Robbie Francis Watene

In 2009 Robbie Francis won the "Attitude ACC Supreme Award" and the Attitude Youth Award at age 20.

Dr Robbie Francis Watene

Dr. Robbie Francis Watene is a published author, social entrepreneur, and international scholar. She is an experienced and engaging speaker, whose presentations range from peacebuilding, gender, identity, coffee, and diversity, to war and human rights. She uses stories from her work around the globe to illuminate heartfelt messages of hope and resilience, tailoring each message to the unique crowd she is speaking with.

Robbie has packed a lot into her life. Having lived with a physical disability since birth, her achievements have been recognised with prestigious awards, which she has used to advance her academic, professional and life's experiences.

Over the past decade, Robbie has worked as a support worker, documentary maker, researcher, activist, consultant, and advisor. She has experience working with disabled people in France, Bangladesh, India, Mexico, and Ecuador, and has also spearheaded research on gender, war and human rights.


However, one of her greatest achievements, she believes, is co-founding and directing The Lucy Foundation (TLF), a New Zealand-based social enterprise that supports disabled people into training and employment within the global coffee industry. Named after her prosthetic ‘Lucy Leg’, TLF's first project is based in Oaxaca, Mexico, where they are working with locals with and without disabilities to regenerate the environment while developing a culture of inclusivity through the production of coffee beans, which are sold into the New Zealand coffee market. Together with their partners, TLF has helped to create what is believed to be the world's first totally inclusive value chain of coffee - from the farmer (Mexico) to the consumer (Aotearoa NZ).


With TLF as her “side hustle”, Robbie is also a published author on peacebuilding and human rights. Having studied International Conflict Resolution and Mediation in Israel-Palestine, in 2018 Robbie completed her Ph.D. at the University of Otago National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies graduating with Exceptional Thesis Status. The focus of her research was inclusive and accessible research methodologies and peacebuilding, and the experiences of Venezuelan and Colombian refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities during conflict and displacement. Her research has taken her all around the world, speaking on inclusive and accessible peace, and deep into conflict zones as an advisor on disability inclusion.


Further to this, Robbie has worked as an advisor to the New Zealand government on various strategies and sits on three governance boards. She is currently working as a Senior Researcher at the Donald Beasley Institute as Project Lead for the Disabled Person-Led Monitoring of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - a research project documenting human rights violations in Aotearoa for reporting to the United Nations. 




Game Changer: Roberta Francis Disability Activism (Mind Food Magazine)


Ten amazing New Zealand Women in Business (The Spinoff)


Making a Difference in Mexico (TV Documentary)


Spreading the Message Through Coffee (Otago Daily Times)


6 inspirational women making a positive difference (Now to Love)



  • Women of Influence Awards Finalist (2019)

  • NEXT Woman of the Year Finalist (2019)

  • Rotary Paul Harris Fellow (2019)

  • 150 Alumni Heroes for the University of Otago 150th Anniversary (2019)

  • Rotary International 2018-19 Rotary Alumni Global Service Award (2019)

  • New Zealander of the Year Kiwibank Local Hero medallist (2018)

  • Attitude Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2017)

  • Attitude Supreme Award (2009)

  • Attitude Youth Spirit Award (2009)