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Convention Coalition’s Launch: Disablity Rights in Aotearoa

Hon Tariana Turia
Minister for Disability Issues

Wednesday 4 December 2013 SPEECH

Grand Hall, Parliament Buildings, Wellington

Convention Coalition’s Launch: Disablity Rights in Aotearoa

I want to firstly acknowledge my colleague Mojo Mathers and also Rose Wall, Health and Disability Commissioner, Paul Gibson, Disability Rights Commissioner with the Human Rights Commission and Dame Beverley Wakem, our Ombudsman.

It feels good to be amongst friends. I want to recognise those in this room who have played such a key role in bringing this report to fruition.

I welcome representation from right across the disability community, disability sector organisations, government officials and families and friends.

I am particularly delighted to welcome Mary Schnackenberg, Chair of the New Zealand Convention Coalition Monitoring Group and Mark Berry who will summarise report findings.

Your insights, your leadership and your strategies are all the more illuminating because of the skills and expertise of the report authors Pam MacNeill and Dr Huhana Hickey.

I offer our special thanks to the project participants and the monitors who conducted the interviews.

Each of you play a critical role in creating an inclusive society. Thank you for your ongoing commitment way beyond the call of duty.

We have come together to launch a report about the experiences of disabled youth in Aotearoa.

There are a couple of reasons why this launch is so significant .

The first is that this report represents another key achievement of the Convention Coalition.

The Coalition comprises a three way partnership between the Office of the Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commission, and the Convention Coalition.

Their key task is keeping watch on how the Disabilities Convention is being implemented, helping to keep government agencies on track and ensuring that progress builds and commitment does not diminish.

As one part of the project, the Convention Coalition has the responsibility of ensuring disabled people are represented around the table with the Ministerial Committee and the Chief Executives’ Group in reviewing progress.

I am really proud of our support of the United Nations Disability Convention. We have involved disabled people’s organisations in its development. We included disabled people in the Government group that went to the United Nations. It is a vital foundation for the way we are to travel forward. All of you will know my view – that Government will only get it right if we listen to what disabled people’s representative organisations tell us – and most of all that we listen to the voices of disabled persons at every stage of the journey.

Article 7 of The Disability Convention sets a clear challenge that states “Parties shall take all necessary measures to ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children.”

This brings me to the second key feature of this report – and that is that it is the first of its kind; to present the views of young people in their own words, in their own way.

This report provides real and authentic information on disabled people’s individual experiences of their rights. Findings from interviews with twenty-seven young people aged sixteen to twenty-five years, provide us with a vivid snapshot of everyday life through their eyes.

All of those interviewed were mainstreamed in regular schools, some with intensive teacher aide support. At the time of interview, most were attending a day activity of some sort and two were working full time.

This report helps us to learn about the long-term impact of mainstreaming. Almost to a person, most of those interviewed enjoyed using social media to catch up with their friends – and also appreciated the use of technology throughout their education.

They like having access to recreation, they valued the support from family and friends and most spoke of good treatment from medical practitioners and access to advice and information from disability and other providers.

There were however, some really disturbing findings of life at school which I believe provide us all with some important challenges.

Young people who had experienced great teacher aide support at school felt isolated from their peers by the constant presence of an adult.

Those who needed physical support with self-care tasks, were prevented from carrying out the usual milestones of their age group - meeting a mate, becoming independent from their families and starting their own adult life.

Instead of doing what they most wanted when they wanted – these young people felt frustrated by the fact that they had to be home at the time the care worker could come to provide the service.

But one of the findings which I found most upsetting was that despite the adult presence in their mainstream education, many reported incidences of bullying at school and beyond.

The story of Sacha was a particularly sobering read.

Her story reflected on issues relating to teasing and enforced isolation at school, difficulties in making social connections outside the residential facility and challenges with public transport – challenges which I hasten to suggest keep happening far too frequently.

Another young person in the report – Jay – told of negative experiences with public transport and described in full the issues arising from a desire for independent living.

This last theme – the transition from school to adulthood, hopes for paid employment, experiences with further study at polytechnic and beyond, the limitations of the youth wage, difficulties with appropriate and accessible housing – gives us a critical platform for better understanding how we can improve the lives of disabled young people at this key stepping stone into their future.

You might be aware that Budget 2013 provided three years’ funding to setup a demonstration in Christchurch to test the Enabling Good Lives approach.

It is starting with some disabled youth leaving school at the end of this year to try out more individualised and flexible ways of providing supports. The demonstration will grow in numbers over the next two years. I am really hopeful that the findings of your report will help us to get it right and quicker.

If there is one clear conclusion from the experiences in this report, it is that access barriers or other people’s negative and demeaning attitudes presented challenges to our young people and often every day.

It shouldn’t have to be this way.

It does however remind us that we are still on our journey to creating a non-disabling society that was the vision stated in the New Zealand Disability Strategy twelve years ago.

In the last couple of years, we have laid the ground work for really exciting initiatives that are starting to bear fruit.

The Think Differently Campaign is promoting positive attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people. It has been funding some national partnerships with disability sector organisations, as well as funding for community projects around the country, that in many different ways are encouraging social change to happen.

We know that at the heart of these changes, individuals need to understand the impact of their attitude and behaviour on disabled people.

Your report paints that picture in clear and unequivocal terms.

I want to thank everyone involved for the stories you have shared and the experiences you have given words to in the hope that it will make a difference.

I am in no doubt that this report will indeed make the difference required – and will lead to a transformation not just of the disability support system as we know it – but also in terms of the impacts on our families, our communities, and most importantly for young people themselves.

Tena tatou katoa.


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