Q&A: How Aussies and Kiwis Formed Our Newest Chapter

Australia and New Zealand Chapter Q&A

How does a ChIPs Chapter go from idea to reality? To find out, we interviewed the co-chairs of our new Australia and New Zealand Chapter — Ronelle Geldenhuys, Principal at Foundry Intellectual Property and Anna Vandervliet, Senior Associate, Intellectual Property Disputes at Herbert Smith Freehills. 

What was your first experience with ChIPs?

Geldenhuys: “On International Women’s Day in 2021 I decided we needed a community like this – a place where you feel like you belong that is comfortable for women. So I sent out 50 emails inviting colleagues, friends and contacts to look into ChIPs and see if we could get together to form a chapter here. The response was incredible.”

Vandervliet: “Early in my career, I was an associate at Freehills where I and partner Sue Gilchrist worked on patent litigation for a large U.S. tech company. We heard about this new for women in IP and tech and though it would be great to have something like that in Australia. Ronelle and I worked together at Freehills and had stayed connected, so when she reached out about her interest in starting a chapter, I was in!”

How did the Australia and New Zealand Chapter get started?

“We held a virtual event in March 2021 as a way to gain exposure and build interest for a chapter. The event was a great success and we received a lot of positive feedback for a ChIPs ANZ Chapter. We worked with ChIPs to follow the best practices for developing a chapter, built out our leadership team, and we already have more than 125 members.”

Who is on the leadership team?

“Our events coordinators are Roshan Evans and Eunika Kurek. Evans is a specialized intellectual property lawyer who is dual qualified in Medicine and Law, and Kurek is Senior Legal Counsel at Unilever Australia, with a strong focus on trademark law. Belinda Breakspear, Intellectual Property Partner at McCullough Robertson, and Claudia Lewis, Senior Associate in intellectual property at Ashurst, have taken on the role of Sponsorship together. Jessica Lai, Associate Professor at the University of Victoria in Wellington, NZ is in the Student Relations role. Maryam Khajeh Tabari, a Principal at Chrysiliou Law, together with Katherine Rock, Head of Patents at Xero, are responsible for Community Development and Engagement. They’ve been managing the chapter’s LinkedIn page. We wanted to add an Advocacy Role as an important part of what we aim to achieve. Clare Cunliffe, a barrister at Emmerson Chambers is currently responsible for this role.”

What are the challenges?

“Members are enthusiastic but busy. The area we cover is large and spans a number of time zones. Sydney and Melbourne are the largest cities and have traditionally been the focus of other professional organizations. Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and New Zealand are all further away and with smaller IP and tech communities that still want to connect and engage.”

What are your goals and priorities for the chapter?

Geldenhuys: “Right now we are focused on creating a community, a space for professional women to get together and feel heard – we all have experiences that are challenging and unique to women.” “We want the ChIPs chapter to validate the hard things that we know our members have experienced in life.”

Vandervliet: “Around 60 percent of law grads are women, but those numbers are not reflected in senior roles, and it is a similar story in the tech space. In line with the mission of ChIPs, we want to encourage each other to advance, elevate, and connect women so that we see a meaningful shift in representation of women at the top. We want the chapter to offer a whole spectrum of mentoring opportunities to help the younger generations.”

What are you hearing from new members?

Geldenhuys: “Everyone has ideas so we have a messy list on scraps of paper of 20 different styles of events that we want to have.” Our first ‘official’ leadership meeting was the first week in August, and we have started to identify who we are now, what we want to do and what our strategy will be.”

How are you sharing the word with your networks?

Vandervliet: “We are connecting with as many people as we know in this field to let them know about ChIPs through personal invitations and beyond that we are developing the LinkedIn page and social media presence. Our first official chapter event will be publicized by IPSANZ, the Intellectual Property Society of Australia and New Zealand.”

On a personal note, what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Geldenhuys: “Pistachio. I tried on holiday in Italy when I was little and I’ve loved it ever since.”

Vandervliet: “My husband says it’s slightly controversial. It’s mint chocolate chip. My second favorite is coconut gelato.”

Final word?

Geldenhuys: “There was no ChIPs chapter, then there were half a dozen women who wanted one, now there is one. What would be great is when our members make it what they need the chapter to be. Its’s blank canvas and it would be great if we can get input and energy to drive what they need it to be from us.”

Can you tell us about your inaugural event?

Geldenhuys: “Partnering with the IPSANZ conference is a perfect opportunity to share in the strength of the community. Our chapter spans a vast area, so it’s perfect that we are able to collaborate with IPSANZ for this ChIPs event.”

Vandervliet: “We are thrilled to create a space for professional women to get together, feel heard and share stories. We have all had experiences as women and here we can come together to connect.”

ChIPs ANZ inaugural two-hour event will coincide with the IPSANZ conference on Friday, September 16, 2022, from 12.30 to 2.30 pm AEST in Melbourne. The event will feature Professor Veena Sahajwalla, leading expert in the field of recycling science, and founding Director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research & Technology at UNSW.


Dr. Ronelle Geldenhuys, Principal
Trans-Tasman Patent Attorney
Foundry Intellectual Property

Anna Vandervliet
Herbert Smith Freehills
Senior Associate, Intellectual Property