Gill Greer

Influencer, author and intelligent rager

A powerful and influential presence in person, Gill Greer has a way with words as those who have heard her speak will know. Formerly Director General of International Planned Parenthood Federation (London) and CEO of Family Planning New Zealand, Gill also spent nine year at Victoria University, two as Assistant Vice Chancellor. As CEO of Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) Gill channels the time and energy of those who want to give their skills and work for change alongside communities in the Pacific.


What’s happening in the world of Gill Greer at present? 

Like so many of us I’m concerned that we seem to be at a point of global disorder and uncertainty, and yet in some ways we’re more interconnected than ever before. We’re also at a point where we are developing a new post 2015 global agenda which could help us all tackle inequality, poverty, climate change. I’m involved with others in trying to influence that new universal UN agenda, to try to make sure that these issues are addressed through people centred, sustainable development – and that volunteering – in communities and across borders is recognised as central to achieving this.

We at VSA will be supporting another 180 or so kiwis to work with partners to make a difference. And from a personal point of view, this wonderful summer (note the hat!) has reminded me of how beautiful our country is even with its many challenges and that I want to spend more time with my family and friends, and getting to know it again.


Describe the most generous person you know. How have they influenced you?

For me it’s a group of people I meet almost every day – the New Zealander who volunteers who support partners’ work across the Pacific, in whatever ways they need. From the age of 23 to 70+ they give their time, talents and experience, for months or years, to build capacity and relationships, and strengthening communities, governments and businesses. As one said today as we talked about her second assignment, “it’s what I’ve always wanted to do!” She’s a food technologist, and when I asked why she volunteered ,her answer was quite simple:, “I want to feed the world. This is a start.”


Can you name an everyday action that makes the world a better place, yet is underrated?

For me, it’s when complete strangers walking in Wellington across the hilltops near Tutukaka, or around Oriental Bay on a sunny, blue sky day, say an unprompted hi, hello good morning, no matter where they’re from. It’s somehow a moment of recognition, an acknowledgement that we’re all in this together, and that change for good is still possible, in spite of the challenges.


Can you tell us three things that inspire you and why?

Gloria Steinem’s phrase “intelligent rage”. If we want to change the world from what is to what should be, then intelligence alone can be too cerebral, and rage alone can be destructive or ineffective – but put the two together and they have great power to bring about change.

My grandchildren – because they see the world differently. The future is theirs, and I want it to be as good as possible!

Robin Hyde, the New Zealand writer, who believed that under the sea all lands are joined together. She was called Mrs God because of her desire to change the world,  and for her the way to do that was with words. The tragic events in Paris in January this month remind us all of how important that is.

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