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Speech: Turia - Parent to Parent New Zealand conference

Hon Tariana Turia
Minister for Disability Issues

Saturday 3 November 2012 SPEECH

Parent to Parent New Zealand conference;
West Plaza Hotel, Wellington
“Going Forward”

[delivered on her behalf by Dr Jan Scown]

I want to firstly acknowledge your patron, Rob Hamill; your President, Peter Campbell, your Chief Executive Anne Wilkinson; your board and the membership represented at this forum today, or at home.

I am disappointed that I am unable to be with you at such an important event in your annual calendar.

I had one message in mind.

And that is to thank you for your commitment; your dedication and your passion in fulfilling the most challenging occupation in our lives – that of a parent.

None of us are born parents. There is no selection criteria; no pre-service training; no professional development which equips us for this most rewarding and most agonizing of roles.

In today’s world there is, of course, a massive body of self-help literature which can ease the way into parenting. And so it is that I looked at one of these manuals – the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey.

Mr Covey provides this source of advice:

“Good families – even great families – are off track 90 percent of the time. The key is that they have a sense of destination. They know what the track looks like. And they keep coming back to it from time and time again”.

At your conference this year, you are focusing on your collective track – and the journey going forward.

But each of you come to this association with your own experiences; your own histories; your own challenges.

Together, you have united on a single theme : looking forward, new and better lives for our family members – knowing full well that the only certainty in going forward is perpetual uncertainty.

You can never know what is around the corner – but you can be sure of having a sense of destination – the happiness and peace of mind for your whānau.

As your Minister – but more importantly as a mother; a grandmother; and a great grandmother – there is nothing more important to me, than supporting our parents to have great families.

Sometimes we worry so much about what our children will become tomorrow; that we forget just how important today is.

I hope that these two days together, will assist you, your families and communities in being able to enjoy the little things in life – knowing full well that one day we may well look back and realise just how big they were.

The miracle of all our children is that none of us know exactly how they will change, or what that will become.

But we do know, we want everything for them, today and tomorrow. Our adult sons will always be our little boy; our daughters may be mothers themselves, but to us they are still our baby girls.

It’s not rocket science. But it is a universal aspiration that no matter what hardship; what pain; what despair we may feel; we must hold it together as parents, to enable our children to have a good life.

The key to all this as parents – is to know that there is always support for us – whether it be in Parent to Parent New Zealand; our neighbours; our whānau and family members.

No-one should stand alone. We need each to be strong together in order to make the difference for all our children.

You shouldn’t have to wait until you are in crisis for that support to be in place.

That is why the driving force in my work as Disabilities Minister is to support people with disabilities living the life they want to live.

I have a vision in which disabled people exercise choice and control over who provides them with support; what that support is; and when it occurs.

We call this vision Enabling Good Lives.

And I want to acknowledge your Chief Executive, Anne Wilkinson, and Board Member Charmeyne Te Nana-Williams who were part of the team who wrote the Enabling Good Lives report.

Last year I asked this team – an independent working group of disability sector representatives – a simple question. What would it take to have a good life? What support should Government be providing to families? What services – if any – were required?

The group came back and told me a new approach was needed. They told me that disabled people and families want supports that :

• Are self-directed and give them choice and control over their lives

• Take a whole-of-life approach rather than have their supports split between different programmes;

• Support them to live an everyday life in everyday places;

• Are mana enhancing;

• Build and strengthen relationships between disabled people, their whānau and families.

I have to say I was tremendously excited about the work of this group.

They reinforced to me the importance of disabled people and their families have choice and control; being able to build connections; recognising the role of families in making our lives richer; being our primary advocates; making sure we can live the life we want to live.

They also proposed that we pool funding from across agencies so that the person and their whānau can plan for all aspects of their lives.

It simply doesn’t make sense to restrict our support to say a particular day service when what you actually most want to do is have a job.

So – looking forward – how are we going to make this work?

We’ve been trying out these ideas in different places around Aotearoa.

In Canterbury, we asked disabled peoples, families and service providers who they could implement Enabling Good Lives in their community. It’s actually the perfect location – that community has been given the opportunity to see their city in new eyes – and I am really looking forward to seeing this approach improve the quality of life.

In Wellington, we’ve focused more on how to empower parents to develop a better life for their children after school.

And in Waikato, we are working to see how service contracts can be more flexible to support ‘facilitation based support’ – that is to help people think about what a good life means in their circumstance.

There is also a project in the Bay of Plenty which comprises; local area coordination; a new funding allocation process; greater availability of flexible contracting; individualised funding and improved accountability arrangements.

Of course, all of these words can seem just like good ideas in print – without you as parents telling me how they work in practice.

And I want to really encourage you to share your ideas with me; to let me know what are the key things you need to be even more fabulous parents;

Next year you will be celebrating thirty years as an organisation. It will be interesting to reflect on how things have changed; whether the dreams you had in 1983 have yet been realised.

One of your board members, Charmeyne Te Nana-Williams, never ceases to surprise me with her energy; her vitality and her constant creativity that drives her organisation forward, “whatever it takes”.

It is a wonderful message – whatever it takes to show our children how strong they are; how beautiful; how precious.

I read a quote the other day which made me think about our education system – but also about our homes, and our communities – the ways in which we raise our children. “If a child cannot learn in the way we teach….we must teach in a way the child can learn”.

It is such a simple statement but profound in terms of recognising diversity; understanding that we can do whatever it takes to support our families to be the very best that they can be; to live a great life.

Finally, I want to share the words of a very short little poem which represents to me, that sense of destination that Stephen Covey talks about – our aspirations for our children.

Only as high as I reach can I grow
Only as far as I seek can I go
Only as deep as I look can I see
Only as much as I dream can I be.

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