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CCS Disability Action: The Gathering

CCS Disability Action: The Gathering
Thursday 29th November 2012; 1.30pm
Jean Batten Ballroom, Holiday Inn, Auckland
Hon Tariana Turia, Minister of Disability Issues

I was delighted to receive the invitation from David Matthews, your Chief Executive; and Kim Willetts, your National President to attend ‘the Gathering’ with I was told over 150 people from right across the disability sector.

The concept of the Gathering has a particularly unique meaning for Aotearoa.

One of our first gatherings was held high on top of Canaan Downs in the New Year of 1996/97 and attracted some four thousand New Zealanders to a fantastic outdoor dance event. Five years later, it had become an annual fixture; featuring in Oprah Winfrey’s top ten things to do in the Millennium, attracting people from all over the world to a festival of music and dance to suit every niche. Its core message was Unity through Diversity.

Another series of Gatherings took place in Owhango in the middle of the North Island. These events were characterised as a series of spiritual back to nature festivals, focusing on holistic health, alternative medicine and an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

And so I had high expectations of what I might expect at this, your Gathering.

Would I be expected to be prepared with a dazzling rumba or salsa dance routine? Should I have brought my yoga mat? I have to admit to some relief that the greatest challenge that might face me is the creative gymnastics I understand you have been engaged in over these two days.

But the essential message remains the same – how do we ensure we include all people – how do we promote inclusivity as a badge of pride?

I was really impressed by the scope of the two questions that your gathering has addressed:

• How can we work more creatively to ensure disabled people with high support needs have the lives they want and live in and are connected their community?
• How can we ensure that young people with high support needs have a far wider range of options for living in and being connected with their community?

Both questions require us to be bold, to be proactive; to dare to think differently.

I want to start with the second question first. How do we ensure that all of our young people keep alive their inborn sense of wonder – that feeling of being invincible; that nothing can stop them?

If you watch our babies taking their first steps; reaching out to grasp the world, they do so with an unbridled sense of their own potential. They don’t feel the fear – until they see it in our eyes.

You might know that phrase, ‘the world is your oyster’.

If we consider each of our children the most exquisite pearl in the ocean, we will ensure that life is full of richness for them. They can do or achieve anything they want in life, because they will have the ability, the opportunity and the freedom to do so, and to control their life.

I have drawn from this concept and applied it to the Government’s vision that all people with disabilities will have greater choice and control over their lives, and be able to make more use of natural and universally available supports.

It is, if you like, the world is your oyster policy – better known as Enabling Good Lives. If all the good things to be found in an oyster are symbolic of the good things to be had in this world, then they should be yours to hold and be enjoyed.

This then, is what I understand your Gathering Programme has addressed – how do initiatives such as individualised funding, or Choice in Community Living as piloted in Auckland and in Waikato – lead towards enabling good lives?

I am so pleased to hear your learning has been based around several stories being shared. Stories have power.
They delight, inspire, teach, enchant, motivate, challenge. They paint a picture. I truly believe that storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.

I really support the focus that CCS Disability Action has given to the Article 19 Project – When every voice is heard.

This project, based on article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons, promotes the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others.

In this sense, the research project that CCS Disability Action commissioned the Donald Beasley Institute to conduct into the lived experiences of disabled people who have high and complex needs forms a vital platform for our work going forward.

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. It is about leading the lives they want to live.

It is about feeling included, and being able to contribute to our community.

So what does the ‘world is your oyster’ approach to policy look like?

Enabling good lives will be driven by some principles which will help to keep us on track to progress our vision. These are;
• Self-determination;
• Early investment in families/whānau;
• Person-centred supports
• Supported access to mainstream services
• Resect for disabled people’s contribution
• Supports are simple to use and flexible
• Supports build relationship between disabled people, their whānau and community.

The Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues, which I chair, has asked the Ministries of Education, Social Development and Health to craft up a proposal to demonstrate the Enabling Good Lives approach to disability support and services.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how this project can make practical changes and provide valuable information about how the approach will work, what supports success, and how to bed the changes in right across the disability support system.

Another piece of work we are progress is to ensure a strong start for families and disabled children from birth to six years old. This involves ACC, working along the Ministries of Education and Health to develop options to better integrate support for families. I have asked for some urgency around this work, with policy options and recommendations for action to be delivered to Ministers by the end of February 2013.

There is a lot happening –as you will have discussed throughout this gathering. Enhanced Individualised Funding is about to go live in the Bay of Plenty.

Choice in Community Living is underway in Auckland and Waikato – basically supporting people to live in a home of their own rather than being restricted to residential services as their only option.

I am really pleased to know that CCS Disability Action Act has been contracted to be a Choice in Community Living Provider – and I look forward to hearing about your experience in this scheme.

I am really passionate about people living in their own homes and communities; being able to reconnect with their families; being able to participate in te Ao Māori; living a good life based on what that means to them.

It is about disabled people being in the driver’s seat in their lives. It is about ensuring that passion and commitment to build a better life is intact.

Of course we know it takes time, trust, commitment and a belief that we can do better.

The most important lesson for us all is to hold the vision – to believe it is possible. It does not mean more money; it means thinking about things differently – being creative, doing what it takes.

This is where I understand you have come to, in the focus of this Gathering, why we are here today.

My challenge to you – is what is your contribution to making every option available to children and families with disabilities?

How do we make every pearl priceless; every one’s world expanded to enable the lives we want; the support we need; and the connections that help to make us thrive.

I thank you for your commitment and your dedication to informing the conversation we must have about future possibilities for people with disabilities.

ENDS

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