15% households with school aged children without internet access       39% of Aucklanders born overseas       82% of 18 year olds have NCEA Level 2       22% unemployment for 15-24 year olds       94.6% attend pre-school       1 in 4 children in poverty       79% pass NCEA Literacy in Yr 11       76% at or above national reading standards starting high school

Home About Us News Latest News Events Data and Resources Publications Snapshots Submissions Education Māori Languages SouthSci Talking Matters Youth Employability Community Notices Job Opportunities Previous Programmes Contact Us

About COMET Auckland

COMET Auckland Staff

The people that work at COMET Auckland are passionate about what they do and are dedicated to improving education services and access to these services for the community.



Susan Warren, Chief Executive

Susan took over the reins at COMET Auckland in September 2011. Previously she was the Manager, Centre for Family Learning at COMET Auckland so she knows the organisation well and has excellent networks. She has a Masters in Education with first class honours, focussing on cognition and instruction.

Prior to joining COMET Auckland, Susan worked for the Ministry of Education, working with school leaders, boards and teachers in Manukau to help them raise student achievement in literacy and numeracy. She also designed and led the Pasifika Schooling Improvement project, a national project to improve the effectiveness of interventions for Pasifika students. Susan has authored a variety of educational resources for World Vision New Zealand including books, DVDs, photo packs and interactive internet sites to help NZ children learn more about the developing world.


Shirley Johnson, Manager, Auckland Skills

As Manager of Skills Auckland Shirley’s work is closely allied to the delivery of the strategic
objectives identified in the Auckland plan and Economic Development Strategy. Through partnerships she contributes to developing integrated models and initiatives that aim to achieve stable and sustainable growth in the skill base of Auckland's knowledge-driven economy.

Shirley comes from Christchurch where she has previously worked as the International Relationship Manager for local government as well as working extensively within the Social Service sector. Her experience spans organisational change, strategic and business planning, business case development, and project planning and delivery.

Shirley is a proven facilitator, presenter and trainer with a track record in engaging stakeholders and
developing solutions in complex environments for application across New Zealand.




Alison Sutton, Director, Manager, literacy and family learning

Alison is leading the Talking Matters initiative, which concentrates on early language for infants and toddlers in order that they get a great start with their learning and literacy

For the last 8 years Alison has provided COMET Auckland with research and analysis with a particular focus on literacy and family learning. She developed local board education and skills snapshot. Alison co-wrote Unlocking Auckland’s Potential: Adult literacy and numeracy skills in the new Auckland in 2010 highlighting literacy challenges facing the working population of Auckland. Alison also project managed the redevelopment of Whānau Ara Mua – COMET’s family learning and literacy programme since 2009.

Alison has a background in research and evaluation in adult literacy, lifelong learning and social services for the Ministry of Education, the Tertiary Education Commission, and other local and central government agencies. Alison has a Master of Arts (Social Policy) with first class honours. 

In 2015 she was awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Fellowship, travelling to 9 towns and cities in England and the USA to look at city-wide literacy action. In 2015, she was also awarded the Adult Literacy and Numeracy Leadership Award by the National Centre of Literacy and Numeracy for Adults.


Linda Hu, Finance and Office Manager

Linda has been responsible for COMET’s financial management systems since 2008. Linda is dedicated to improve the efficiency of the financial management as well as IT systems and business procedures. Linda has also provided analysis support for the Education Snapshots.

Linda has a Bachelor in Business and a Postgraduate Diploma in Science. She has a passion working for the communities. She is a school Board of Trustee and Treasurer of NZ Go Society. 

Before come to New Zealand with her family in 2002, she was a statistician and IT manager in China.




Huia Hawke, Project Manager - Mātauranga Māori

Tēnā  tātou katoa…
Ko Ruapehu me Aoraki ngā maunga
Ko Mākōtuku me Whanganui ngā awa Ko Te Kete Ika a Rakaihautū te hapuā
He uri nō Ngāti Uenuku te hapū Whangānui Nui Tōnu te iwi me Ngāti Moki Ngāi Te Ruahikihiki ngā hapū Kai Tahu te iwi
He Boothillian āhau  nō Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei…he mihi aroha tēnei kia tātou katoa. 
Huia (Ngahuia mo ētahi) Hawke āhau.

