A STARS programme for 2017: Young Disabled People Planning a Show


Our disabled children want to star in the movies of their lives. This was often a challenge in the old model of service provision, because we had little choice over their support staff or the life experiences they would encounter. We redesigned recruiting process to find, train and retain great staff to support our children to live an exciting and meaningful life.

About this programme

In 2015, we carried out this programme as participationg in a fashion show. We launched the first Fashion-ABLE programme in Christchurch! Young disabled people worked alongside the Canterbury Fashion Beauty Week Fashion Show staff and took part in the show, with the support of aspiring support staff.

Many roles needed to be filled for such an event (hosting, organising music, food shopping, baking, cooking, decorating, modelling, putting up pamphlets, sharing posts on Facebook). We worked with participants to find the role they enjoyed and could do with the right supports.

The next STARS programme could take place anywhere in New Zealand. Participants will go through orientation and be matched with candidate job-seekers to support them in the roles they want to play in planning an event. After the event, we will reflect together on the leadership experience and draw learning to how this can support the participants in their future work goals.

Research shows that disabled people can develop their leadership skills by holding roles that are valued. The STARS programmes provide positive work experiences to disable people, and support their career aspirations - including working for themselves.

Expected outcomes

Families and disabled young people

  • Grow stronger together and expand our choices of staff
  • Learn to identify the qualities we are looking for in staff and gain first-hand experience of candidates over time – which is impossible to do in a traditional work interview
  • Embrace the citizen leadership model – through the knowledge embedded in stories of change – this will keep the energy alive after the course is finished

Candidates – Supporting Actors

  • Learn about the history of the disability sector, practical skills such as information finding and making connections with people in the community
  • Identify attitudes, skills, gifts and qualities to create a portfolio

More information

For more details, photos, videos and updates on this project visit our project blog. Read more about the background of the programme.

About us

Irene Andrell and her husband Kerry have lived experience parenting four beautiful daughters. The youngest two are aged 19 and 21, live with complex very high needs and are both non-verbal. Irene has worked in the disability sector in paid and voluntary roles since her daughters were born, such as Parent to Parent coordinator in Christchurch and co-founder of a not-for-profit called Bright'uns Sunshine Holiday Club Inc. Irene is currently a family facilitator working alongside Enabling Good Lives to help empower families navigating the current changes within the disability sector. She is also coordinator of Rainbow Faith and Light Christchurch.

Dr. Annick Janson trained as a clinical psychologist and has been working for the past three decades with clients and organisations in leadership development in the health and disability sector. She was the inaugural research director at the New Zealand Leadership Institute, at the University of Auckland and subsequently the Microsoft NZ, Partners in Learning Research Director. Annick and husband Rob have lived experience bringing up three talented stars – the youngest is a talented artist who also lives with Asperger Syndrome. Dr. Janson was awarded a PhD by the Waikato Management School (Virtual Leadership). She served on a number of relevant boards, including the Waikato DHB Community Public Health Advisory Committee. She will lead the research and evaluation programme that accompanies the STARS training.

Our philosophy and actions

We believe that families lead social change by example and through helping each other. Our participants get hands-on learning. We use an evidence-based model and evaluate the model and its outcomes We collaborate with our social entrepreneurship colleagues in the UK to share knowledge about social enterprise and create a community of practice learning model for staff.

Listen to Caroline Tomlinson who successfully launched a similar idea in the UK.

Our  training is based on the Let’s Get Real: Disability framework. 

Approximate cost

To be determined with participants.


2 days


  • Led by disabled people
  • Distance option (for example, e-learning)
  • Off-site (at training provider or other premises)