top of page
Journal of Divergence 2021

Stim Dancing - Autism's Gift to the World

Annie Southern

Annie Southern Image.jpg

Annie Southern loves dogs, has a special interest in Nordic contemporary  music and is part of a worldwide group of Warriors & Weirdos who love Norwegian musician Aurora from whom she is learning to unfurl from the years of social masking she was conditioned to do by a neurotypical world.  Having found social masking more and more impossible to do as 

Nōku te Ao - like minds

Gina Giordani and Danielle Whitburn

Ko Hikurangi te maunga

Ko Waiapu te awa

Ko Horouta te waka

Ko Ngāti Porou te iwi

Ko Te Whānau a Ruataupare te hapū

Ko Tuatini te marae

Ko Gina Giordani tōku ingoa.

Gina is a Kaiwhakapikiora/Health Promoter at the Mental Health Foundation, and the programme lead for the Nōku te Ao: Like Minds, Social Movement.


Gina has previously led the Like Minds, Like Mine Pūtea Hapori/Community Grants kaupapa and the Whai Ora, Whiti Ora Fund (a grants programme for organisations serving people with lived experience of mental distress and addictions during COVID-19). She has sat on the board of Frozen Funds for three years.


Gina has lived experience, and is passionate about advocating for lived experience communities to access the tools and resources they need to live lives free from prejudice and discrimination. Gina is also a beginner tauira i te reo Māori at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.


Nō Ingarani me Kōroātia ōku tīpuna

I tae mai ōku tīpuna ki Aotearoa i te tau kōtahi mano, iwa rau,

rua tēkau mā rua

I tipu ake au ki Puketāpapa

E noho ana au ki Kōhimarama

Ko Danielle Whitburn tōku ingoa. 

Danielle is a Kaiarataki Whakapā Whaihua/Marketing and Communications

Team Lead at the Mental Health Foundation, and the Communications and Marketing Lead for the Nōku te Ao: Like Minds Social Movement.  Danielle has previously worked on the Like Minds, Like Mine Pūtea Hapori/Community Grants and Whai Ora, Whiti Ora Fund ngā kaupapa alongside Gina, and has led the Nōku te Ao: Like Minds Pūtea Pāpāho/Media Grants programme for the past three years. 

Danielle is whānau of loved ones with lived experience, both passed and here today, which drives her commitment to this kaupapa. She is also learning te reo Māori with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa at a full immersion level. 


Danielle Whitburn

she grew older - and wondering why she had bothered to make others comfortable at her own expense - Annie has embraced her Autistic identity and parts of Autistic culture, one part of which is stim dancing.  She is on a mission to bring stim dancing to the world as a solution to stress and distress and to further humanity’s pursuit of happiness. At Divergence 2021 she will unpack what stim dancing is and provide an opportunity for people to give it a go. As Annie says: “It isn’t rocket science. It’s really, really simple and human. Many of us had just stopped giving our adult selves permission to do it.” Come and discover the power of the stim!

Life Beyond Work

Ian Johnson

Coming from a business background with a focus on business development and promotion it was a very hard experience for me to have to confront my own mental distress when in 2004 I crashed and burned. 


After a year of not working, and with help from friends and family, I gradually picked myself up.  I then began to appreciate that I had the opportunity for a new and very different vocation by putting what I recently learned to good use with others. From  2005 on I worked in the NGO mental health sector, most of that time in services management. Together with others I created and delivered initiatives that supported people to make sound, healthy, recovery focused choices, even when they had lost hope. I stopped doing this work late in 2020 and have gone on to do other things, including starting a group for people who, like me, are no longer working in paid employment.

Understanding ourselves through Hauora

Kelly Ngaronoa

Ko Hikurangi te maunga
Ko Waiapu te awa
Ko Ngāti Porou te iwi
Ko Ngāti Kahungungu te hapu
Ko Rahui te marae
Ko Horouta te waka
Ko Kelly Ngaronoa toku ingoa

Kelly is passionate about Whānau, iwi and hapu and has been working in the social, mental and health field for the past 10 years. She is currently employed at MHAPS as a youth programme team leader and Massey University [Te rau puawai] as an academic mentor. Kelly is also the Co-founder of Te koha ō haumanu and Founder of Te Koha Health. Kelly’s academic background is in Psychology, Counselling, Social and Human Services, Business & Finance and Project Management. Lastly, Kelly loves using her lived experience of anxiety to support others going through distress and empowering Whānau and hapu to reach tino rangatiratnga and live their best lives. 

Kelly Ann.jpg

advisor, a peer support worker and with the Awareness consumer network, and last year served on the board of the Initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission. I am currently working as a Principal Advisor Lived Experience at the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, and have immense pride that collectively, people in Aotearoa ‘reclaimed’ our right to have an independent monitoring entity in mental health, when we called for the government to reinstate a Mental Health Commission through the Mental Health Inquiry.

I live in Ōtautahi with my partner and our pets – cats, chickens and flemmish giant bunnies. In my spare time I read, grow vegetables, and spend as much time as I can with the people I love.

Influencing the System

Kelly Pope

On my mum’s side of our family I am Dutch and my dad’s family has Scottish, English, Cornish, Irish and German ancestory. I am a person who feels things (especially injustice) deeply, and that has attracted a number of psychiatric ‘explanations’ and labels over the years.

My own journey with big feelings and difficult thoughts, and the experience of losing my boyfriend when I was 17, sparked my need to make a meaningful difference in mental health. I have previously worked as a youth consumer

Kelly pope.jpg

A living Experience of Mental Health Change built on my worldview and work.

Kevin Harper

Being bullied at school still affects me today. I have become very good at getting in my own way. I have a strong survival reaction and very low confidence; I hold myself back and hide from opportunity. Yet, I did develop a strong motivation to see justice and fairness for anyone who experiences adversity. This is how I came to apply my experience of mental distress and my knowledge of public health to a lived experience role at the Ministry of Health. I know now is a time of transformation and opportunity. I know I want to be part of creating a truly people-centred approach to mental health and addiction. But, what might that mean and how do I reclaim my self-belief to help make change?

Kevin Harper-presenter image.jpg

The True Self: A moveable Feast?

Steve Carter

Steve Carter is a musician and DJ, bookworm, bar-room philosopher,

dancefloor operator, wilderness junkie, cryptic crossword cracker,

gardener, locavore, culture vulture and pool shark.

He is also a self-employed consultant on the back of a 30 year career in social change and community development. He was one of the team that set up the All Right? campaign in Christchurch and he co-wrote and delivered the Rākau Roroa lived experience leadership training programme for Changing Minds. He is a workforce facilitator for Pathways and sits on their peer support training reference group, and he facilitates MH101 training for Blueprint.


His superpower is tai chi and his kryptonite is cucumber.

Steve carter image.jpg


Friday 16 October 2021

9.00 am - 2 pm


The Lounge, Oxford Terrace Baptist Church

286 Oxford Terrace, Christchurch


bottom of page