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One of Careerforce’s challenges is to represent the views of those with lived experience.

In 2019 Careerforce with support from the New Zealand Disability Support Network (NZDSN), set out to establish a tangata whaikaha, disability and whānau lived experience advisory group.  They reached out to the disability sector for expressions of interest and in September that year the Disability Advisory Group was born.

Over the two years the Disability Advisory Group has been instrumental in helping to ensure that the disability sector is respected, represented and visible. It has helped to shape Careerforce’s understanding, inform qualification reviews, and co-create programme learning, assessment and implementation  reviews.

More recently the Disability Advisory Group played a key role in supporting the design of the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Support Work – Disability) Level 3 programme.

The Disability Support Group comprises four fun, diverse and experienced individuals. We are pleased to introduce them.


Grant Cleland, Christchurch

I have over 30 years’ experience specialising in tertiary education, employment, transition, social work, contracting, auditing and the provision of national and regional services for people with disabilities and health conditions, including those with a mental illness; their whanau and support networks.

I also have a physical impairment from birth and use a wheelchair for mobility.

I therefore have both lived and professional experience of services for people with disabilities and health conditions.

I have recently completed 9.5 years as Chief Executive of Workbridge. This is the largest specific employment agency for people with disabilities and health conditions in New Zealand. While at Workbridge we developed an online staff training and induction programme which included models from the Diploma of Employment Support and the creation of our own disability equity training.

In the past I have also been the Christchurch Workplace Assessor for the Diploma of Employment Support, which involved teaching the associated modules to a range of students, supporting and marking their various assignments, being involved with moderation and workplace assessments.

Outside of work I am a very keen mono-skier, play wheelchair basketball and the guitar. I have also been married to Nicky for over 25 years, and we are kept very busy with our twin 16-year old sons, Tim and Jack. I am also the Chairperson of the Skillwise Trust and have been a Trustee for over 10 years, which provides services for people with learning disability.


Cate Grace, Ōtautahi | Christchurch

Kati Mamoe, Kai Tahu, Waitaha

Kia ora I am Ōtautahi based and identify as tāngata whaikaha, with lived experience of disability. I work part time and have a carer through Individualised Funding (IF), so understand first hand that well-trained staff and pathways to progression for staff are so important for health and disability.

My passion is to do work that encourages others to fully participate in their world.  I sit on boards in both trustee and advisory roles, that allow me to contribute to conversations around accessibility and actively participate in solutions to create diverse and thriving places within our local communities and wider society.

I have been involved in co-design processes for MOH, MSD and DHB and am currently a disabled persons rep for the Waitaha Enabling Good Lives Regional Leadership Team and tangata whaikaha member of the National Whānau Ora Interface Group.


Joanne Lawless, Auckland

I live in Auckland with my husband, mother and my two wonderful, complex, quirky adult sons, both of whom have Autism.

After my eldest son was diagnosed, I immersed myself in the world of Autism – spending time volunteering in various roles in the sector, working for Autism NZ and building and Facilitating a Workshop on Autism for teachers in Auckland. I spent time working on visuals, Social Stories and Comic Strip Conversations, and assisted many families to work these into their routines.

I also worked at various times hands on with people with Autism, especially around organizing their spaces. My eldest son went to a Special School, and I spent many hours in his classroom, the school as a whole, as well as in the mainstream classroom with my youngest child.

I am currently a contract Specialist Autism Facilitator with Altogether Autism, working as lead facilitator on their SELO and PRISM professional development series.


Tania Bisset, Whangarei

Pihanga me Whatitiri ōku maunga, Ko Tongariro me Waipao ōku awa, Ko Hirangi me Maungarongo-Whatatiri-Poroti ōku Marae, Ko Ngāti Tūrangitūkua me Te Parawhau ōku hapu, Ko Ngāti Tūwharetoa me Ngā Puhi ōku iwi, Ko Rawhiti-Rangataua me Nathan née Akarana-Rewi ōku whānau. Ko Tania Bissett tōku ingoa. No Whāngārei Ahau. He Kaimahi Taiohi ahau ki te CCS Disability Action – Te Norta. Kia ora rā koutou katoa…

I use she/her/ia pronouns and having mobilised with a wheelchair for the last 20 years – also proudly identify as Tāngata Whaikaha Māori. I am an empathetic kaiwhatu (weaver) of he tangata (people), tūrangawaewae (places) and meaningful mahi (projects). Community, Entrepreneurship, Young People, Digital Literacy, and Inclusion is my kaupapa (jam). My aspirations for all people is ultimately built around Whakawhanaungatanga, Authenticity, Transparency and Manaakitanga to where we can empower positive change.

I am involved in various mahi across the Disability Sector but my “day job” is working alongside our Tai Tamariki (young people) towards their vocational goals. I am humbled to be in this space as young people have taught me so much about having resilience in my own life and the importance of always being your unapologetic, authentic self when it comes to what you value most.

There is always something we can learn or teach amongst one another, hence why I am equally passionate about creating opportunities alongside our whānau hāua to where they can become the leaders, co-designers and influencers in their own and others lives. I look forward to the day to when this isn’t something we “celebrate” but is recognised as an “ordinary life outcome” that every person has to offer.

Kia kaha, Kia Māia, Kia Manawanui.