Dawson becomes first female President of the NZOC

November 15, 2022
Liz Dawson’s election as President of the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) is a history-making achievement. | Photo: ONOC

The Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) now has two National Olympic Committees (NOCs) with female Presidents as highly respected Sports Governance leader, Liz Dawson MNZM, assumed Presidency of the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) this month.

Dawson is the NZOC’s first female President in its 111-year-old history.  In the Oceania Continent, Dawson joins Makarita Lenoa, current President of the Fiji Association of Sport and National Olympic Committee (FASANOC) as head of an NOC.

On being a visible sign of the possibilities of leadership in sport

Dawson said, ‘It is a true honour to be elected to this role, and to be a visible sign of the possibilities of leadership in sport for women in Aotearoa New Zealand, and more broadly in Oceania, is another step in the continuing development of the NZOC’s commitment to gender equity - as an organisation, for The NZ Team and athletes, and for our sporting communities.

The inspiration behind sport governance and sport for social good

‘Having been encouraged and involved in sport since childhood by my parents, through to qualifying and working as a ski instructor in both Austria and New Zealand during my 20s and having lived through the protests against the Springbok rugby tour, these are experiences that have confirmed for me that sport can change lives for the better and can bring about inspiration and social good.

‘And when combined with the learnings from a business career, contributing to sports governance has been a natural fit for my skills, my interests, and my time.’

On work and learnings from the ONOC Equity Commission engagement with Pacific Island women

Dawson is also Vice-Chair of the ONOC Equity Commission and has supported Chair, Helen Brownlee, in the work to educate, promote and advocate for gender equality and women in sport in Oceania, especially within the Pacific Islands region.

On work with the ONOC Equity Commission, Dawson said, ‘As a New Zealander, I’ve had the privilege of spending many wonderful trips to a number of our Pacific neighbours, and the work with the Equity Commission has served to introduce me to many more cultures, histories, and challenges that our Oceania nations both share and yet experience very differently.

Liz Dawson in discussion with Pacific Island participants at the ONOC Gender Equity and Diversity Master Class in Auckland.| Photo: ONOC

‘The warmth, the welcome and the real desire to improve the lives of girls and women through sport, has been a real joy to experience.

‘Working with our Chair Helen [Brownlee] and my fellow commission members has been great, especially as we are all from different countries and respect each other’s experiences and contribution - plus we enjoy each other’s company!

‘I do encourage our Olympic Oceania family to continue this important work, even more so as we move out of the effects of the Covid pandemic.’

Dawson added, ‘There are many fine and committed people in our Oceania sporting community who have in-depth knowledge and experience at all levels, and I hope to both learn and to contribute to ensure that our athletes from Oceania get the best opportunities they can to do their very best and represent their countries and communities with pride.’

Encouragement to women and girls in sport

In encouraging women and girls in sport, Dawson said, ‘Go for it! Put your hands up, voice your ambitions, seek out the opportunities through your sports, your communities and your nations, and be the best you can.’

Dawson has been a NZOC Board member for 11 years and chairs the NZOC Integrity Committee and is a member of the Performance and Remuneration Committee. Dawson has served on the ANOC and ONOC Gender Equity Committees within the wider Olympic Movement and was awarded an International Olympic Committee’s Women in Sport Diploma in 2021.


For more information and for research purposes, please click on the following links for more:

On the New Zealand Olympic Committee
On Liz Dawson, MNZM
On the Oceania National Olympic Committees
On the ONOC Equity Commission


About ONOC 
Established in 1981, the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) is one of five Continental Associations. It looks after the interests of 17 member nations in the Oceania Region, including Australia and New Zealand as well as seven associate members. 

ONOC has an office in Guam where Secretary General Mr. Ricardo Blas is based and the Secretariat in Suva, Fiji, where the Office of the President Dr Robin Mitchell is located.

All services and-programmes are based on the ONOC Strategic Plan for 2018-2021, and its 4 Core Functions of (1) Building and Strengthening NOCs Capacity (2) Cultivating Strategic Partnerships (3) Contributing towards Sporting Excellence and (4) Leading by Example.


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