About Us

A brief history

Motor Neurone Disease NZ was founded in 1985 by a group of volunteers with experience of caring for someone with MND.

All over the world, support organisations for MND only began in the late 1970s. In the early times, individuals had to “make it happen” themselves even more so than today.

In 1978 Wym van Erpers Roijaards, who had MND, set up the Technical Aid Trust based at Hutt Hospital to lend computers with “talking” technology – at that time it cost around $20,000 to buy just four sets of software with just 2000 words in its word bank.

In 1982 Jill Braddick in Northland had to travel to Australia and America to meet others living with MND; in 1984 Vera Grant in Auckland had to contact MND Victoria, Australia, to find out about Jill.

In 1984 Lois Chambers was one of several in Wellington who made her friends start a group before she died (“or else I will come back and haunt you”). She died one week after their first meeting in August 1986.

In Christchurch in November 1988 Philippa Shepherd, who had lost her mother to MND, initiated an inaugural meeting supported by Graham East, whose wife had familial MND. Thirty-three people attended that meeting and were addressed by Dorothy Nicholas from Auckland – Dorothy had lost her husband to MND before the “Society” formed. For around 15 years Dorothy combined the roles of vice-president, inspiration and roving Support Worker up and down New Zealand.

The Society, as it was then, started in Auckland – and it was not without a struggle. It cost money to incorporate, it cost much voluntary time to attend meetings, to write newsletters, to cross “t’s” and dot “i’s” to “get the show on the road”. But a solid core of dedicated people (and their “volunteered” husbands, wives, children, neighbours, and friends) ensured it happened. Wellington was a branch (1986), then Northland (1987 perhaps),  then Christchurch (1988), then Bay of Plenty (around 1999), and Waikato around 2002.

Over the years the way we have done our business has changed. We have moved from volunteer visiting, through volunteer Support Team Members, to paid Support Team Members employed by branches to paid Support Advisors employed and managed through our National Office.

The one constant seems to have been that we have always had loyal, dedicated, compassionate, and caring people offering support services, whether paid or unpaid.[EK5]

Although many people have served MND NZ faithfully over the years, we record here the organisations roll of honour: people who have been awarded life membership or received an honour for their service.

  • From Canterbury – Graham East (1999)
  • From Wellington – Jack Telfer, Nedra Shand (both 1999), Robina Davies (2006), Geoff Thompson (2015), Reima Casey (2016), Beth Watson (2019)
  • From Waikato – Mary Parker (2009), Helen Palmer (2017)
  • From Bay of Plenty – Michelle Knox (2014), Dr Andrew Chancellor (2019)
  • From Auckland – John Roxburgh, Dennis Hall (both 1999) Dorothy Nicholas QSO (1996)
  • From Northland – Edith McCarthy (2001), Jill Braddick QSM (2004)