About Us

Our history

In 2011, three Nelson-based community nurses with child protection expertise and a detective from the local child protection team recognised there was a desperate unmet need for child protection training and guidance in New Zealand.

A lack of access to training and guidance is a significant barrier to helping or protecting children in need or at risk, and a contributing factor to New Zealand’s poor record on child abuse and neglect.

Our team also recognised that community engagement was crucial to protecting children and young people from abuse and neglect. Safeguarding Children Initiative was born.

We established a registered charity, gathered a skilled and dedicated Board and were successful in finding funding via philanthropic trusts.  Our reputation grew and the demand for our training, guidance, and consultancy increased to the point where we were able to appoint permanent team members rather than trying to run everything in our spare time.

We are now a well-established, sustainable charity sustained through a combination of fee-paying services and grants/donations, underpinned by strong governance.

The success of Safeguarding Children Initiative is our practical approach to a difficult and emotive subject. All our training is delivered by passionate advocates with experience in child protection.

You’ve heard it before: It takes a village to raise a child. We can work together to build child-focused villages that provide a safe world for every child to grow, thrive and reach their potential. Every child matters and they need us, the villagers to keep them safe.

Our team

Willow Duffy – CEO

Willow is a founding member of Safeguarding Children. Willow has worked as a nurse and midwife for over 30 years. She has a postgraduate qualification as a Specialist Community Public Health Nurse Practitioner (Health Visitor) from the UK. Willow worked a caseload with child protection concerns on a daily basis and at a time of great change in the child protection system. She also trained as a child protection supervisor for nurses.

Willow has worked as a Plunket Nurse, and later with youth as a Sexual Health and Family Planning Nurse and as part of a specialist team as a Forensic Nurse for sexual assaults (SAATS/MEDSAC Nurse). Willow has worked as an advisor for Children’s Action Plan and Oranga Tamariki and in 2017 was a finalist in New Zealand Women of Influence Awards.

Willow believes that communities hold the key to keeping children and young people safe, and that we all have a vital role to play. Her drive is to protect our most vulnerable citizens and bring their unique needs to the forefront of all we do.


Louise Petzold – Senior Safeguarding Consultant

Louise has worked with passion in the field of Family Violence and Child Protection for almost 20 years.

Louise has been involved with Stopping Violence Services and has been a Ministry of Justice group facilitator and youth worker. During this time, Louise has deepened her interest in community and organisational responses to child protection and family violence. She has co-developed a family violence case management model.

Louise spent a year working with national child protection training organisation Child Matters which included training Children’s Teams. Louise’s skills in training, collaboration as well as direct front line experience in family violence work, are crucial in helping to develop our Safeguarding Capacity Development service.

Louise believes that we all have a part to play in the welfare of vulnerable children by training ourselves to know how to respond to vulnerability, abuse and neglect, working well together and engaging well with vulnerable whānau.


Ruth Browning –  Safeguarding Consultant

Ruth is a qualified Social Worker and member of the Social Workers Registration Board with a current practicing certificate. She has been a social worker for 20 years and has a wide range of experience working with children, youth and their families in both non-government and government organisations. This experience includes as a Social Worker and Family Group Conference Co-ordinator for Oranga Tamariki for several years.

Ruth understands child protection from both within Oranga Tamariki as well as within the community. She has a drive and passion for creating healthier and safer communities where children and young people can thrive.

Ruth has a Masters in Social Research and a Post Graduate Diploma in Social and Community Work. Ruth is Social Work Supervisor and lectures on a Social Work degree course.


Kirsten Taylor – Operations Manager

Kirsten Taylor

Kirsten has a wide range of skills in office management and looks after our clients, eLearning development and all things operationally for Safeguarding Children.  She has managed call centres overseas, has been a travel agent as well as runs her own business with her husband.

At Safeguarding Children, Kirsten organises everything that is required for our organisation to run efficiently.  She is passionate about Child Protection and is committed to ensuring that Safeguarding Children delivers the highest level of service possible.


Renée Strickland – Administrator

Renée is responsible for the day to day running of the Safeguarding Children office.  She is proficient in implementing processes and systems for the smooth running of our organisation.

Safety is a theme which has featured throughout Renée’s working career, having worked in the food, aviation and commerical property industries.  Renée is looking forward to applying this work experience to help keep our children safe.



Deborah McConochie – Sales and Funding

Deborah has a background in business management, sales and marketing.

She has held senior positions in marketing and sales and owned and operated a business with her husband for 26 years.

At Safeguarding Children, Deborah is committed to ensuring that all our services are promoted and accessed nationally.



John Parsons – Internet Safety Consultant and Presenter

John has worked with us as a specialist presenter and advisor for a number of years. He is a national Internet Safety and Risk Assessment Consultant to schools, the private and health sectors, providing specialist advice and direction on the safe use of Digital Communication Technology.

