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News from Member Organisations March 2021 - New Zealand

News from Member Organisations March 2021 – Aotearoa / New Zealand

Kia ora (greetings) from New Zealand,

Like so many other countries around the world the issues brought by the Covid-19 pandemic have brought new and significant challenges to our profession in terms of Occupational Therapy delivery. The pandemic has further highlighted existing inequalities, especially for marginalised members of our society, including our indigenous Maori population here in Aotearoa.

We wish all our fellow country members well with their own pandemic journeys.

We hope you will find the following report of interest.


Understanding the impact of Covid-19 on the Aotearoa Occupational Therapy Workforce

The Occupational Therapy Board of New Zealand conducted a survey of it’s members to try and learn how the pandemic had affected the work of Occupational Therapists in Aotearoa / New Zealand. The key insights can be found below:

COVID-19 response of occupational therapists:

A survey conducted during the level 3 lockdown

28 April – 13 May 2020

Key insights

  • 494 (90%) of the occupational therapists who responded to the survey worked throughout level 4 lockdown despite a lack of identification by government of occupational therapy being an essential service.
  • 129 (27%) of responding occupational therapists provided services for tangata whenua during lockdown.
  • PPE was able to be accessed by most respondents (80%), but there were delays in supply, variable quality of training in the use of it and confusion on who needed to use it.
  • Occupational therapists adapted to using telehealth through self-directed learning with a 35% increase in use of this as a modality by respondents.
  • There were areas of practice where telehealth was not able to be used and respondents had serious concerns about people’s safety, health and wellbeing during the lockdown.
  • Occupational therapists were able to work in trans-disciplinary ways at many organisational levels and roles as part of the COVID-19 health system response.
  • Ethical decision making, using discretion for high-risk situations to manage infection control and teamwork were areas that required strong competence and ability
  • There were areas of practice where respondents indicated they needed additional professional support, such as employment conditions and best-practice advice.

The implementation of new and remote ways of working became a very important consideration for many health professions including Occupational Therapists. The survey provided the findings some related findings below.

Increasing Use Of Telehealth

The major way limitations of the lockdown were managed was the implementation of telehealth. The survey findings included how occupational therapists had altered their practice during level 4.

Adopting and adapting telehealth to deliver occupational therapy was the biggest change in practice respondents

56% of respondents stated they did not normally use telehealth prior to the lockdown, but this changed to 79% responding they had used it during the lockdown period

The survey asked respondents who had not been using telehealth if they had experienced barriers to implementing telehealth. The highest barriers indicated were a lack of devices (own or client) at 24 (24%) and technological literacy (own or client) at 21 (21%).

Continued development of a ground-breaking Indigenous partnership model within the Aotearoa / New Zealand Association of Occupational Therapists

The Aotearoa New Zealand Occupational Therapy Association has continued to operationalise a model of working that strives to ensure the indigenous population (Māori) , and Occupational Therapists that identify as Māori, have equal representation and an equal voice. This has been an exciting journey so far and has required bravery, reflective practices and opens to discuss complex and sensitive issues. The association is excited to be leading the way for other Aotearoa health organisations in this space and look forward to even greater leanings and developments in 2021!

Te Tiriti/Treaty Relationship Governance Model

In September 2015 OTNZ-WNA implemented the Te Tiriti o Waitangi/The Treaty of Waitangi relationship government model. This model reflects a true partnership between tangata whenua and tangata tiriti sharing the leadership and responsibility with co-presidencies and 50/50 membership of the Council. The association is the first allied professional body to do so.

Tangata Whenua: A generic term for Māori comprising those with mana whenua responsibilities – Māori who are tied culturally to an area by whakapapa and whose ancestors lived and died there; together with taura here – Māori who are resident in an area but who belong to waka and tribes from other parts of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Tangata Tiriti: A generic term to describe people whose rights to live in Aotearoa/New Zealand derive from Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the arrangements that the Crown has established under a common rule of law and the equity provisions of Article 3 of Te Tiriti.

Under the treaty relationship governance model:

  • Council consists of 8 with 4 Māori councillors nominated by their roopu and four tangata tiriti representatives.
  • Two Presidents preside – one from each house
  • Two councillors hold the portfolio of World federation of Occupational Therapy delegate – one from each house
  • Presidents co-chair council meetings
  • Council subcommittees are represented by an equal number of tangata tiriti and tangata whenua members.
  • Equity of responsibilities spread or jointly undertaken apply as deemed practicable.

To learn more please see the link: Nga-Rerenga-o-Te-Tiriti.pdf (otnz.co.nz)

Engagement in WHO International Standards Wheelchair Practitioners & Oceania Seating Symposium

Aotearoa NZ Occupational Therapist Debbie Wilson from Seating to Go has been part of WHO development group’s work to develop international standards for wheelchair practitioners and educational establishments. Debbie and her work colleagues have also been central to organizing the hosting of the 2021 Oceania seating symposium. See an exert from the events facebook page:

Oceania Seating Symposium

2 September 2020 ·

We are excited to announce that OSS will be returning to the Energy Events Centre in Rotorua, New Zealand, from 9-11 November 2021.

The theme of the symposium is ‘Whanaungatanga – connecting people and communities’ and as we emerge from a challenging time globally, this whakaaro (concept) is more important than ever. Hosted by

Seating To Go

and in conjunction with the International Seating Symposium – Vancouver (ISS), we anticipate that the timing of the event will allow our international community to reconnect and we look forward to welcoming delegates to the beautiful Aotearoa (NZ).

Call for abstracts are now open.

For more information visit:


Involvement in the development of the WHO Rehabilitation Competency Framework:

Some of our Aotearoa New Zealand Occupational Therapy members including Mary Silcock have been heavily involved in the development of the WHO rehab competency framework (RCF) which has just been released. Aotearoa New Zealand contributed significantly at the advisory group level with two of the 20 strong team from Aotearoa as well as at the organisation and individual service user level. Aotearoa’s involvement will continue through participation in the upcoming webinar to gain an understanding of the role and potential of the RCF in addressing workforce challenges faced in rehabilitation, and learn how it can be used in real world scenarios to bring us closer to the vision of Rehabilitation 2030: That everyone who needs rehabilitation has access to timely, quality services.

The Rehabilitation Competency Framework is accessed on the WHO website. There are also links to two articles about developing the framework on the webpage.