SkillWise has been operating as a not-for profit charitable trust since 1991. It was started by a group of parents wanting to be certain there would be meaningful options and opportunities for their sons and daughters when they left school.
This was at the time when the deinstitutionalization movement was gaining momentum in New Zealand and the government was starting to take notice. From the mid-1990s until the mid-2000s all the institutions (where many people with an intellectual disability lived), closed down. Support services started to be based in the community and were designed to assist people in having a good life and have a chance to get involved in the things most non-disabled people take for granted, like learning new things, meeting new people, playing sports and getting involved in the local community in different ways, including having a job.
SkillWise works from a strong values base:
Respect – Being taken Seriously
Innovation – Being Able to Get What is Needed in the Best Ways
Self Determination – Being in Control
Inclusion – Being Able to Do Things that are Important to Me
Learning – Being Open to Ongoing Learning and Development
Professionalism – Being Fair and Ethical
It’s about people living the life they want to live, and by working together with disabled people, their families, and whanau, we can assist people with disability to have lives where they are valued as fully participating people in their communities.
We are on this journey together, taking some big steps and at times very small steps as we seek to break down barriers and work towards a truly inclusive society.
The White Room creative space grew from the desire of some of the people who attended SkillWise wanting to spend time creating artworks and sharing this with other artists. Once we set up the White Room Creative Space, it soon became clear that through opportunities that brought disabled and non-disabled artists together as a creative community, united by a shared passion for art, barriers started to be broken down. This has seen people being responded to as artists first, rather than people with disabilities.
The White Room is a space where people are supported to create, exhibit and sell their artworks, learning from each other, find out about new techniques if they want to or just do their own thing. It’s a place where artists with disabilities work alongside other artists, in an inclusive creative environment.
Everyone is welcome at the White Room. We provide the basic tools and resources and people bring their imaginations and ideas.
By providing opportunities for White Room artists to be involved with the wider community, it brings about more public awareness and understanding of people who live with disabilities.