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Speech - NZ Disability Support Network Conference - Turia

Hon Tariana Turia
Minister of Disability Issues
Friday 18 March 2011
NZ Disability Support Network Conference
Rutherford Hotel, Helson
'Live the Day'

I am so pleased to be here today, to join with and celebrate the collaboration that characterises the New Zealand Disability Support Network.

This is a very auspicious occasion – the first conference for this vital support network. You have embarked on a remarkable journey since you launched on the 14th April 2010, and I want to mihi to you as the Minister of Disability Issues, for the initiative you have taken.

I want to commend your Chair John Taylor, who in just under a year, has pulled together a membership comprising some 130 provider organisations. And a big thank you to your Chief Executive, Sandie Waddell, for being instrumental in taking the vision of the New Zealand Disability Support Network and putting it into practice.

I want to share with you my reflections as the Minister of Disability Issues. I was appointed to this role on the 30th June 2009, so I have had full ministerial responsibility for disability issues just about a year longer than your organisation has been in existence.

In effect your journey has been my journey.

One of the most startling features of the sector that struck me early on was the immense range of groups comprising the sector – there were
• provider organisations;
• groups representing the families of disabled persons;
• disabled persons organisations;
• groups representing a specific disability;
• umbrella organisations;
• advocacy groups and different combinations of all of the above.

It did, at times, appear overwhelming and it certainly challenged me to question how I as Minister – or in fact the wider Government as a whole - could focus on the most strategic issues affecting the sector – and more importantly impacting on disabled persons?

And so I come to this conference today, appreciating the leadership you have shown as the largest provider network in the country.

That, in itself, is a feat worthy of our admiration.

I see the New Zealand Disability Support Network as a spotlight shining the way forward. Quite rightly you aspire to deliver services that will support disabled people in their resolve to get up each day and live their life fully.

The theme of your conference, Live the Day, encapsulates this ambition.

It is such a wonderful theme – the message that when we rise every morning, let us embrace the privilege of our lives – to be able to laugh, to think, to breathe, to cry, to love. Let us live the day – to choose the kind of day that we will have – to cherish the gift of life we are given each and every day.

The Christchurch earthquake has left every New Zealander realising that nothing is more important than getting up each day and living life to the full. Every life is precious and in times of great distress we are reminded that what we truly value is the people around us; our whanau and our community.

If there is one thing that has come through clearly to me over these last weeks is just how blessed I am to have my whanau – our families are our most natural supports; they provide us with the best circle of friends we could ever hope for.

But what we have also seen in great force, has been the incredible response of providers, NGOs and community groups in supporting families at this time of such crisis.

Like many New Zealanders, I have watched in awe at the way people and providers from Christchurch and around the country have rallied to support the people they care for, the people they work with and for and the people they share their days with.

It is humbling to see you locate clients and provide services in the most difficult of circumstances. We know you have worked incredibly hard to ensure everything can be done to support people despite an extremely difficult situation.

You have made all New Zealanders proud. We know that you will continue to provide the best service possible even in the middle of one of the worst natural disasters New Zealand has ever known.

And it is only appropriate, that as we think today, on this national day of mourning, that we reflect on the outstanding contribution so many people have made, to provide the support needed to Live Each Day.

It encourages us all to reflect on that contribution, and to ask ourselves, will someone’s life be brighter tomorrow because of what you have done today.

Your organisations play a vital role in making sure disabled people live their life fully. The partnership you develop with disabled people and their families is essential in our responsibility as a nation, to act in ways consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

One of the Network’s objectives is to provide a strong voice to government on matters of common interest. This is of particular value when we have to deal with difficult and complex issues.
We need to be able to listen to each other; to talk together, and to see if we are making the most of every opportunity to ensure our society is an inclusive one, in which disabled persons have every opportunity to belong, to make decisions about their lives, to achieve the milestones they set for themselves.

I recently met with the Coalition – a group of five national organisations: Disabled Persons Assembly, Standards and Monitoring Service, Standards Plus, Parent to Parent; and People First.

They put to me a simple question. What will it take to ensure everyone can live in our society?

And in impressive fashion….they provided me with an answer – “You never resort to the ‘special’ until you have exhausted the ordinary”.

I really loved that concept. Let us ‘mainstream’ inclusion – universalise the concept of inclusion so that all people have every opportunity to participate.

What will it take?

Increasingly I believe the solution you have come up with is an important answer to this question.

It’s all about the connections.

As a Government we are aiming to provide a comprehensive and consistent response to disability issues. This is why Government has set up the Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues.

We want our Ministers with portfolio responsibilities that involve disabled people to work closely together – and across their portfolios - on a single action plan.

This means government agencies need to better focus their activity and policy development on what makes a real difference in disabled people's lives. To do this we must work smarter and collectively on common areas rather than separately.

The Ministerial Committee is developing a Disability Action Plan with three key areas based on what disabled people have said are important issues to them.
These areas are:
• supports for living — how Government funding aligns with the Ministry of Health's new model for disability supports
• mobility and access — what Government can do to enable disabled people to move around their community and access the built environment
• jobs — what government can do to promote disabled people getting into paid work.

Your organisations are deeply involved in these priority areas, and I am interested to hear your views.

I have also appreciated your feedback during the public consultation on the draft First Report on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We will consider the First Report by the end of March.

As part of our progress I am looking forward to reporting on the difference made by the Convention Coalition which works to ensure the voice of disabled persons is an integral part of the monitoring. “Nothing about us, without us”.

Government has also increased funding to the Office of the Ombudsmen and the Human Rights Commission to promote, protect and monitor the Conventions implementation.

Finally, I want to draw our attention to the work around attitudes and behaviour towards disabled persons and their families.

The New Zealand Disability Strategy concluded that sometimes the combination of attitudes and behaviours can seem to create almost insurmountable barriers. As you are all well aware, work on the campaign to improve the attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people is well underway.

We now have two primary funding channels:

• a national strategic partnership with organisations to develop and implement projects that will increase access to employment, education and goods and services;
• a “Making a Difference Fund” for local, community-based initiatives that are collaborative and have support from across the community.

We are at an important point in our journey.

This is our time, to consider how we embrace different ways of thinking; to reflect on whether what we are doing is really making the difference that disabled persons are seeking.

Are we working in ways to help disabled persons enjoy the little things in life – knowing full well that one day they may well look back and realise they were the big things?

Are we doing all that we can to ensure disabled persons Live the Day that they want? It is, perhaps, the most important challenge that all of us face in front of us.

Tena tatou katoa


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