Huia (Ngahuia) leads the Matauranga Māori Education portfolio and notes that Iwi hapuu and whānau are integral to an accelerated approach for the prosperity landscape of Māori learners, albeit all learners.  The strategy of ‘whakamāutauria te hinengaro’ is a kaupapa that has breadth and depth.  The idea to invoke and challenge our thinking and practice in Māori Education underpins  Huia’s role.

Huia comes from a family with strong mana whenua connections to Auckland.  Huia has worked extensively in the area of Māori Learners in Education.  She began as a teacher and has since made her professional journey in Education about ‘challenging the way we think act and do’ in order to do what is right by and for Māori Learners, therefore, all learners.  Huia came from the Ministry of Education and prior to that started a school on Ōrākei Marae for the community of Ōrākei.  She has coordinated and facilitated numerous Ministry Initiatives in High Schools and created and fulfilled a position of Behaviour Specialist Teacher for the Ministry of Education in 2001.  


Sarah Morgan, Project Manager for the Science in Society, Participatory Science Platform (PSP): South Auckland pilot

Dr Sarah Morgan is the Project Manager for the Science in Society, Participatory Science Platform (PSP): South Auckland pilot, hosted by COMET Auckland and the Auckland STEM Alliance. Many of our young people do not see a career or skills in science to be valuable in their life. The PSP is a new way of connecting communities with science, supporting groups to develop research projects around questions that matter to them. We want to show the value of science and science skills to our young people, and hopefully highlight some local career pathways within the science sector, while building relationships between local science businesses, researchers and communities.

Sarah grew up in Whakatane, Taupo and Havelock North, and before moving to Auckland in 2014, lived in Dunedin for 9 years. She has a Bachelor of Science with Honours, and a PhD in Molecular Genetics (Otago), with a strong background in Science Communication. Most recently from a Research Fellowship at the University of Auckland, she was investigating science education translation-interventions and science literacy in 11-18 year olds from New Zealand, Tonga and the Cook Islands.




Rajshree Gopala Krishnan, Data Analyst

Rajshree first joined COMET Auckland in 2014 as an independent contractor providing data support for various projects and programmes handled by COMET Auckland. She enjoys “making numbers talk” and believes that data should be presented in a manner that can be understood by all. 

Rajshree is originally from Malaysia; she moved to Auckland after spending 8 years in Dunedin where she graduated with a BSc (Hons) and Masters with Distinction in Psychology from the University of Otago. She is currently working on a Phd in Educational Psychology from the University of Auckland. 



Emma Quigan, Project Manager, Talking Matters

Emma brings experience, expertise and enthusiasm to promoting oral language through community action. Prior to joining COMET she was part of a team pioneering the use of continuous quality improvement with early childhood centres throughout Auckland on the Now We’re Talking Project.  This helped teachers work out what changes they could make to provide a quality language rich environment for babies and young children.  Emma has a professional background in speech language therapy, working in early intervention at the Ministry of Education, Special Education.  She joined the Practice and Implementation Team, as a Practice Advisor in 2013 and explored innovative ways of improving practice, such as Appreciative Inquiry.  She’s thrilled to share human centred models for change with the Talking Matters crew and learn more about how we can help children become great thinkers, talkers and readers.




Anabel Fernandez, Talking Matters Administrator

Ana recently joined the COMET team as Talking Matters administrator. She has previous experience in project coordination and administration in the areas of culture, trade and education. Originally from Cuba, she has Bachelor in Social Communication, a Master in Sociology, and is currently working in her PhD. thesis in Social Science at AUT. She is passionate about the importance of equitable education and cultural diversity, and believes in the power of communities for collective action. Ana speaks Spanish, English and a bit of Dutch.