Indigenous intellectual disability services: An insight into a Kaupapa Māori Service in Aotearoa New Zealand

Tania Thomas

Manawhakahaere/CEO of Te Roopu Taurima

Getting to know what matters to Māori and knowing about our history, matters. Viewing our customs, art forms, language, values, characteristics and knowledge as valid and legitimate, matters. We do all things in a relationship, to work successfully with us means accepting that Māori ways of doing things work best for us.

Te Roopu Taurima is the largest kaupapa Māori disability support service in Aotearoa.

Kaupapa Māori means living through tikanga – emphasising Māori culture and values, while being inclusive of people from all ethnicities and backgrounds. We are committed to this approach because we want Māori to have a choice in the type of service they can access and use. In this keynote I will share my experiences of delivering a kaupapa Māori intellectual disability service, including both the benefits of being responsive to each individual’s ethnicity and culture, and the challenges associated with living by our values within a traditional disability support and services system.


Tania hails from the far North and is of Ngati Kahu, Scots and Irish decent. She is a grandmother of four mokopuna and mother to three daughters. Tania grew up in South Auckland.

She is the Manawhakahaere/CEO of Te Roopu Taurima the largest kaupapa Māori disability support service in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Tania has worked in the disability sector most of her working life and started as an Orientation and Mobility Instructor working in the field of blind and low vision.

Prior to joining Te Roopu Taurima she was the Director of the Whānau and Family Knowledge Centre at the Families Commission. Tania has also held the role of Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner responsible for portfolios in disability, Māori health, prisoner health and allied health professionals.

Tania holds governance roles within her Iwi, is on the Board of the National Advocacy Trust, the NZ Disability Support Network and is an Area Governor within Rotary. She has an MBA from the University of Auckland.