Our people

The Ministry for Women is committed to achieving the Ministry’s vision that Aotearoa New Zealand is a great place to be a woman or girl, wāhine Māori succeed as Māori, and gender is not a barrier to wellbeing. Our staff have in-depth private and public sector experience, specialist knowledge, and strong links with a wide range of external stakeholders. This allows us to develop the best policy advice to lead to better results for New Zealanders. 

Te Tumu Whakarae mō te wahine | Secretary for Women and Chief Executive

Kellie Coombes

After graduating, Kellie started her public service career as a policy analyst at the Ministry of Education and has held numerous leadership positions across the public sector, including Deputy Commissioner (System and Agency Performance) at Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission between 2018 to 2021.

Prior to this Kellie was Private Secretary for the Office of the Minister of State Services (2015-2016) before moving to Director, Office of the Head of State Services at the then State Services Commission. 

Kellie spent a decade at the Ministry of Social Development, between 2005 to 2015, where her roles included Acting Director Policy, Governance and Operations (Social Policy and Knowledge) and Acting General Manager, Care and Protection Support (Child Youth and Family). Prior to that she worked at the Department of Labour and Wellington City Council.

In 2021 Kellie was appointed Acting Secretary for Women and Chief Executive, Manatū Wāhine Ministry for Women. Her position was made permanent on 25 October 2022.

Kellie says she feels privileged to lead an organisation whose work is focused on improving outcomes for wāhine women and kōtiro girls in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Click here for details of the CE's expenses.


Kaihautū Te Puna Kaupapahere | Deputy Secretary Policy

Deborah Malcolm

Deb leads the Ministry’s policy advice on social wellbeing, including women in leadership and business, unpaid work, and violence prevention. Deb has a strong policy background, which has included the Families Commission and Ministry of Social Development. Deb holds a Master of Arts from the University of Essex and a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University of Wellington.


Hautū Māori - Director, Capability and Engagement

Maxine Khrona Shortland MNZM (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi, Ngātiwai, Ngāti Porou)

Maxine leads the strategic and operational work to develop and strengthen the Ministry’s cultural capability. This involves engaging, supporting, and influencing projects so Te Ao Māori is reflected throughout all existing and future work. Maxine has a long history of holding leadership and governance positions in organisations across many sectors, including sports, business, conservation, philanthropy, and public and Māori health. 

Maxine has both a Masters in Management (Research) and Postgraduate Diploma in Business (Māori Development) from The University of Auckland. She is also a graduate of the EY Darden Master Programme: Diversity and Leadership with the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.