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Making disability rights real - Speech

Hon Tariana Turia
Minister for Disability Issues

3 December 2012; 6pm

Launch of Making disability rights real. Whakatūturu ngā Tika Hauatanga, the Annual report of the Independent Monitoring Mechanism of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 1 July 2011 – 30 June 2012

West Foyer, Executive Wing, Parliament Buildings; Wellington

I want to firstly acknowledge our impressive MCs - Ruth Jones, Kanohi ki te Kanohi Consultancy and Duncan Armstrong, from People First. There are also some key movers and shakers who should be recognised upfront on this important day:

· Paul Gibson, our Disability Rights Commissioner

· Dame Beverley Wakem, Ombudsman

· and Rachel Noble, Chair, Convention Coalition of Disabled People’s Organisations.

I welcome here to parliament, people from right across the disability community; disability sector organisation representatives; government agency representatives; fellow Members of Parliament; families and friends; and the media.

Each of you play a critical role in creating an inclusive society; and I thank you for your commitment in being with us tonight.

Tonight, we are leading the world in celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2012.

While the World Clock distinguishes us as literally one of the first countries to mark this international day, our recent history would also demonstrate our leading edge in striving to create a climate of inclusion.

Our story must always recall that New Zealand took a leading role in the development of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which gives voice, visibility and legitimacy to disabled people and their families.

During 2003 through to 2007, through the efforts of the New Zealand Mission, the Office of Disability Issues and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, New Zealand had a very high profile in the development of the Convention.

This was strengthened by Don Mackay who showed both outstanding leadership and ability in chairing the meetings at the United Nations; and Robert Martin, who led the development of the modern self-advocacy movement in New Zealand and was one of the first disabled persons to speak to a United Nations forum.

We must learn from this legacy of leadership and do all that we can to continue to question, to debate, and to be part of a conversation about enabling those with disabilities to live a good life.

In addressing the theme for this year, removing barriers to create an inclusive society for all I want to reiterate that the most significant issue confronting those with a disability is the attitude of wider society and the systems that exist, who fail to recognise the amazing determination of this community to be trusted to know what is best for themselves.

Barriers can take many forms: the physical environment or information and communication technology, or those resulting from legislation or policy, or what is often the most difficult to confront - entrenched societal attitudes or discrimination. But confront it we must.

All of us here know that when barriers to inclusion are removed, and disabled people are empowered to participate fully in the life of society, the entire community benefits.

Changing attitudes leads to social change, and who best to champion social change than those who have been most impacted by the attitudes of a disabling society.

All these areas are covered powerfully in Making disability rights real. Whakatūturu ngā Tika Hauatanga.

I want to sincerely thank the three partners of the Monitoring Mechanism for producing their first joint report as part of their commitment to promote, protect and monitor the Disability Convention. Each of the three independent and equal parties of the Monitoring Mechanism has had a key role in creating change:

· the Human Rights Commission has a broad role across promotion, protection and monitoring of the Convention

· the Office of the Ombudsman has a specific role in the areas of protection and monitoring of the conduct of agencies in the state sector

· the Convention Coalition of Disabled People’s Organisations provides the civil society component, particularly the direct experience of disabled people.

By working together, the Monitoring Mechanism is modelling the joint approach that we - Government, disabled people and their families, and the rest of society – will need to give life to the UN Convention.

Each of the three parties has in common their independence from government control, and their credibility with disabled people and civil society in general. As such, they are able to articulate disabled people’s concerns to Government. This is a critical step towards working together to find solutions to those concerns.

The Monitoring Mechanism’s work will help to keep us on track.

Making disability rights real. Whakatūturu ngā Tika Hauatanga helps us to identify the barriers that still exist and to present a strong challenge to us all to make our vision of a better world for all people, including disabled people, a reality.

The Monitoring Mechanism’s report focuses on developing a baseline picture of the current state of disabled people’s rights in New Zealand. The report’s overall assessment is that:

· very few government agencies fully understand their responsibilities under the Disability Convention. Collaboration with disabled people, a whole of government approach and a systematic working towards agreed goals are mostly absent in government responses;

· the lack of good information comparing outcomes for disabled people and non-disabled people makes it very difficult for the monitoring mechanism to carry out its functions;

· capacity building is required to enable both government agencies and Disabled People’s Organisations to be involved in joint decision-making processes.

These are really important challenges, which I am determined we as a Government can and must address.

Taking action is a responsibility we can all share – employers and business leaders, parents and politicians, neighbours and whānau. This will take commitment. It will take courage. But it must not take inordinate amounts of time – we need to get it right now, for the wellbeing of future generations.

Of course I want to ensure we get better value from the funding we invest. But I also believe that if and when Government agencies work more closely together, then we will achieve much better quality of life outcomes for disabled people and their families.

A major focus for me is the vision we have been promoting through the Enabling Good Lives approach. Under this approach, people with disabilities are supported to plan and achieve the life they want, doing everyday things in everyday places in their communities.

As part of this, we need to change our disability support system to enable good lives: to give disabled people and their whānau more choice and control over their supports.

The Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues has asked the Ministries of Social Development, Health, and Education to develop a proposal to demonstrate this approach to disability support and services in the first part of 2013. I am greatly looking forward to the progress we can make.

Achieving this vision will be a challenge but there is a clear set of principles about the nature of support in place which drives us forward, and they include:

· self-determination

· early investment in families

· person-centred supports

· supported access to mainstream services

· mana enhancing: respect for disabled people’s contribution

· supports are simple to use and flexible

· supports build relationships between disabled people, their whānau and community.

I want to thank the three partners to the Monitoring Mechanism for your work in creating a credible community of leadership around accessibility and inclusion.

Can be and can do are the attitudes that we should all aspire to. We need positive action from everyone who believes in possibility rather than disability.

To be an inclusive society we must be bold and develop the same attitudes that prevail amongst the disabled – we must ensure by our actions that we trust in disabled persons being able to be the authors of their own solutions.

Thank you for taking the time to be with us tonight; to make disability rights real; and to sign up to a future in which disabled persons can live independently and enjoy full inclusion in their communities.

Through our collective efforts, I know we are well on the way to making New Zealand the most accessible place in the world. Tēnā tātou katoa.


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