I first got to to know Sharn when I was hired to work in the polytechnic sector with ASTE in 2001. Sharn works on a high-trust model, and I was immediately and continually impressed by the way in which she trusted me to do my best, while at the same time making it easy for me to come back to her for guidance.

I met Sharn during a time that was very painful for staff working in the polytechnic sector. It was a period of significant transition, with Wellington Polytechnic merging with Massey University, and a resulting drive for wonderful teachers to gain further credentials in the form of postgraduate degrees, just so that they could ‘fit-in’ to their newfound university environment.

The failure to properly understand and recognise the value of polytechnic teaching was starting to become more of a problem at this time, and continues to this day.

As many well know, Sharn’s trusting and supportive manner of leadership makes her a joy to work with. Sharn never made anything of her authority as National Secretary. She worked on the basis of shared and collective enthusiasm. Enthusiasm for improving the situation of members, and a genuine love and dedication for members’ personal welfare.

Sharn has never lost the fire and passion for the union project. That fire still lights her way in terms her working relationships.

Working with Sharn in my role as president, I will always be grateful for her selfless and egoless support and cooperation. Sharn’s interests are the union’s interests.

There is a huge depth of knowledge and experience that resides in Sharn, especially of the complexities of the vocational education sector, which has of course gone through many more cycles of change than the university sector. As such she has been able to contribute hugely to perhaps the most radical phase of change we have seen in the reform of vocational education.

Sharn is irreplaceable in her experience, her tireless dedication to improving the lives of working people, and education in New Zealand, but she leaves tangible evidence of her work and achievements in the union and across the tertiary education sector.