Sarah is currently Deputy Chief Executive and Director Civil Defence Emergency Management in the New Zealand Government's National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) advising the Minister of Civil Defence. Most recently Sarah has played a significant role in New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other major emergency responses and she has provided leadership during a transition process within NEMA. 

As well as bringing this significant and relevant experience to New Zealand Red Cross, Sarah has extensive experience at an executive level nationally and internationally including working with a range of volunteers from other organisations.

Sarah has had a diverse range of experience within New Zealand and England, as well as Ethiopia, Niue and the Solomon Islands. She was a member of the United Nations Disaster Assessment & Coordination Team for nine years and has represented New Zealand at a variety of international forums, bilateral, regional and global meetings, exercises and forums. Sarah has published a number of papers in international journals and has co-edited three books.

New Zealand Red Cross’ National President, Kerry Nickels, says: “The Board is very pleased that we have been able to appoint a person with Sarah’s background and experience to the role of Secretary General. We are looking forward to working with Sarah in the years ahead as we continue to implement Strategy2030 and deliver on our mission to improve the lives of vulnerable people.”

Niamh Lawless’ final day as Secretary General will be on 23 October 2020.  Anne Smith, GM Commercial and Shared Services will act as Secretary General until Sarah commences her new role.