howWhaikaha - Ministry of Disabled People is a new ministry set up in partnership with the community and Māori to transform the lives of many New Zealanders.

Many disabled people and whānau face barriers in achieving expected life outcomes due, in part, to the complexity of the way we currently do things. Government support can be fragmented and difficult to navigate, and multiple eligibility criteria for different services make it difficult for disabled people to know what support services they are entitled to.

Things need to change.

That's why the Government created Whaikaha - Ministry of Disabled People to:

Not like other ministries

The Government has asked that we do things differently to other ministries. We will partner with the disabled community and Māori and together, guide how we do things and how we operate. Our responsibility in this partnership is to listen to the voice of the disabled community and learn from the process of working together.

To do this, we will meet our obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi external URL and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities external URL (UNCRPD); and by following the principles of Enabling Good Lives and Whānau Ora.

By doing this, we will create strong relationships and transform the sector for good.

We're also working towards becoming the first government ministry to have a name in all three official languages:

  • te reo Māori
  • English,
  • and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL)

Learn more about our journey to finding our names.

Our leadership and structure

Ms Paula Tesoriero MNZM is the Chief Executive, Whaikaha - Ministry of Disabled People.

Paula is responsible for providing strategic leadership to Whaikaha and across the system to achieve better outcomes for disabled people in New Zealand.

Paula is well-known and a respected leader in the disability community. She is disabled and has a deep knowledge of the challenges and opportunities for the disability community.

Paula was previously the Disability Rights Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission, a position she held since 2017. She also acted in the role of Chief Human Rights Commissioner from May 2018 – January 2019.

Paula is an experienced Public Service leader. From 2010 – 2016, she was the General Manager, Higher Courts at the Ministry of Justice. In 2016, she was seconded to Statistics New Zealand where she was the General Manager, System and Partnership.

Paula has served in various governance roles including as Deputy Chair of Peke Waihanga — Artificial Limb Service and Deputy Chair of Nuku Ora (previously Sport Wellington) and she served on the Board of Paralympics NZ. She is a life trustee of the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation and is an honorary advisor to the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

Paula is a Paralympian, winning a gold medal and two bronze medals at the 2008 Summer Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Three business groups, each headed by its own Deputy Chief Executive, report to the Chief Executive.

Here is an overview of our three business groups:

Policy, strategy and partnerships

This unit is primarily public-facing and future-focused.

Their key tasks include:

  • Leadership/stewardship of disability in Government: Strategic policy, stewardship and capability building for the wider government system to better serve our community. This includes the Office of Disability Issues (ODI).
  • Voice: Enhancing mana and self-determination of disabled people and their families, tāngata whaikaha Māori me ō rātou whānau through effective ways of communicating with us.
  • Partnering: Partnering at all levels to enable mana and self-determination of disabled people and their families, tāngata whaikaha Māori me ō rātou whānau.
  • Honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi: Supporting all our business units so that Te Tiriti is embedded in all we do.
  • Ensuring equity: Ensuring equity for Māori and Pacific people.
  • Listening, insights and learning: Analysing input from the voices of the disability community, data, evaluation and research to inform our work.
  • Building capability and capacity: Facilitate capability and capacity building so disabled people have a strong voice.
  • Quality assessment and evaluation: Establishing quality assessment and evaluation in line with EGL principles and the ongoing evolution of the disability support system.

Performance and governance

This unit focuses on machinery of government, reporting and corporate functions.

Their key tasks include:

  • The Chief Executive's office: Ministerial support, secretariat support, programme office and support to the our machinery of government function to enable us to fulfil our responsibilities as a part of the Public Service.
  • Performance and governance: Ministry of Disabled People governance, accountability, reporting processes, privacy.
  • Relationship management: With Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Health and Health New Zealand.
  • Corporate support services: For example, human resources, legal, risk and assurance, property, finance, analytics and forecasting.

Operational design and delivery

This unit focuses on service delivery including the management of the disability support services previously held and funded by the Ministry of Health.

Their key tasks include:

  • delivery of the disability support system
  • enabling person-directed support
  • ongoing design and transformation of the disability support system, including implementation of EGL.
  • operational functions including Operational Performance, Monitoring and Analysis, the Central, North and South teams, all three Enabling Good Lives teams and Specialist Services.

Working across Government

Our role is to lead and coordinate cross-government strategic policy. This will mean that whenever a government agency is writing policy which will impact all New Zealanders, that the rights and needs of our community are taken into account.

Honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Te Tiriti o Waitangi is central to our ministry.

We are giving effect to core principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi through our mahi/work.

These include:

  • Kāwanatanga: Partnership and shared decision-making.
  • Rangatiratanga: Protection, revitalisation and development of taonga.
  • Rite tahi: Equity, participation and equality and non-discrimination.

Cabinet Papers dated 29 September 2021 and 30 March 2022 said that disabled people’s call for “nothing about us without us” is central to Te Tiriti o Waitangi as well as to New Zealand’s commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

The Government also said we need to ensure the system gives full effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which is consistent with the UNCRPD and the UNDRIP and aligns with the principles and approaches of Whānau Ora.

Our Chief Executive and our staff will work closely with tāngata whaikaha Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi partners to uphold the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Our interim whakatauākī

Our interim whakatauākī, written by Tim Worrall of Ngāi Tūhoe, is developed as a message that underpins the visual language for the Ministry. It is a metaphoric representation of a core promise the Ministry represents – thriving futures for all of our disabled communities.

Our interim whakatauākī is:

Me he aka rātā ka tipu-tahi, ka puāwai-tahi kia tū kaha I ngā hihi ō Tamanuiterā.

Like the rātā vines constantly growing and flourishing together to stand strong in the warmth of the sun.

Our accessibility charter

The team setting up our ministry worked to the principles of the Accessibility Charter, which was co-designed by the Ministry for Social Development (MSD) and disabled people's organisations:

  • Blind Citizens NZ
  • Deaf Aotearoa
  • People First New Zealand.

Accessibility, in all its forms, will be a key focus for our new ministry as it develops.

With new legislation (Accelerating Accessibility Bill) due to begin its journey through Parliament, as well as the establishment of a separate Accessibility Governance Board, the way in which accessibility standards are applied within our ministry will be an important focus for the incoming leadership.

Read the full Accessibility Charter: A commitment to accessible information external URL on the MSD website.