NZ Down Syndrome Association, World Down Syndrome Day
Hon Tariana Turia
Minister for Disability Issues
Thursday 21 March 2013 10.30am
Syndrome Association, World Down Syndrome Day
Government House, Wellington
E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga karangatanga maha, tena koutou katoa.
His Excellency, The Governor- General, Sir Jerry Mateparae, tena koe. Paul Gibson, Commissioner for Disability Issues - tena hoki koe.
Te Ati Awa e noho nei ki Te Whanganui a Tara, tena
The New Zealand Down Syndrome Association, ki a koutou katoa tena tatou.
I want to thank Shelley Waters, your President, for her invitation to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day with you. A day where we can all acknowledge the diverse range of achievements, celebrate the gifts and recognise the efforts of you all.
This is a very special occasion to pay tribute to the valuable work that whanau, the community and the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association undertake to support people to live a great life.
I have a vision that Aotearoa New Zealand can be a truly inclusive nation – a country in which no one is left out.
As Minister of Disability Issues it is my responsibility to do everything possible to influence attitudes and behaviours to become an enabling society, rather than a ‘disabling’ society. By this I mean a nation that values the lives and continually enhances the full participation of those who live with disability.
I don’t need to tell you that people who live with Down syndrome are active contributing members of our society with diverse achievements and abilities - and our communities need to be more inclusive by providing the same opportunities in every sphere to attend their local school, to join in community events and to be employed, to be all that they want to be.
People often tell me it is not their disability that is the problem, but rather it is the way disability is viewed by others. There are changes that start with a simple conversation about how we can all have a good life, to be able to imagine better.
It takes a whole community to enable people to participate on an equal basis with others and we should trust the families and those with personal experience to know best what is important to them. It is all our responsibility to remove any barriers. And I am including attitudes and behaviours within this. It is about having the gall to think differently; to be truly accessible.
The challenge for all of us is to ask ourselves what more can we be doing to ensure equal opportunities for all.
We must be careful to not merely change the language to look as if we are committed to change without making real meaningful changes in the way we operate.
You have set the benchmark for us through your initiative and innovation in establishing STRIVE.
The word strive conjures up an amazing array of images – it is about doing one’s utmost; going after gold, leaving no stone unturned, dedicating yourself to an endeavour; taking on the world, living up to your aspirations; setting your sights high; having a sense of purpose; striving to succeed.
And look what you’ve achieved already.
Today is a red-letter today in the history of the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association – because it is the day in which people are speaking up to have a voice in the organisation instead of others speaking on their behalf.
Congratulations to the magnificent recipients of the three national achievement awards. You are inspirational and are true role models for us all.
I want to acknowledge all of the young people who have made STRIVE possible and to recognise all your friends and family around you. There is nothing better in my mind than to be in the company of champions – and I thank you for that opportunity you have given me today.
Tena ra koutou katoa.