A warm welcome to our new GM Disabilities

Monday’s pōwhiri for the new Ohu Mahi General Manager Disabilities, Roger Herangi, was a celebration of hope and aspiration for tāngata whaikaha (the disabled community) throughout Aotearoa. Those at the Wharewaka in Wellington and joining online were left with no doubt about the importance of the new role, which reflects the priority given to tāngata whaikaha as a result of the review of vocational education.


Toitū te Waiora Chief Executive Donovan Clarke paid tribute to those who had helped to get the role in place for Ohu Mahi. Grant Cleland, Cate Grace, and Garth Bennie had been instrumental in the creation of the role that will be so important for tāngata whaikaha, Donovan said. “It is important for us to have a role to work across all six workforce development councils,” he added.

Grant Cleland also spoke, reinforcing the importance of the role and pointing out that 22 percent of people in Aotearoa have a disability or impairment. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, with disability finally made a priority group alongside Pacific and Māori,” Grant said, adding that the new GM Disability role has the potential to open up pathways for disabled people. “Roger, we all want you to succeed,” he concluded.

Roger Herangi was the final speaker, telling the assembled guests that he was honoured, humbled, and extremely grateful to be standing before them. “I am really mindful of the challenges ahead in this role,” he added.

As tāngata whenua, Roger said his experience of racism in Aotearoa has taken him down a pathway where the kōrero shared with tāngata whaikaha whānau is one of struggle. “The language is the same when talking about whānau or the disabled,” he explained.

His extensive work with tāngata whaikaha over the years has reinforced his philosophy that what is important is who a person is, rather than defining them by disabilities or abilities. Looking ahead, Roger said he is keen to get started on the disability action plan and begin work as a navigator in the role.

Taonga blessed by Turi Ngatai were gifted to Cate Grace, Grant Cleland, and Garth Bennie in recognition of their contribution to shaping and recruiting for the role, something Donovan Clarke said would have been extremely difficult without their advice and support.

After a hāngī to finish the pōwhiri, Roger immediately started his mahi, meeting with Donovan and the tāngata whaikaha caucus to begin mapping out a way forward. The caucus, made up of staff across the workforce development councils, will help to develop a strategy as Roger settles into his work in his new role as the champion tāngata whaikaha so urgently needs.

Turi Ngatai was one of the speakers for Ohu Mahi

It was time for both sides to meet at the conclusion of the formalities

Turi Ngatai (right) blessed the taonga for Cate Grace, Grant Cleland, and Garth Bennie, assisted by Wiremu Bayliss (left) and Donovan Clarke (centre)

Cate Grace receiving her taonga from Donovan Clarke

Grant Cleland receiving his taonga from Donovan

Garth Bennie receiving his taonga from Donovan

Grant Cleland congratulated the WDCs on seeing the importance of the General Manager Disabilities role

A hāngī lunch finished the pōwhiri on a delicious note