Attitude Awards 2019: Preview

The 12th Annual Attitude Awards celebrate the achievements of people making a positive impact in the community. Meet this year's finalists.

Since 2008 the Attitude Awards have been celebrating the success and achievements of people who live with disability. Ahead of this years event we give you a sneak peak at some of the finalists being recognised, as well as looking back at highlights from the past 11 years.


ATTITUDE ACC EMPLOYER AWARD(From left to right) Axiam Plastics LTD, The Cookie Project and Sudima Auckland

Axiam Plastics Limited

Whanganui based, Axiam Plastics Limited is an engineering company with a clear strategy to recruit, train and retain disabled employees.

Manager Frank Oskam has created an accessible workplace. He’s adapted systems for staff  who are deaf, blind, have lost a limb or are living with anxiety.

Axiam apply a solution based approach to physical challenges. A modification to his workspace allows Dene to take on a job that would have been  challenging for someone with one arm.  

Sudima Auckland

Sudima Hotels are leading the way as the only proudly accessible hotel group in Aotearoa.

They employee 24 staff members who identify with access needs and train all staff in unconscious bias and disability awareness. Sudima develops a three year career plan for each staff member.

Ifiti Hussain is hearing impaired. He began his  career with Sudima as a Front Office Manager. Sudima have supported him to study and become a Hotel Manager. Sign language interpreters attend staff meetings and the team is encouraged to learn New Zealand sign language.

The Cookie Project

The Cookie Project is a social enterprise with a winning recipe. Founders Eric and Graham provide paid work experience for people with disabilities.

Eric and Graham met when Eric was delivering a speech to the migrant community. Sales volumes have never been their KPI. They measure success on the social impact of their cookies.



ATTITUDE EMPLOYEE AWARD(From left to right) Gavin Rolton, Rebecca Dubber and Dave MacCalman

Dave MacCalman

Dave MacCalman is a team player. Now employed as a senior advisor for the Halberg Foundation. He’s been instrumental in developing new sports programmes across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions.

In 2018 he collaborated with Achilles NZ, to introduce wheelchair athletes into the Auckland Marathon. Dave played basketball for Wellington then the Brisbane Bullets. He was on a basketball scholarship in California when he broke his neck diving into a shallow river.

Dave provides Inclusion Training at tertiary institutions, highlighting how disabled people can readily be included in sport.

Gavin Rolton

Client satisfaction is a key focus for any business. Drake Medox says Gavin Rolton is a “powerhouse “ employee who has delivered both improved client satisfaction and an increase in net revenue.

He‘s set the bar for workmates and been  instrumental in developing a culture of diversity and empathy, critical to the services provided by Drake Medox.

Gavin is quadriplegic. A diving accident on Australia’s Sunshine Coast. At first he struggled to find a career post accident. Now he’s a leader, not just at work but in his personal life. 

He’s co-captain of the Wheelblacks. 

Rebecca Dubber

Even as she was coping with the intense demands of her Paralympic swimming career  Rebecca Dubber knew she needed also to plan for a career post sport. Early morning starts were juggled with lectures and assignments.

Rebecca secured a media internship with ANZ bank and is now employed by the Halberg Foundation. She’s in a key role in marketing, communication and social media promoting Halberg’s nationwide events.

Rebecca’s knowledge of sport and disability provides Halberg with valuable insights into how to better deliver programmes to support young people with disabilities.



ATTITUDE ENTREPRENEUR AWARD(from left to right) AJ Pouoa, Jezza Williams and Bruce Picot

AJ Pouoa

AJ has turned her passion for fitness into a successful business, Wheelie Active. A self confessed sports junkie, AJ played rugby league for Sydney and Christchurch. A fall from a balcony left her paralysed.

AJ focused first on her own recovery. She then studied to become  a personal trainer. She’s now found her niche - training other disabled men and women. AJ is now is on the lookout for someone she can coach to Paralympic glory! 

Bruce "Pics" Picot

Bruce Picot is the kiwi king - of peanut butter. He’s spread worldwide. 

Picot started his peanut butter brand to sell at markets in Nelson. But the operation outgrew his home garage. Pics now produces twenty five thousand jars a day.

Pic has macular degeneration. His sight has continued to deteriorate but he still like greeting visitors and working on the factory floor.  

Jeremy "Jezza" Williams

Kiwi adrenaline junkie, Jezza Williams has always pushed his limits. He was working as a canyoning guide in Switzerland when he slipped off a rock and sustained a spinal injury.

Through his business, Making Traxs, he now shares his experiences and passion for adventure. He educates tourism operators, and showcases how to make adventures accessible.

Born and raised in the South Island Jezza had New Zealand’s adventure playground as his back yard.




(from left to right) James Wilson, Tim Fairhall and Nigel Cash

James Wilson

James Wilson likes to weigh into things with passion. James was the only powerlifter to represent New Zealand in the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, 2019.

James follows a strict nutrition plan. When he won a nutrition challenge at his local gym, he suggested he run a series of workshops to encourage other athletes to eat, stretch and warm up correctly.

As a Global ambassador with Special Olympics James delivers speeches at public events to fundraise and promote Special Olympics. James loves describing his journey from water boy to international heavy weight! 

Nigel Cash 

As athletics coach for Special Olympics Nigel Cash prepares his athletes well. Nigel transitioned from being an athlete to coach in 2018.

Nigel’s been a volunteer for the North Taranaki Club for 28 years. He gives round the clock care to his athletes during competitions and manages the technical side of their events.

A tough task master Nigel relentlessly seeks improvement.

Tim Fairhall

Tim Fairhall isn't afraid to stand up for his rights. Tim rocked the boat by presenting to a government select committee, questioning the rules around Kiwi Saver. 

