IHC’s newest Life Member puts advocacy first

Christine Lee of Matamata is IHC’s newest New Zealand Life Member.

Christine, a committed advocate for people with intellectual disabilities, was presented with her award at the IHC Annual General Meeting in Wellington by former IHC Chair Donald Thompson.

For more than 25 years Christine has been a leader, fundraiser, communicator and event organiser. But above all, she has encouraged a strong emphasis on advocacy within the organisation and has made a real impact on the quality of lives for people with an intellectual disability.

Christine encouraged members attending the IHC Annual General Meeting to celebrate IHC’s achievements despite the challenges they had faced this year with Covid-19 and discussions about service changes. “I often wonder what life would be like now for people with intellectual disability without IHC’s strong responses to challenges over the years. You have to have challenges to produce highlights.”

Donald said she was joining a group of 12 Life Members who have made an extraordinary contribution to people with intellectual disabilities, their families and IHC.

He said Christine first started supporting people with intellectual disabilities in Matamata and went on to make an impact at a national level. “The commitment is sometimes born on the national stage, but so often, as in this case, it comes from making a difference to just a few and then stepping up for the many,” he said.

Christine first got involved at branch level supporting a self-advocate and was eventually promoting self-advocacy at national level as a member and Chair of the IHC Advocacy Committee.


She was working as a teacher at Matamata Primary School in the mid-1990s when she was invited to join the IHC Matamata Area Committee. She had a nephew with an intellectual disability and had a strong empathy with the work of the organisation.


In 1998 Christine began attending Waikato South Branch Meetings as a self-advocate support person. She became a full member of the Branch Committee in 2002 and President in 2003, a job she held for the next eight years, before handing over the reins in 2011. In 2011 she was presented with an IHC Distinguished Service Award.


Christine continues to serve IHC as a member of the Waikato South Association Committee and has edited the Association’s Chatterbox magazine for many years.


Christine served as New Zealand Vice President from 2010–2013 and made a unique contribution both to the IHC Board and in her role as Chair of the Self-Advocacy Committee of the Board.