A passion for ensuring her colleagues can bring their whole selves to work and feel safe in doing so is what drives Community Engagement Manager Acacia Cochise to lead diversity and inclusion initiatives at Ventia. 

This has seen her recognised by the New Zealand Rainbow Excellence Awards. 

These awards celebrate workplace leadership, innovation, best practice and collaboration with organisations committed to rainbow diversity and inclusion. They are the only rainbow focused awards program of their kind in Aotearoa. 

We are very proud that Acacia was a finalist for the Chorus Ambassadorship Award. This award recognises internal heroes and role models in formal or informal leadership roles who are actively driving improvements with rainbow inclusion. 

From championing LGBTTQIA+ inclusion in the workplace to leading efforts to recruit members of minority or vulnerable groups, Acacia is a true superstar of diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Ventia was a finalist in two categories, the Emerging and Ambassadorship Awards


Acacia's diversity and inclusion initiatives

Acacia leads by doing and is driven by two overarching values - diversity and learning. While she doesn't have lived experience as a member of Rainbow communities, she understands the value of empathy and allyship.  

As a woman with African American and Native American heritage, Acacia says she vividly recalls the difference having allies has made in her life, both in the United States when she was younger and then in New Zealand while studying and working. 

"This drives me to make sure that everyone at Ventia is able to bring their 'whole self' to work if they want to," Acacia says.

It's possible to support someone and help them out even if you haven't lived the same kind of life.

General Manager Local Government and sponsor of Ventia's Rainbow Tick program Katie James says Ventia had identified a gap in its work to ensure the safety, comfort and inclusion of its Rainbow communities.  

"Acacia suggested the Rainbow Tick program to us as she had seen the benefits it had delivered for the Auckland University of Technology and felt it would be invaluable as a framework that we could develop for our inclusion journey," Katie says.  

Acacia volunteered to create an initial concept and action plan to tackle the identified diversity shortfall. With Acacia on board, many others joined the cause.  

Ventia representatives on the night - Caroline Haku, Jax Bester and Acacia Cochise


The Ventia Rainbow Working Group

With the momentum that Acacia developed a Ventia Rainbow Working Group was formed, comprised of people from Ventia's Rainbow communities and allies, supported by the CEO and other senior leaders within Ventia. The working group led to the creation of Ventia's Rainbow Inclusion Initiative, which has introduced a sea change in the way Rainbow communities were recognised, celebrated and embraced within Ventia. 

As an organisation, Ventia was also proud to reach finalist status for the Emerging Award for our combined efforts in ensuring Ventia is a safe and inclusive place to work for all employees, including our Rainbow community.  

The Rainbow Excellence Awards are a collaboration between; The Rainbow Tick, the organisation that developed and leads the Rainbow Tick Certification system, synonymous with improved inclusivity and safety in New Zealand workplaces, and South Pacific Pride Ltd., the organisation behind Winter Pride and the Pride Pledge. 

Learn more about Ventia's efforts in fostering diversity and inclusion throughout the organisation here.


Top image: Allies and New Zealand-based members of the Rainbow Community of Practice