His stance led to a ground-breaking change that allows people to access their Kiwi Saver before the age of 65. He argued that some people with congenital conditions can have a shortened life expectancy.

Tim boldly challenged the rules on behalf of all Kiwis. Since the law was passed, Tim’s been working hard with plans to travel to Canada. He’s going to access his Kiwi saver so he can visit his brother, and spend time with a mate. 



ATTITUDE MAKING A DIFFERENCE AWARD(from left to right) Jenn Hooper, Eric Chuah and Paul Gibson

Eric Chuah  

Eric Chuah never set out to work in the disability sector. Prior to moving to New Zealand he’d worked in the banking world. It was a chance meeting with a man who’d fostered disabled children that made Eric rethink his own contribution to society.

The Cookie Project has given disabled people work experience. But Eric’s real joy is seeing staff gain confidence or leave to take up positions elsewhere. 

Jenn Hooper

Jenn Hooper began her advocacy work after her daughter Charley was born. Complications during birth had resulted in disability. Though she is not formally trained, Jenn believed she could help drive change. 

Jenn pioneered, Changing Places, which begun building fully accessible bathroom facilities in public spaces throughout New Zealand.  

Paul Gibson

When Paul Gibson was studying for his Masters degree in he faced ignorance and prejudice but those challenges fuelled his future career. Paul is vision impaired.

His degree is in public policy, making him perfectly suited to roles he has held – including Disability Human Rights Commissioner, and as a commissioner on the Royal Commission on Historical Abuse of those in state care.



THE SPIRIT OF ATTITUDE AWARD(from left to right) Carlos Biggemann, Juanita Willems and Ephraim Gudgeon

Carlos Biggemann

Carlos Biggemann likes to challenge perceptions! Carlos is a professional photographer with exhibitions in New Zealand, Bolivia and an upcoming exhibition in France.

People with Down Syndrome face a number of challenges including speech and learning difficulties. When Carlos moved from Bolivia to New Zealand he had to make new friends and learn a new language.

Carlos runs the Otago Down Syndrome Association, is a competitive swimmer, and writes for the Chat 21 magazine. He’s presented at both national and international conferences, including the World Down Syndrome Congress in Glasgow last year.

Ephraim Gudgeon

28 year old Ephraim Gudgeon turned a life changing accident into positive change in his life and now he is doing the same for others.

Ephraim was paralysed after jumping from a waterfall. A qualified personal trainer, he volunteers at the Gisborne Police training centre where he has adapted gym equipment so anyone with a disability can train. His goal is to empower people through physical strength and one day hopes to open his own gym. 

Juanita Willems

Despite a busy life raising two boys with epilepsy and being almost blind herself, Juanita is a lead person for Fostering Hope in Otago. Juanita has been going progressively blind, the result of an injury when she was a child. 

She’s lost  97% of her vision and turned to volunteer work after she lost her job due to her lack of sight.



ATTITUDE SUPPORT SUPERSTAR AWARD(from left to right) Graeme Haddon, Leticia Tupua and Leah Stewart

Graeme Haddon

For 15 years, Graeme has dedicated his life to looking after disadvantaged youth. Seven years ago he met three young people with foetal alcohol syndrome. Graeme took them under his wings and into his care.

He made many personal sacrifices to advance the lives of his kids – much like a parent would do. But above all has built their self-esteem to believe they are worthy of love, and he’s shown he is a person they can rely on. 

Leah Stewart 

24 year old Leah Stewart knew from an early age she wanted to care for others. As a rehabilitation coach and carer she works with adults and children with complex needs.

Five year old Levi has severe cerebral palsy. Leah expert care has also resulted in her niece, who is blind, reaching milestones well ahead of medical predictions.

Leah was in high school when she was asked to support a girl who had quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Maths tuition led to an enduring friendship with Alicia. Together they have travelled to New York, Miami, and the Bahamas. Leah pushed a wheelchair, pulled a suitcase and carried a shower/toilet seat on her back.

Leticia Tupua

Leticia Tupua tries her best to maintain the professional line of a caregiver, but she winds up embracing all her clients into her whanau.

Leticia has been supporting tetraplegic patients for Drake Medox for the past 17 years. Leticia looks after two clients, Reuben Harris and Rodney Williams. Food plays a large part in what Leticia reckons constitutes a good life.



ATTITUDE YOUTH SPIRIT AWARD(from left to right) Gabby Wright, Cory Newman and Kiringāua Cassidy

Cory Newman 

Cory Newman is the lead singer in the band Sit Down In Front, a Gisborne based punk rock band that won ‘best song’ at the 2019 SmokeFreeRockQuest, opened for Jimmy Barnes at his New Zealand concert in September and has had a number of songs with national and international airplay.

Living with cerebral palsy, Cory is also an academic superstar, receiving awards in English, Music and Religious Education.

Gabby Wright

Gabby Wright had a vision of playing for the Silver Ferns. She was playing representative netball when she was diagnosed with  Transverse Myelitis, an inflammation that impacts nerves of the spinal cord.

Determined to find another way to satisfy her goal she trained as a netball umpire. Gaby was thrilled to get out of bed on cold winter days to umpire at the Howick Pakuranga Netball Centre. New Zealand’s first wheelchair umpire.

Kiringāua Cassidy

Kiringāua is most proud of his connection to his culture. He is carving a role for himself as an orator in both English and Te Reo Maori.

He’s also an accomplished singer and  has released an album a collaboration with other young artists. Born with spina bifida Kiringaua pushes himself physically. He teaches Kapa Haka to the tamariki of Dunedin. 

And he’s an aspiring paralympic skier!