The launch of our first Disability Action Plan this week was attended by the Minister for Disability Issues, the Hon Priyanca Radhakrishnan and Paula Tesoriero MNZM, the Chief Executive of Whaikaha (Ministry of Disabled People), along with many in the sector who contributed to its development.

The plan was created with input from tāngata whaikaha and their whānau, Corrections staff, along with input and insights from across the Disability sector. The plan reflects our commitment to - "Nothing about us without us". Whaikaha means to have strength, to have the ability, to be otherly abled, and to be enabled. This word was created with the Māori disabled community and has a deliberate emphasis on gaining strength and ability. This has been important in developing our plan, which emphasises independence and a strength-based approach.

The Disability Action Plan sets the strategic direction for achieving pae ora (healthy futures) for tāngata whaikaha Māori/disabled people managed by Ara Poutama Aotearoa. The plan has close alignment with Ara Poutama Aotearoa's strategy Hōkai Rangi. It will guide our approach to supporting the wellbeing, goals, and aspirations of tāngata whaikaha Māori/disabled people in our management.

One of the New Zealand Government's main priorities is to improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders and their whānau. This includes approximately one in four (24%) of New Zealand's population who identify as disabled.

In a Corrections context, people generally come into prison with pre-existing disabilities, but some people may also develop a disability while in prison. In prison, high-quality health and disability support services are critical in addressing inequitable health and wellbeing outcomes and ensuring continuity of care when reintegrating into the community.

Our Disability Action Plan outlines our commitment to making Ara Poutama Aotearoa a more inclusive and accessible place for tāngata whaikaha Māori/disabled people and their whānau. The plan emphasises independence and operates from a strength-based approach.

The Disability Action Plan acknowledges the need to ensure that tāngata whaikaha Māori/disabled people managed by Ara Poutama Aotearoa have a culturally safe environment. It establishes priority action areas for achieving aspirations and reducing barriers that may impede tāngata whaikaha Māori/disabled people and their whānau from achieving better outcomes.

As DCE Health Services Dr Juanita Ryan said at the launch, "We know we have a way to go in this space. However, it reflects our commitment to focus on putting people first and is a powerful representation of our collective desires and aspirations to successfully achieve our vision, Kotahi anō te kaupapa; ko te oranga o te tangata - there is only one purpose to our work; the wellness and wellbeing of people."