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Meaningful Mahi

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Attracting a new workforce

Meaningful Mahi has been established to address an urgent challenge for disabled people in Aotearoa: The disability support workforce is ageing, and doesn’t reflect the diversity of the communities it serves.

The Meaningful Mahi campaign aims to inspire a new generation of diverse young people to consider this work. It tells new stories about disabled people – and what supporting them really looks like.. The campaign dispels myths, breaks assumptions, and reduces fear and stigma. It seeks to show our audience that disability support work is flexible, rewarding, and truly meaningful.

Perception vs. Reality

Our process included interviews with disabled people and support workers which revealed that finding good support staff is hard – for both disability service providers, and disabled people. Unfortunately, plenty of myths about support work persist: that the work is demanding, requires a qualification or experience to get started, and is largely focused on personal care.


We also spent time with young people which indicated that if they really knew what disability support work involves, they would find it hugely appealing. It offers many of the things that young people look for in a job – flexibility, meaning, autonomy, a sense of purpose and being valued.

Nothing about us, without us

The strategy, design, production and casting of this campaign has been disability-led at every stage of the process. This ensured that the insight gathering, strategic development, and creative processes were undertaken with the needs of the disability community at the centre. Throughout the project we have used the disability-rights mantra of ‘nothing about us without us’ as our guiding star.

We wanted to help young people discover what support work really involves. So we began to explore the relationships and quirky shared passions that develop between disabled people and their support workers. We tested our early concepts, and learned if we connect with young people’s strengths and interests, support work started to feel like a good option for people just like them.

Real-life connections

To help address the misunderstandings and stereotypes surrounding support work, Meaningful Mahi showcases three real-life pairings of a disabled person and their support worker. These ‘matches’ reveal that support work is all about human connection, fun, laughter, and reciprocal support. These relatable young people share the everyday things they love to do together; helping others see that this work is something they might enjoy too.

The first phase of the campaign told each pair’s stories through social media, digital advertising, and street posters. These channels were used to drive traffic to a central microsite with more information on support work, and links to currently available jobs.

Beautiful representation

Meaningful Mahi continues to gain momentum. Support workers and people with disabilities are sharing the campaign – adding weight to its messages with their own stories about how accurately it reflects their realities.

The campaign is actively helping to reposition the way that young people think about disability, and the role of support workers. This work was awarded silver in the public good category at the 2021 Best Awards.