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One of Careerforce’s 2019 challenges is to hear the voices of those with lived experience.

A key commitment was to start embracing the call, nothing about us without us.

We called for nominations and in September established, a tangata whaikaha, disability and whānau lived experience advisory group.  The group will help to shape Careerforce’s understanding, inform qualification reviews, and co-create programme learning, assessment and implementation  reviews.

A fantastic response was received from the disability sector to our request for Expressions of Interest. From that we established a group of four, fun, diverse and experienced individuals. We are so 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, Christchurch

I am Christchurch 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 and am currently a disabled persons rep for the Waitaha Enabling Good Lives Regional Leadership Team.



Joanne Lawless, Auckland

I live in Auckland with my husband, mother and my two wonderful, complex, quirky Adult (26 and 21) 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

Kia Ora, I am a 33 year old Māori Wahine. I’ve been a wheelchair user since I was 15 years old. I currently reside in Te Tai Tokerau although I was born and raised in Tamaki, then lived in Te Whanganui-A-Tara for a few years, before moving back home (Whāngarei).

I work at CCS Disability Action Northland branch as a Community Support Coordinator in the Youth Development team. The rest of my time is spent running my own software development business (Manaaki Digital) where I develop websites, digital services and applications on a contract basis.

With CCSDA I support our Northland tai tamariki aged 16-24 who identify as having a disability – “to reach their full potential” – as determined by them. My role often includes directly supporting youth to either discover what they want to do in life, upskill / enroll in training or find employment. Due to the lack of resources and funding in Te Norta this can sometimes be a challenging area to navigate.

My passions are Youth, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Te Ao Maori and Disability Leadership/Rights. I strive to combine rather than segregate the above kaupapa as I believe that collaboration with young people is the solution to a lot of the socio/economic barriers we currently face today as people – especially in Te Norta.