Gary Williams has been influential in driving change for disabled people, both in Aotearoa and globally for the last 40+ years. Alongside his mahi for disabled Māori, Gary works to modernise systems, policy, practices, and attitudes towards disabled people generally. He has held numerous roles including CEO of the Disabled Persons Assembly. In this role, he advised the New Zealand Government during the development of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2012 for his work. Gary, and his wife Ruth Jones, have a Whānau Ora initiative called Hei Whakapiki Mauri and Gary also provides thought-leadership for Enabling Good Lives – the disability sector’s interpretation of Whānau Ora. He is also a Trustee of Ngā Hau e Whā National Marae.
The overlapping rights of indigenous people
Disabled people find it very difficult to be viewed as anything other than disabled. Contemporarily, this is a negative role. I like to portray myself in other affirming ways first eg. husband, father, Māori etc. Often my rights as an Indigenous person are competing with my rights as a disabled person. For example, it’s almost impossible to have genuine tino rangatiratanga when you are at the end of the decision-making chain. Te Tiriti, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should be used so that we can have the best of all worlds.