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Speech: Turia - PolyEmp Employment & Advisory AGM

Speaking Notes for a Presentation to
PolyEmp Employment and Advisory Services AGM
UNITEC, Pt Chevalier, Auckland
Tuesday 18 August 2009; 7pm
Hon Tariana Turia, Minister of Disability Issues


As I travelled here tonight, I was fascinated to learn some of the history of the carved wharenui on campus here.

It seems the construction of a carved whare whakairo for UNITEC was a project that lived in the hearts and dreams of many, long before it became a focal point of the campus.

The aspiration of all those who took the project on, was that the carved wharenui would become a repository of local and historical information about Tamaki Makaurau and eventually a national archive of taonga Māori.

The experts who bestowed the art of carving upon us, lived by the saying,
He toi whakairo. He mana tangata.

"Where there is artistic integrity there is human dignity"

Well, today, we are adding another layer to the art of excellence, another expression of the skill of carving.

For today we are gathered to congratulate and celebrate the students who have graduated through the skill of job carving.

I have to admit, this is a form of carving that was news to me before tonight.

Job carving is something that PolyEmp specialises in.

In essence, what it means is that PolyEmp – as a supported employment agency – does everything it can to create positions that will address gaps in the workplace.

In other words, it carves out a special space for people to contribute; to be able to make a difference, by utilising the skills they have.

And just as the great carvers of the wharenui would say; carving (and this time in relation to employment) is also about human dignity and integrity.

For at the very base of the approach is that both the employer and the employee will be supported by those at Poly-Emp, until everyone feels comfortable, competent and confident that the job can be done.

I want to really acknowledge the expertise of all those at the Poly-Emp Employment and Advisory Service, for the way in which they have made it possible for students with intellectual and learning difficulties, to find employment and reach for the sky.

It’s a fabulous programme which is made all the more fabulous through the assistance and support of the Poly-Emp employment advisor who works with the clients, families and/or caregivers to establish a client’s career plan.

I want to really commend Poly-Emp for the commitment you have made to what I would call whanau ora – remembering that the satisfaction and success of an individual is often transformed by the support and expectations of their immediate whanau around them.

I was horrified yesterday to hear reports of some hospitals carrying out needs assessments of disabled persons over the phone; the rationale being this would be the most cost-effective model under the constraints of time and resourcing constraints.

But I wondered what would be the long-term, downstream costs of not having all the information in front of you; not being able to read the situation, to understand the tangible support that could be provided, the gaps and limitations of the existing resources.

With PolyEmp, the approach is inclusive; it is collaborative and it is about being fully prepared.

I was really pleased to see that before the students here are even able to access paid employment, they undergo a two year lifeskills and employment course – in effect, setting them up for life.

The absolute proof of this approach is in the lives of the eight people that we come here tonight to honour. And it is a roll of honour; a list of high achievers to be proud of.

I want to acknowledge and pay my tribute to the following people – and the employers that they work for – who have enjoyed a successful partnership for over five years.

* Gabrielle Ho, from McDonalds.
* Shannon Bowden with Belvedere Furnishings.
* Elizabeth Hammond, from Number one warehouse.
* Nanar Tan from Manukau Institute of Technology
* Sarah Harper of Ambridge Rose Manor
* Matthew Ashby from Sodhexho
* Ashneel Humar from Supervalue
* And Jason Williams from Papakura Recreation Centre.

These magnificent eight are walking talking success stories.

Just to give some idea of the great achievements we are recognising tonight, it might be useful to think about the work that Shannon has done at Belvedere Soft Furnishings. The company got together with Poly-Emp and with Shannon, and created a position as a factory hand which would both suit Shannon’s skills as well as fill a need.

Every day for the last five years Shannon has had the responsibility of counting out the exact quantities of cushions according to customer orders, and then placing them in big bags. He is a vital part of a small team – fulfilling his work duties, but more than that, always smiling, always reliable, and always hard-working – it doesn’t get much better than that.

There are two other employers that we want to recognise tonight.

The Conference Centre has employed Joleen Van der Struys for about three years. Joleen was originally placed with the conference centre under the Mainstream programme, in the days when the company was owned by AUT.

But since then, it became a private enterprise. Such was the value that owner, Robyn Henry, placed in Joleen that there was no way they were letting her go, and so Joleen kept her job and is recognised by all in her workplace as a valued employee.

The other business is the Glenfield Leisure Centre owned by the North Shore City Council. Gabrielle Augusten is employed to work in the centre’s crèche, where she has been working for the last two years. It’s really exciting to know that some of the management team from the crèche are here tonight as it shows how much the whole workplace values Gabrielle and the work she does.

In many ways, while carving a niche in the market, creating unique jobs for employees, PolyEmp is also creating a work of art in the contribution you are making to a more inclusive environment; a supportive workforce and an enabling community.

Every year Poly-Emp is contracted to assist with the placement and retention of some 72 people with disabilities into open and paid employment.

And yet every year, PolyEmp has been surpassing that number – achieving positive outcomes for more and more people; through more and more placements.

This is really outstanding stuff – the stuff that the New Zealand Disability Strategy is based on – the stuff that dreams are made of.

It is about providing opportunities in employment and economic development for disabled people. It is about enabling disabled people to work in the open labour market and maintain an adequate income.

And all of these initiatives are grounded in the strength of the foundation skills that will be vital for people to participate in their communities, to enter the workforce, and to stay there.

I congratulate all of our very distinguished high achievers who have sustained five years of employment; I congratulate the employers who have made it happen; and I congratulate PolyEmp for the devoted commitment and passion they have made into carving out new pathways into our future.

ENDS

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