attend the SCA Conference each year.

Helen’s involvement with Speech NZ began in the early 1970s, when she sat her first exams in speech and drama and public speaking.  Her teacher, Berwyn Gibbons, was an enthusiastic advocate for the new examining body.  Helen’s mother, Gay Balch, was the Lower Hutt secretary for some years.

After moving to Christchurch in the late 70s Helen completed ASB teaching diplomas in both speech and drama and public speaking.

Helen has entered students into Speech New Zealand exams since 1985 and at present has around 130 students sitting the exams each year. Helen has also been involved with Speech NZ as a parent, with both of her sons sitting the grade exams.

Ashleigh Gulliver is a​ ​​​secondary school teacher specialising in English and Drama. She has always had a passion for Speech and Drama and joined Speech New Zealand as a Trustee in 2009. ​After spending five years with the Board, ​Ashleigh​ left New Zealand and spent ​time living and working in both the United Kingdom and China. Ashleigh is passionate about providing ​all ​students with the opportunity to grow their​ confidence in​ communication​; a vital life skill. Following her return to New Zealand Ashleigh has settled in Auckland and returned to the Board. She hopes to build a strong future for Speech New Zealand in secondary schools around the country.