Disabled Leadership Group

The Disabled Leadership Group brought together by Life Unlimited brings a valuable mix of expertise, lived experience and fresh thinking to help inform the future direction of the organisation and the services it delivers.

Members of the nine-person group have experience covering a range of disabilities, geographic locations and cultural backgrounds. Members include people either living with a disability themselves or supporting immediate whānau with disabilities. Read more about the role of Life Unlimited’s Disabled Leadership Group.

Dan Carswell

Man in a white shirt and black vest seated in a wheelchair next to a garden

Dan Carswell

My name is Dan Carswell. I have lived both in the community and in residential care over the past 25 years.

I want to be involved in the Disabled Leadership Group as I believe I can add a lot of experience in terms of dealing with caregivers in your own home.

I also believe that more organisations need to have people in leadership roles that use the service that is being provided as it is only those persons that have first hand experience on what is being offered.

John McIntosh

John McIntosh

John McIntosh

John has a long association with Life Unlimited, joining the organisation in 2003 as business manager to oversee the development and expansion of Life Unlimited Stores.

Prior to joining Life Unlimited, John worked as regional manager for employment service Workbridge, following a long career working in the dairy and agricultural industries.

Since 2014, John has held the role of community liaison for Life Unlimited with the aim of promoting the work of the charitable trust and advocating for people with disability and the elderly. He also helps deliver Life Unlimited’s Disability Start workshops.

John is actively involved in a number of disability organisations and committees, including Disabled Person’s Assembly (Waikato Branch), Health & Disability Expo Trust, Waikato DHB community and public health advisory committee and Hamilton City Council disability advisory group. His contribution to the disability community was recently recognised by Waikato District Health Board with the Paul Keesing Award.

With one in four New Zealanders impacted by disability, John feels disabled people are underrepresented in leadership roles. He accepted a place in the Disabled Leadership Group with the aim of ensuring Life Unlimited has the voice of disabled people at its heart.

John lives in Hamilton with wife Marilyn and enjoys spending time with family.

Read more about John’s life growing up with scoliosis.

Genevieve McLachlan

Woman in purple shirt seated in a wheelchair

Genevieve McLachlan

Genevieve grew up with cerebral palsy and a vision impairment, so she understands the difficulties faced by people with multiple health issues. She says her commitment to the community is “changing people’s lives”.

Genevieve started her business, Adaptive Technology Solutions, 11 years ago to provide a service she saw was lacking. It provides flexible technology solutions for people who struggle to use their computer, read print or who may prefer dictating rather than typing by offering assessments, training and support.

In 2011 she won the Her Business Most Inspirational Role Model and in 2012 was a finalist in the Westpac Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, Leadership Award. In 2014 Genevieve won three categories in The David Awards: Most Outstanding Triumph over Adversity; Most Community Minded Business and the Solo Meo Award. Last year she was a finalist in the Technology Valley Awards, Most Outstanding Individual category and a finalist in the Attitude Awards, Entrepreneur category.  She was also named in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to People with Disabilities.

Along with other professional commitments, she is also involved in the My Life My Way collective which aims to make the Hutt Valley a place where people with disabilities live their lives well, and as they choose, within their community.

Read about Genevieve’s work as an advocate and entrepreneur.

Freedom Nathan

Freedom Nathan

Freedom Nathan is a farm girl who likes to go fishing and hunting with her cousins.

Diagnosed with retinoblastoma (a rare form of eye cancer) at just three months old, Freedom lost her vision from the age of five.

Freedom completed her primary education in Taupo before moving to Auckland as a boarding student at Homai Campus School (a specialist school in for children and young people who are blind) while attending Manurewa High School. There she explored her passion for writing and performing music, before returning to live with her family who now call Tiroa Station near Bennydale home.

Now 20, Freedom has moved again and is living independently in Hamilton.

One of six siblings, Freedom enjoys the strong support of her whānau, even though they have always encouraged her to be independent and live life to the full.

She is not afraid to speak her mind and insists the only thing she can’t do is see.

Read more about how Freedom is living her dream.

Joanne Pudney

Joanne Pudney

Kia ora. My name is Joanne, and our whānau live on a small lifestyle block close to Hamilton.

We have a very much-loved disabled son of 21 years who can be described as having very high and complex needs. In 2014 we established a small family governed facility on our property to meet the needs of our son and to provide a sustainable option of care.

As well as offering daycare and respite, ‘The CowShed’ provides a sensory space that provokes and engages the young at heart, and welcomes neighbours and the wider community. I am passionate about empowering and supporting families to enable them to sustain long-term care of their family member.

Darya Small

Darya Small

Darya brings valuable experience and insight to the Disabled Leadership Group as an Enabling Good Lives participant and young person who has only recently transitioned from high school.

