The New Zealand Harkness Fellowships are intended to enable outstanding mid-career professionals in any field of study or vocation except health policy, to undertake a Fellowship programme which best suits their professional and personal objectives.

Philanthropist Edward Harkness

Philanthropist Edward Harkness

The Fellowships seek to reinforce New Zealand-United States’ links by enabling actual or potential leaders and opinion formers in New Zealand to benefit from new ideas, practices and new contacts in the US.


From 1922, The Commonwealth Fund of New York, a philanthropic enterprise established by the Harkness family in 1918, provided Fellowships to enable young and mid career professionals to spend up to 21 months in the United States to pursue graduate training or research. Fellows were drawn from a range of countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and some continental European countries. In 1996 however, the Board of the Commonwealth Fund decided to focus the Fellowships on health care policy and practice, which was in fact more in keeping with the overall purpose of the Fund itself.

Since 1997, the Fund has enabled promising mid-career professionals in the health sector—academic researchers, clinicians, hospital and insurance managers, government health policy-makers, and health journalists—from Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom to spend up to 12 months as a Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice.

Fellows work with leading U.S. experts to study a critical issue on the health policy agenda in both the U.S. and their home country. The Commonwealth Fund administers the New Zealand Harkness Fellowships in Health Care Policy and Practice. You can visit their website or contact Toni Ashton at toni.ashton@auckland.ac.nz for more information.

Harkness House, New York - a stopping off point for many visiting fellows.

Harkness House, New York – a stopping off point for many visiting fellows.

Mindful that the original Harkness Fellowships had enabled a generation of young emerging leaders from both the public and private sectors in New Zealand to benefit from what was a life-changing experience in the United States, a small group of New Zealand Harkness alumni established The New Zealand Harkness Fellowships Trust (Inc) (“NZHFT”), by a trust deed on 12 December 1997, to support ‘general purpose’ fellowships promoting exchanges between the United States of America and New Zealand. The establishment of this Trust, and its intent to award additional Fellowships for tenure in the US, was endorsed by the Commonwealth Fund.


Previous New Zealand Harkness Fellows ( under the ‘old scheme’) have included managers in the public and private sectors, lawyers, policy analysts, economists, academics, journalists, social scientists, educators, artists, and central and local government officers. Many Harkness Fellows have gone on to reach the top of their chosen professions.

Harkness Fellows Hugh Fletcher, Bridget Liddell and Professor Richard Faull

Well-known Fellows include:

  • Roger Blakeley ( former Secretary for the Environment, Secretary of Internal Affairs, Chief Planning Officer for the Auckland Council) is currently a Councillor, Greater Wellington Regional Council 
  • Rob Cameron (1950 – 2018) was the founder of Cameron Partners, a leading investment banking and private equity firm. 
  • Peter Douglas has worked in government, including at the highest levels in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, he has run a complicated organisation, Te Ohu Kaimoana Trustee Ltd for twelve years
  • Whaimutu Dewes, is Managing director at Whainiho Developments Ltd and a prominent Maori professional director
  • Professor Richard Faull, is a world-renowned neuroscientist at the Auckland University Medical School
  • Hugh Fletcher, is former Chief Executive of Fletcher Challenge, and a prominent businessman
  • Andrew Kibblewhite is Secretary for Justice at the Ministry for Justice and former Chief Executive of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • Dr Murray Milner is a former chief engineer at the Post Office and currently chair of the National Health IT Board
  • Professor Ron Paterson, is currently Professor of Law at Auckland University, and formerly a highly regarded Health and Disability Commissioner
  • Dr Karen Poutasi, is former Director General of Health, currently CE of the NZ Qualifications Authority
  • Kara Puketapu, is a leader of the Te Āti Awa iwi in Waiwhetū, Lower Hutt,. He has a doctorate from the University of Chicago. Puketapu grew up in Taranaki and rose through the ranks of the Ministry of Maori Affairs (later named the Ministry of Māori Affairs and ultimately Te Puni Kōkiri) to become Secretary of Maori Affairs.
  • Sir Bruce Robertson is a retired judge of the Court of Appeal and chairman of the Law Commission
  • Sir John Robertson, was former Secretary of Justice and Chief Ombudsman ( deceased)
  • Brian Tyler, is a former Auditor General
  • Sir Wilson Whineray, was a renowned All Black captain and prominent business leader (recently deceased)
  • Bridget Liddell, Managing Principal of Fahrenheit 212 Equity, provides leadership to companies seeking to successfully commercialise their products and services in the US.

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