As a mother and teacher, Lesley really began to pay close attention to child development when her second son, Jamie, was born with Down Syndrome.
"My son demonstrated just how people can learn and grow and develop when they have the right kind of guidance," Dame Lesley later wrote.
Although her focus was originally on helping children with an intellectual disability, when Jamie started attending a low-decile primary school Lesley's focus began to shift to include other children in need.
She began asking questions, writing a cover story for Auckland’s Metro magazine, which dared to question the oft-quoted line that 'New Zealand is a great place to bring up children'.
Clearly, for many children, it is not.
"How was it that in this wonderful country, which we say is the best country in the world to raise children, so many children are suffering and dying? Babies are being born in circumstances where the odds are stacked against them. We can really improve that situation and it's going to take a lot of willingness on the part of Government, non-government organisations and the population." she wrote.