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Taumarunui resident receives Chairman's Award 2004

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind
29 October 2004
Media Release

Taumarunui resident receives Foundation of the Blind's Chairman's Award 2004

"Michael Turner is a man who has dedicated decades of work for his community, without regard for his personal needs and reward" says Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind's (RNZFB) Chairman Don McKenzie, about the 2004 Chairman's Award winner.

Michael has volunteered his time for many activities supporting the RNZFB for more than 30 years. His involvement began after his sight started deteriorating in the early 1970s.

Having gained a commerce degree in the UK, Michael brought his young family to New Zealand and in the course of a flourishing teaching career at Wanganui Collegiate, began to loose his sight.

Being the resolute and decisive person that he is, Michael acknowledged that, without additional skills, he could not go on teaching in the conventional way. Michael came to the RNZFB's Adult Rehabilitation Unit in the early 70's, learned braille and immediately began planning how the "magic of braille" could be shared with others. The veteran teacher devised the Audio Tactual distance learning scheme of teaching braille using taped instructions and brailled lessons.

In 1978, Michael returned to teaching economics at one of Auckland's prestigious private schools, St Cuthberts.

"Because of his own sight loss, Michael has a strong commitment to and understanding of the needs of blind and vision impaired people. He has used this knowledge to inspire and assist others in the blind community at both a local and national level," says Don McKenzie.

"During his time developing the braille distance teaching programme, Michael joined the Association of Blind Citizens New Zealand (ABC NZ) and became its voluntary treasurer for some years. He also served as ABC's first fulltime advocate."

In 1980, Michael was appointed to the RNZFB's Board of Trustees by the Governor-General, a position he held until his retirement from the Board in 2003. Michael served as Chair and, during his 23 years on the Board, he headed a number of its committees: financial management, wealth creation, braille literacy and member services.

In the early 80's, Michael was part of a Property Rationalisation project which, by 1985, had developed guidelines for the development of the Parnell Site and which, in October 1988 led to the formation of the Bledisloe Estate Trust. The Trust is responsible for managing the Foundation's Parnell block for future generations of blind citizens. Michael became a trustee of this independent Board.

At the local level, Michael has been a leading light in the work of the Foundation's Taumarunui Advisory Committee, having been a member since 1974. He has a formula that seeks to balance medical, educational and community skills, talents and networks for the benefit of the local blind community.

Local Taumaranui community committee chairman and nominator Dr John Lane says he is delighted that Michael has been presented with this year's Chairman's Award.

"Michael moved to Owhango many years ago and was instrumental in establishing what was then the Advisory Committee. His continued involvement and initiative have ensured that our local blind and vision-impaired members continue to receive the support they need when they need it," says Dr Lane.

"He's also gone the extra mile in ensuring that the committee and local members have not felt isolated by bringing back Foundation news and reports on the latest ideas and trends and services to the blind. To say he has been an active supporter of its work over a long period would be a huge understatement."

Michael has also been instrumental in forming the Gabriel Trust which offers opportunities for talented blind musicians to perform at a professional level in public. For a number of years the Gabriel Trust has organised Christmas Concerts based on a formula developed by his lifelong British composer Friend Edmund Walters. Their next concert is being held at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell Road, Auckland on 4 and 5 December.

Each year the RNZFB's Chairman is faced with the challenging task of selecting one person who, through their professional and/or community service, has made an outstanding contribution to the blind community. Any of this year's six nominations could have carried off the trophy and the cheque for $500.


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