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People First and its struggle for independence

When marginalised groups try to gain a voice there will always be opposition from those who have power over them. 

In 1993 people with an intellectual (learning) disability from all around Aotearoa New Zealand came together for a conference in Rotorua, New Zealand. This was the first time they had a conference of their own, not organised by a service provider. 

The Eastern Bay of Plenty group organised this conference after Peter Park of Canada inspired them during his visit the previous year. He told them that their self-advocacy organisation needed to be independent of any service provider.


They set the agenda and organised the groups themselves. Over three days nearly half the 100 attendees took the microphone, even if only to say a few words. 

Sadly, due to opposition by their main service provider, IHC, they were unable to realise their dream of running their own organisation for another 10 years. Finally in 2003 the independent People First was launched and it still goes strong today.  It is important though to never forget the struggles that marginalised groups go through in order to have a voice. The report that was written back in 1994 is an important part of People First history. To access it email Ruth Gerzon on  


To find out more about People First New Zealand now click here

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