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A snapshot of Pasifika people with disabilities

Recent research shows that 24 per cent of New Zealanders live with a disability. The rate of disability among Pasifika people is 19 per cent and, after adjusting for difference in population age profile, the rate for Pasifika is higher than average at 26 per cent.  Half of these 51,000 people reported having more than one disability. 

Pasifika people have very low access rates, representing only 5.9 per cent (1,874) of people accessing disability support services.  

A snapshot of the Ministry of Health’s Disability Support Services Pacific Client Analysis follows. You can also download the full presentation (PDF, 395KB).  

Ethnicity DSS 2014 Census 2013 DSS 2014 Census 2013
European/other 22,242 2,945,220 69.0% 72.1%
Māori 5,352 54,135 16.6% 14.5%
Pacific 1,893 293,814 5.9% 7.2%
Asian 1,532 467,769 4.8% 11.4%
Not stated 1,228 212,253 3.8% 5.2%
TOTAL 32,247 4,087,707 100.0% 110.4%1

1.  Some people identify as having more than one ethnicity in 2013 Census.


The following priorities have been identified as an integral part of the way forward to promoting prevention for our Pasifika people with disabilities. 

Reducing stigma by breaking down barriers and fostering positive views of disability within Pasifika communities. Producing and disseminating a suite of resources in English and Pasifika languages for churches and the workforce, emphasising the positive role our churches can play supporting young people with ‘different abilities’. Promoting inclusion and acceptance through developing positive ways to describe disability and related issues in Pasifika languages such as the Words Matter guides.  

Enhancing access by leading with a health literacy approach so that our Pasifika communities are able to make informed decisions to access appropriate supports. Your Guide to Disability Support Services in plain English and six Pasifika languages has been in high demand by services as a tool to work with Pasifika.  Churches and community groups have also found this particular resource useful for families to navigate through the system to accept suitable supports early.

Improving quality by enhancing the cultural responsiveness of disability support services so they can meet the needs of our Pasifika families. Providing tools and resources to the disability support workforce that further complement cultural responsiveness such as our Organisational Guidelines and Words Matter.   

Having the option to make informed choices about accessing disability support services in provision of existing support is pivotal. Getting the right balance of formal and natural supports early on would be the best way to prevent crisis situations and support overall wellbeing of the family and, ultimately, the person with the disability.    

About the author •
As Senior Manager, Ben is responsible for improving access to disability support services for Pasifika people. He brings a vast amount of experience having worked in the mental health sector for more than 15 years.

Covid-19 Update

Face-to-face workshops will not continue while New Zealand is at Level 4. We will be in contact with all participants soon.