You may want to self-advocate when speaking with doctors and health care professionals, in hospitals, at schools, with government bodies, and in the community.

Some people can find self-advocacy intimidating, as it means standing up for yourself with others. However, self-advocacy is important to ensure that your needs, goals and aspirations are being heard.

If you are unsure about how to self-advocate and prepare for situations where you want your needs met, the following tips may be helpful:  

  • Be an active participant in the process, to the best of your ability.
  • Get enough information to make informed choices.
  • Have some ideas about what you would like to get out of the process, or what you would like the healthcare professionals to help with
  • Clearly express what your needs are.
  • Set realistic goals for what you hope to achieve.
  • If necessary, have an advocate, family member, or friend at meetings
  • If your request is not responded to in a timely manner, ask to speak to a more senior person.
  • Consider writing a letter or email, containing any concerns you have, if you feel that you are not being listened to during meetings.
  • Keep a folder of all materials, plans, and correspondence so that you can refer to these in the future.
  • Take notes when you attend meetings and document all phone calls.
  • Ensure that any agreed upon plan is put in writing.
Advocacy Services

There are several organisations that provide specific advocacy services.

IHC advocacy support for people with an intellectual disability in New Zealand. This includes supporting people with an intellectual disability to be self-advocates. 

Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) enforces the Health and Disability Consumers Code of Rights and provides an independent health and disability advocacy service.  HDC Advocacy is available to ‘consumers’ who would like to make a complaint about a health or disability service they have received.

The Personal Advocacy Trust (PAT)  is a nationwide organisation that offers independent lifelong advocacy and fee-for-service independent advocacy for short term issues.

People First New Zealand is a self-advocacy organisation that is led and directed by people with learning (intellectual) disability. 

CCS Disability Action  is a nationwide organisation that provides support and advocacy for people with a disability. 

Human Rights Commission promotes and protects the human rights of all people in Aotearoa New Zealand.  They facilitate resolution of disputes about discrimination.

Community Law provides legal advice, legal assistance and representation, legal information, legal education and law reform activities.  The website has free legal information, factsheets, guides and contact details for local community law centers throughout New Zealand.

YouthLaw (Tino Rangatiratanga Taitamariki) is a community law center for children and young people nationwide.  They provide free legal services to anyone aged under 25 who is unable to access legal help elsewhere, or those acting on their behalf.

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)  provides information and advice and has services nationwide.  Their website has some useful information on complaints and disputes.

Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA)  is an umbrella organisation representing people with disabilities. DPA provides information and advice.

Inclusive Education Action Group support the rights of all to an inclusive education.

Nation Wide Health and Disability Services Offers free, independent, and confidential advice and support to help you resolve issues with health and disability services.

Making a Complaint

The Health and Disability Commissioner is responsible for promoting and protecting the Code of Health and Disability Consumers’ Rights. The Code covers all public and private providers offering any form of health or disability service.  

Everyone using a health or disability service has the protection of a Code of Rights

Right 1: The right to be treated with respect | Mana

Right 2: The right to fair treatment | Manaakitanga

Right 3: The right to dignity and independence | Tū rangatira Motuhake

Right 4: The right to appropriate standards | Tautikanga

Right 5: The right to effective communication | Whakawhitiwhitinga whakairo

Right 6: The right to be informed | Whakamōhio

Right 7: The right to choice and consent | Whakaritenga mōu ake

Right 8: The right to support | Tautoko

Right 9: Rights during teaching and research | Ako me te rangahau

Right 10: The right for your complaint to be taken seriously | Amuamu


You can find some useful tips about making a complaint on the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) website.

The process in making a complaint looks like this:

  • In the first instance, discuss your concerns with the person or organisation you have a complaint with.
  • Check out the advocacy section of the HDC’s website as this has some self-advocacy tips and a sample letter and complaint form.
  • If you are not satisfied with your response, you can contact an Advocacy Service (as noted above). Typically, if these concerns are with a health or disability service you would contact a HDC Advocate.
  • If you are unhappy with the outcome, you can make a direct complaint to the Director of Advocacy –
  • You can also make a complaint directly to the Ministry you are receiving funding from (ie, ACC, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Development, Education, etc).
  • You can also make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission – if you believe someone has been discriminated against.


Ombudsman The Ombudsman's primary role is to investigate complaints against government agencies, but they have other important responsibilities as well.