Frank Programme on Sexuality

Sex and sexual health for people with disabilities are the focus of a new programme and podcast on OAR FM Dunedin.

To Be Frank is presented by educator and consultant Claire Ryan, who has worked in the disability sector for over 30 years, with more than 10 years’ experience in delivering training and workshops on sexuality.

Ms Ryan’s consultancy, also known as To Be Frank, was established in 2007. Over the years, she has worked with several disability agencies within the New Zealand Disability Support Network, as well as New Zealand schools and government agencies.

For people with disabilities, sex and sex education remains a taboo subject, she says.

“In my earlier work with service providers it was glaringly obvious that the people I got to work with, mainly who had intellectual impairment, weren’t having much intimacy in their lives.

“A conference on sexual abuse I attended in Auckland which was good but it made me think about the fact that within agencies we spent a lot of time creating policies on what people shouldn’t do, trying to protect disabled people from being sexual, and there wasn’t anything about what you can do and how you get started. It was all very risk averse, and I’m working to change that.”

Conversations around supporting people with disabilities should include talking about their sexuality, and services providers should not be surprised at clients wanting to form sexual relationships and express their sexuality.

“It’s still pretty disheartening that it comes as a big shock (to some service providers). It’s called inappropriate behaviour, and all the language around sexuality changes when referring to disabled people.

“Not everything is called a friendship. People do get to have relationships, and they have the right to get it wrong.”

A new episode of To Be Frank airs every second Thursday at 8.30pm, and is replayed at the same time on alternate Thursdays on OAR 105.4FM and 1575AM. Podcasts are available from, Google podcasts and Apple podcasts.

Radio Explores the Power of Positive Action

Rape Crisis Dunedin is using radio as a way of highlighting the achievements of organisations and individuals working in the interests of women and families, around the world.

Fortnightly show The Empower Half Hour is hosted by Rape Crisis community educators Anna Hoek-Sims and Rachel Shaw.

Anna said the focus of the programme was “not just feminism”.

“We’re coming from an all-encompassing point of view, so it doesn’t matter what the gender is of any person we might talk about. We want to celebrate that there are some stars shining brightly out there in the world.”

Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate, was one such inspirational individual. Her memoir I Am Malala and 2015 documentary film He Named Me Malala had provided insight into how determined advocacy for change had grown into an international human rights movement.

Rachel cited the wave of women’s marches that followed the election of Donald Trump to the United States presidency as another source of motivation.

“The amount of work and passion that went into those marches was very inspiring to me.”

The radio show would include updates on events closer to home, music by women artists and thoughtful quotes to ponder. It would also build on workshops the pair were conducting with Dunedin secondary school students on issues of consent and bystander intervention, and explore the latest initiatives to address online bullying.

“Radio is a way of branching out to reach some of the community we wouldn’t meet through the training we do,” Anna said.

“It’s a way of saying there’s still some positive, amazing things going on in the world today at a time when there are a lot of conflicts. And it’s a great way for us to maintain a healthy working environment. We hear a lot of negative things as support workers and when we debrief with other staff. So for me it’s part of my self-care.”

The Empower Half Hour airs every second Tuesday at 12.30pm on OAR 105.4FM and 1575AM, and live and podcast from

Photo: Inspiring work: Rape Crisis Dunedin community educators Anna Hoek-Sims (left) and Rachel Shaw are hosts of Otago Access Radio show The Empower Half Hour.