Barbara Choat

(M.Ed.) (Spec Ed) (Hons); DipTchg


Hi there, I’m Barbara, a 63-year-old wife, mother, Grandmother, Special Educationalist, Autistic Advocate and a huge believer in the positive aspects that quality peer support structures can bring to our community.

Originally from Kawhia, I have also lived in Te Awamutu and Auckland before returning to the Waikato to make Hamilton my permanent home.

I have a lived passion for Evolve Peer Support Trust beginning when it offered me the support, guidance and practical knowledge I needed to regain my strength and my life when depression took me to the darkest of places. It now gives me great pleasure to be on Evolve’s Board of Trustees to help ensure it can offer this opportunity to others when they need it too.


Neroli McLachlan

Born and bred in the Waikato I returned to Hamilton, from the UK, in 2016. With knowledge of funding - having previously worked in an Executive Assistant role with other not for profit organisations - I was invited to join the Board in the Treasurer role, from the inception of Evolve as a stand-alone organisation. I’ve found great satisfaction in working with our Office Manager passing on valuable funding know how.

In my spare time I enjoy creating art and have a great love of football, playing in both indoor and outdoor leagues. I like to promote the value of exercise in the maintenance of a healthy mental state.

Having first-hand experience with anxiety and depression, and indeed the improvements to life that Evolve Peer Support can offer, I am immensely passionate about supporting those in the Waikato community with their own struggles with mental health.


Rebecca Armstrong

BSocSc (1st Class Hons), MAppPsy (BA), BpracClinPsych, MNZCCP


I am a registered clinical psychologist with a community focus and a passion for supporting and encouraging people on their journeys. I have had various employment, placement, and volunteer positions over the years including; Migrant Services, Camp Quality, Altogether Autism, Parent to Parent NZ, Infant Child, Adolescent Mental Health, Adult Mental Health, The Psychology Centre and Corrections.


My journey with Evolve started in 2016, as a facilitator. I fell in love with the atmosphere of Evolve. I was drawn to how healing Evolve was and the courage it took for people to share their experiences, strength and hope with others walking a similar path. It was such a privilege to join the Board of Trustees when it became a Charitable Trust in 2017.


I look after my own mental wellness through a number of self-care practices that include healthy eating, adequate sleep and regular exercise, connecting with like- minded others and family, hiking, experiencing nature and practicing mindfulness.



Susan Findlay

Bachelor of Teaching (BTchg)


From Hamilton, I have two adult children.  As a teacher I have taught children with additional learning needs; and have also taught in Australia.  More recently, I have been employed by a health and disability advisory service as an information officer.   I also have past experience supporting the daily lives and personal goal achievement of adults with learning and behavioural challenges; and have worked in aged care; and early childhood settings.

I am currently a volunteer Support Parent of Parent to Parent NZ, which includes the service Altogether Autism.

Personal and professional life experiences have led me to appreciate the importance of maintaining one’s mental health, through the availability of community professionals, peer support, tools and strategies.  Evolve Peer Support Trust is an organisation whose integrity and values aligned with this; therefore, I heartily took up the Board Member role in 2017 as Secretary for Evolve Peer Support Charitable Trust.

I most enjoy being outdoors, e.g. gardening, camping, swimming, fishing or hunting.


Taryn Surgison 

GradDipTchg (Primary), BA (English)


Located in Hamilton, I have raised five children. Whilst raising children I studied to gain my Bachelor of Arts and later gained a Post Graduate Diploma in Primary Teaching. Alongside spending time in the teaching and tutoring fields, I also worked in my own business as a copywriter and freelance journalist assisting in growing businesses by helping them build their branding and positioning in a market. 


I have a passion for promoting health and wellbeing for individuals as a foundational building block for living an enjoyable and well-balanced life and look forward to contributing my skills towards such a great organisation and cause. 


Steven Mahoney

Bachelor of Communication Studies (BCS)


Born and raised in West Auckland, I moved to the Waikato several years ago and now reside in beautiful Cambridge.


From film and television to communications and marketing, my career has given me the opportunity to work in a number of creative sectors for both commercial and charitable organisations. In my current role I head up the creative team at Parent to Parent NZ, a nationwide not-for-profit supporting Kiwi families with disabled children.


I am passionate about seeing people empowered to live full and healthy lives, and believe strongly in the power of mindfulness to positively affect health and wellbeing. It is a privilege to be involved with an organisation like Evolve at the cutting edge of mental-health support, making a tangible difference to the lives of those in our community.

© Evolve Peer Support Trust 2019