John delivers cyber safety workshops to those who work with young people and parents/caregivers. He also works with individuals, young people and families who have become ensnared by predatory adults across digital networks, those who have been cyber abused and children and youth who abuse others online.


Leanne Couch – Sport and Recreation Child Protection Consultant and Presenter

Leanne CouchLeanne is a specialist in child protection in sport and has worked with a variety of sporting organisations. She has experience working in the junior sport system in Australia, England, USA and New Zealand.

Leanne worked with Sport England for 3 years, working closely with the Safeguarding Team, developing ways to enrich young people’s lives through sport.  Her experience of working with those children most at risk of slipping through the cracks has been a driving force of her work in New Zealand where she has continued to consolidate and grow her knowledge.


Esther Cowell – Child Psychologist and Presenter

Esther Cowell is an experienced Child and Family Psychologist with 15 years experience working with children and families. Esther has a masters in psychology and a postgraduate diploma in child and family psychology. She is currently working at Maitai School in Nelson.She works on an individual basis with young people and families, and on sexual education and overseeing behaviour management policy.

Esther has extensive experience working with a variety of childhood difficulties. Esther values building relationships with those that I work with to ensure that the person feels safe and supported.


Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees is a group of people who are deeply concerned about child neglect and abuse, and are utterly committed to stopping it. They have strong backgrounds in governance, business, research, finances, and child protection. They understand the barriers and are determined to overcome them to make New Zealand a better place for all children.
Together we can make a difference.


Meet our Board

Annette Milligan – Chair

Annette is a Registered Nurse with a teaching background who combines the worlds of education and health. In 1989 she founded the award-winning INP Medical Clinic which is a women’s health clinic. In 2000 she co-founded Health Click which produces resources to teach sexuality education, especially to those with learning disabilities. Annette is the Clinical Director for Women, Child & Youth for the Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board, and is a Director for MEDSAC (Medical Clinicians in Sexual Abuse Care). She has had wide experience as a professional Director in several companies.


Chris Meade

Chris is a business person who runs her own consultancy. She is involved in a new business start-up and devotes one-third of her time to the not-for-profit world. She has had over 25 years of experience in business, working as an HR professional and whilst at Downer, as Executive General Manager of Human Resources, she volunteered through VSA for an assignment in Timor Leste.This experience changed her life. Her passion for people in the world of work has extended to a passion for how people in the face of adversity can best live their lives.

She is delighted to be part of the Safeguarding Children Initiative Team and be part of a group of professionals who so wholeheartedly believe in keeping tamariki safe and focus their efforts so effectively.


Christine Palmer

Christine has a degree in marketing and a 20-year career in market research where she has held the position of Senior Account Director and Acting Managing Director for a large multi-national research agency. Over the years she has managed research programmes for many high profile government and ‘blue chip’ commercial organisations. Since relocating from Wellington to Nelson in 2007, Christine has continued to work in the market research sector operating her own home-based research agency Q&A Research.

Christine is currently a Board Member for Volunteer Nelson and is delighted to be a member of the Safeguarding Children Initiative Board where she will add value via her skills in research, evaluation, and marketing.


Julia McCarthy

Julia has recently left a 40-year career in Banking – the last 25 years of which have been as a Senior leader undertaking Regional Management roles, and for the last 2 years in a key role as business lead for the Bank’s largest transformational project.

Julia is an enthusiastic and proven results driven leader who understands the importance of working alongside people to deliver the desired outcome. Julia shows a positive “can do” outlook on both her work and life and thrives on change. “I am delighted to join this board and to share my skills to continue to strengthen an already successful initiative.”


Helen Watson

Helen works in governance across the non-profit sector in Nelson. In addition to the SCI board, she is currently Chair of the Victory Primary School Board of Trustees, as well as the newly appointed Chair of Victory Community Centre. She is on the board of Workstar Supported Employment and is a member of the Governance Group for Te Kāhui Ako ki Whakatū. In her spare time, Helen works as a researcher in the health sector.

Detective Neil Kitchen

Neil is a Detective who joined the Police in the United Kingdom in 1985, specialising in Intelligence and Organised Crime detection. He transferred to the New Zealand Police in 2008, working for two years in Auckland before transferring to Nelson. He has chosen to work in the area of child protection over the past few years. His work has included dealing with victims and offenders both adult and children and their families, coordinating a multi-agency approach, which engages health professionals, Oranga Tamariki, victim support groups, the legal profession and the Police.

Whilst accepting child protection work is difficult and challenging, Neil says the work is, without doubt, the most rewarding of his career.

Paul Rosanowski

Paul is an accountant and specialises in business innovation and growth, from both an operating and a governance perspective and enjoys working with the Safeguarding Children Initiative Board. Most recently he has worked at Crowe Horwath, and has advised clients across various sectors including: construction, manufacturing, distribution, aviation and government.