Darya lives independently since going flatting and attends a computer course at Wintec. She is also employed part-time at Life Unlimited as a trainer for Life Fit, a fitness programme that encourages participants to live an active and healthy lifestyle, and volunteers one day at week at a doggy daycare centre.

A keen netball and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic fan, Darya’s dream is a career in sport. She enjoys taking her dog, Artie, to compete in dog agility with the support of mum Joanne, and is involved with StarJam.

Darya is excited about joining the Disabled Leadership Group at Life Unlimited and having the opportunity to contribute her ideas about ways to help people living with disability. Darya is passionate about ensuring disabled people have access to public transport and can fully participate and enjoy sport and other activities.

Darya Small featured in our Question Time video series, made in partnership with Attitude Live. Watch it here.

Elizabeth Taefu

Elizabeth Taefu

Elizabeth Taefu is of Rereahu, Maniapoto and Taranaki descent. She lives in Wellington but keeps connections to her Rereahu Maniapoto side.

She has lived experience and knowledge of physical disability as well as extensive experience supporting whānau living with complex disability and mental health challenges.

Being of Māori descent and living in the Māori world has given Elizabeth a different perspective on how whānau may find it challenging asking or finding help for their loved ones.

Elizabeth has faced many challenges in life. She has had great support from her mother who encouraged Elizabeth to find alternative support for her disabled children and brother.

Elizabeth is married to “amazing” husband Wallace, who is her rock and confidant, and she enjoys life as a grandparent to two beautiful grandchildren.

Her personal outlook on life aligns well with the aims of the Disabled Leadership Group to enable people to live the life they choose.

Anne Wilkinson

Disabled Leadership Group member Anne Wilkinson

Anne Wilkinson

Anne’s involvement in the sector began over 30 years ago as a parent. She has a background of working with families and is a former CEO of Parent to Parent New Zealand, where she worked for over 25 years.

Over this time, in partnership with Life Unlimited, Anne was integral in the development Altogether Autism, and in a relationship with Standards and Monitoring Services (SAMS), assisted in the set-up of Care Matters.

Anne has been involved with Enabling Good Lives since 2011, and is currently serving on the National Leadership Group and the Waikato Leadership Group. The Enabling Good Lives approach, where individuals and their families have control over their lives, deciding what their good life will look like and how their government funding will be used, is based on a set of principles and is the foundation of System Transformation.

Anne is a member of the SAMS Board and is involved in an international family leadership initiative.

She believes that disabled people have the same rights as others to be valued citizens and to have control in their lives and feels that families are an integral part in achieving this.

Anne is passionate about leadership and excited to be a family member of the Life Unlimited Disabled Leadership Group, supporting these values within the organisation and the wider community.

Sandra Wood

Read about Sandra’s appointment to the Disabled Leadership Group in the Gisborne Herald.

Disabled Leadership Group member Sandra Wood

Sandra Wood

I am Sandra Wood of Ngati Haua/Mahanga/Kahu ki Whangaroa/Tauiwi descent and a mother, grandmother, cancer recipient and paraplegic.

My children are Ngati Porou of Te Whanau a Hunaara lineage and my backbone.

An active member of Te Kauwhanganui Restoration 2000 coordinating with the Historical Places Trust in Morrinsville, an active member of the Students’ Union at Tairawhiti Polytechnic 2006 – 2008 and an active member of the Disability Advisory Group for Gisborne District Council, and now a participant of the Disabled Leadership Group with Life Unlimited Charitable Trust.

On agreeing to be a member it is with the aspiration to develop strategy, implementation methodology and probable policy improvement for delivery and serviceability for the impaired and support networks of our society – wholly.

Being a paraplegic for 23 years does not mean I am an expert in this field rather that I am experienced and – live it – where I believe this groups primary focus is.

My concerns are not only about the disabled or physically impaired of the Tairawhiti region, but also for our rapidly aging community who fall through the chasms created by policy, location, lack of cohesive support networks and lack of empathetic understanding of pride and wants – often categorised by mainstream as a “need”.

My paraplegia is a result of a horse encounter at Waipiro Bay in November 1993 – which broke my neck. I often refer to this encounter as “a horse gave me a hongi and he won”.

Following fusion of my neck it was discovered that an anomaly existed in the thoracic section ascribed as being cancer, however I still exist. The last 15 months has seen breast cancer as being a part of my repertoire and steps have been taken to eradicate with on-going care a constant. I consider myself very fortunate that I have received and continue to receive attentive expert and caring healthcare here in Te Tairawhiti.

However, support networks and care outside the medical arena has been woeful – there were gaping holes then that still exist now.

Perhaps I can best be described as being of a forthright, imperious, often gregarious nature with a wry sense of humour. I can only hope that I am able to be effective in this role – for all.

“Every day, every night, every sleep has an ending and at every ending there’s a new beginning”

Ma Te Atua hei tiaki hei manaaki ki o kainga maha I nga waa katoa