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The Story of The D*List

A manifesto of crip joy. Read by Pelenakeke Brown (she/her), Ari Kerssens (he/they) & Aych McArdle (they/them).

  • The Story of the D*List
    Read by Pelenakeke Brown, Ari Kerssens & Aych McArdle


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Open Door

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  • On a warm February day in 2021, a group of people sat together and asked a question...

    What the hell do we do about ableism?


    In Aotearoa, barriers and inequalities facing disabled people and tangata whaikaha are persistent and inescapable. That’s because what lies beneath even good intentions are old systems and old attitudes. 

    Systemic ableism diminishes our agency and tino rangatiratanga. It views us through a deficit lens, asking us to tell the stories of our worst days in exchange for the most meagre crumbs of support. 

    So in the room that day, Curative and Te Kāhui Tika Tangata: The NZ Human Rights Commission held our question up to the light and started a journey of discovery. 

    We didn’t know any of the answers yet, but we knew we had the right question. 

    So we began our mahi.


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  • Many have lit the path before us – the constellation of whetū in our communities who have guided a way. 

    We asked  a few of them what their vision for the future is.

Sir Robert Martin Credit - Government House

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  • “We need people with different kinds of disabilities to tell it like it really is, because we are the experts of our own experience. We all need different kinds of assistance in our lives so we need to listen to each other. It’s about coming together and creating a better world for all people.”

    Sir Robert Martin

Paula Tesoriero. Credit - Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission

  • Paula Tesoriero
  • "My hopes for the future of disabled people in Aotearoa are that we live in a country that is accessible and inclusive, where our human rights are fully realised, our contribution is valued and celebrated, we have real choice in our lives and equitable outcomes are achieved. Each generation owes it to those before us and those who follow to not settle for less."

    Paula Tesoriero MNZM

Deep Dive....

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  • The first thing we needed to do was listen. 

    Throughout 2021, we held hui, talanoa and workshops to better understand the attitudes that exist towards disabled people and tangata whaikaha in Aotearoa. 

    We called this Project Mobilise.

    We listened to more than 200 people: Deaf, Disabled and nondisabled. Māori. Pasefika. Youth. Queer. 

    Across all these conversations, we basked in that unique magic that happens when disabled people spend time together; when relatable experiences are shared and other people know exactly how we feel. 

    We’re not strange when we’re together.

We're not strange when we're together.

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Detour, Digging Deeper, Decode, Debate.

  • Detour

Dr. Huhana Hickey.

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  • "Strength knows no bounds, and our rangatahi hauā embody that truth. In their unique journeys, they redefine resilience, inspire us with their unwavering spirit, and illuminate the path towards inclusivity. Let us celebrate their remarkable abilities, acknowledge their invaluable contributions, and empower them to soar beyond any limitations. Together, we create a world where every rangatahi's potential knows no boundaries."

    Dr Huhana Hickey

Mojo Mathers. Photo Credit - Chastity Card

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  • "I believe that it is the right of every child with a disability to have the access to the level of early intervention and quality education that I had, so that every child can reach their potential. It’s necessary to break down barriers so that in the future, people who happen to have a disability but have considerable skills, can participate in politics."

    Mojo Mathers

  • We gathered everything we learnt from our time together and took a look at it: media narratives that consistently fell into well-worn tropes of tragedy and triumph; the conflation of disability with deficit; countless experiences of moving through the world being misjudged or misunderstood.

    We were also reminded that for many of us, when it comes to making sense of our own disability identity and community, everyone has their own journey.

    Most importantly, through Project Mobilise, we rediscovered the potency of our communities when we connect with each other.

    So we asked ourselves, what will cut through generations of colonial, capitalist narratives and conditioning about disability? 

    What could our movement look like?

What could our movement look like?

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  • It suddenly became clear that we couldn’t create yet another thing for nondisabled people. 

    It was time we created something for us.

    We started with a question about transforming ableist attitudes. We discovered that our movement was about connection, belonging, mana and pride. 

    We want to create a space that mirrors our own ways of connecting with each other.

    We want to invite disabled people to participate unapologetically in shared experiences that affirm, uplift and understand them. 

    We want to create a home for joyous, incisive, and sometimes boring disability stories. Freed from the burden of being remarkable. 

    A place where we can be authentically, raucously ourselves.

Deed, Do, Decide.

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Gary Williams.

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  • "In the future, disabled people will just be themselves rather than having to validate the narratives that non-disabled people have created for us. Disability and/or impairment is not the dominant characteristic of our humanness."

    Gary Williams

Martine Abel-Williamson.

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  • My vision for the future is that people act on their dreams, for dreams without action is an illusion; we cannot let the expectations of others define who we are.

    Martine Abel-Williamson

Dare, Dance.

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Pati Umaga.

  • Pati Umaga
  • "As a disability leader, I advocate for our Pasefika disabled people to achieve autonomy, independence and leadership to lead change for choice and control over our own lives. As a musician and an artist, I am excited about how the potential of an arts-based approach can be pivotal in achieving this for us."

    Pati Umaga


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Welcome to the D*List!

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  • Nau mai, haere mai. 

    Welcome to the D*List.

    For too long, disabled people have been on the wrong lists. 

    The tragedy list. 

    The inspirational list. 

    The see-my-ability list. 

    Now, we’re making our own. It’s the list you actually want to be on. 

    We are a constellation of like-minded individuals who are tired of the status quo. 

    We reject old narratives that tell us that our existence is somehow an inconvenience. 

    Our very existence is a rebellion.


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  • Every time we show up, the world is made brighter, quirkier, and a little bit more interesting. Every time we show up, the world changes. 

    That’s why our name – The D*List – contains a tohuwhetū. 

    In Te Ao Māori, stars were observed as important indicators of time, navigation, and change. The D*List tohuwhetū is a sign of transformation and a waypoint to a different world, one that emboldens our people.

    In reo Pākehā, an asterisk sometimes suggests a conditional statement, a ‘but’. Here it symbolises an ‘and’. 

    Our people are many things, and this tohu marks the strength of those intersections.

    We are a community made of many parts who are stronger together.

The D*List tohuwhetū streaks across a sky blue colour field. It is a sign of transformation and a waypoint to a different world, one that emboldens our people.

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Deft, Delicious, DGAF

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  • The D*List is a place for us to bask in disabled kinship, disabled joy. A place to remind us all that simply existing as a disabled person in an ableist world demands a level of radical self-acceptance.

    We created this space for you.


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  • We are Red Nicholson, Tania Bissett (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Tuwharetoa), Olivia Shivas and Beth Awatere (Ngāti Porou), and we feel immensely privileged to share this space with you and for you. 

    We know that in many ways, the D*List has always existed. 

    It’s been present in the furtive conversations shared between disabled people as they find ways to navigate ableist spaces. It’s alive in the belly laughs over relatable – and sometimes, deeply painful – shared experiences. 

    At The D*List, we are simply helping to bring that into daylight. Because it has no place in the dark.

Dazzling, Disabled, Dreamy, Dangerous

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  • You are welcome here. Every part of you. 

    The parts that can sometimes feel too disabled. 

    The parts that might not feel disabled enough. 

    We ask nothing of you other than to simply exist as your full and unapologetic self.

    At the D*List, we’re here for it. 

    Join us.


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