Former Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero MNZM has been appointed Director of Whaikaha, the Department for Persons with Disabilities, becoming the first disabled executive director of a government department.
Tesoriero said it was a difficult decision to step down as disability rights commissioner, but she is excited for the opportunity to lead the new ministry.
“The Ministry’s success is close to my heart because I’m a disabled person and I’m committed to helping drive change in partnership with the disability community.”
She said one of the reasons she chose to support Deciding this position was an opportunity to try to influence changes within the system.
It was important to have a disabled CEO at Whaikaha to demonstrate understanding of the issues disabled people face and to be able to set an example for young people with disabilities when it comes to this going to take on important leadership positions, Tesoriero said.
She also paid tribute to his colleagues at the Human Rights Commission and those fighting for the rights of people with disabilities “at a very challenging but potentially groundbreaking time,” She said.
“I am proud of everything we have achieved over the past five years to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt congratulated Tesoriero on her new position.
“While we are deeply sorry to lose Paula as such an effective and dedicated Commissioner, we know that in her new role she will continue to help advance people’s rights,” she said.
The Minister for Disability Affairs, Poto Williams, welcomed the appointment of the Treasurer.
“I am pleased that someone of this caliber, who has the experience, mana and deep connections to the disability community, has been appointed to this important role,” said Williams.
Williams admitted that the disability community is busy and things will take time.
But she said Tesoriero has the manna to work effectively with other government agencies to improve outcomes for people with disabilities in areas such as employment, education, health and wellbeing.
Whaikaha was launched on July 1 when Geraldine Woods was appointed interim Executive Director of the Department.
At the time, he described the “unexpected” appointment as “emotional.”
Although she doesn’t identify as someone with a lived experience of disability, she said her role as a “temporary mentor” was to set the new ministry on the right track and she was committed to working with people with disabilities.
Issue of violence and abuse of people with disabilities across government. She also initiated an investigation into supporting people with disabilities during Omicron.
The research found that the needs of people with disabilities and their whānau were not given a prominent place in government policy and decision-making.
I was also proud of the work done to bring the FASD community and the Human Rights Commission together.
She was a gold medalist at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing and was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2009.
Looking ahead, her priority in the first few weeks, when she takes office on Thursday, is to meet with other executive directors of the service and talk about the role of Whaikaha and how people with disabilities can achieve better outcomes in.
They have been truly committed to making that change and building and establishing Whaikaha as an organization that we can all be proud of,” said, “This is an organization that really needs to have the trust of the community.