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T4T High Tea for World Down Syndrome Day

Hon Tariana Turia

Minister for Disability Issues

Tuesday 18 March 2014

T4T High Tea for World Down Syndrome Day

Grand Hall - Parliament Buildings - Wellington

Disability Commissioner, Paul Gibson - Your President, Shelley Waters, National Executive Officer, Zandra Vaccarino, members and supporters of the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association.

My parliamentary colleagues, distinguished guests, friends, family and people with Down Syndrome.

When I think about the ritual of high tea images of tiered cake stands - fine-bone china, dainty sandwiches, lace doilies and fancy pastries come to mind.

But the other day I read a quote about a simple cup of tea – and I just have to share it:

“Tea is wealth itself because there is nothing that cannot be lost, no problem that will not disappear, no burden that will not float away, between the first sip and the last.”

And I thought that after all, this high tea celebration is a perfect metaphor for our mission to inspire positive attitudes around the rights and inclusion of people with Down Syndrome.

The Third World Down Syndrome Day Conference that will take place in New York later this week will promote the theme ‘Health and Wellbeing – Access and Equality for all.’

I want to pay tribute to the Down Syndrome Association here in New Zealand for the dedicated commitment you have made towards this exact theme for the past 33 years.

As Minister of Disability Issues I have been so inspired by the attitude and actions you have taken in addressing the societal barriers that we know still exist for far too many disabled people.

I believe the only way we can make progress is with the combined efforts of everyone - disabled people, their whanau, government, communities.

The Think Differently campaign is about encouraging a shift in attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people. It is about focusing on what people can do, rather than what they can’t.

Today our High Tea is also a great occasion to especially celebrate three people who live by the Can Do philosophy.

During the course of this afternoon we will be recognising three exceptional young leaders with national achievement awards:
· Christopher Tavite from Dunedin,
· Chris Whitmore from Taranaki and
· Katrina Sneath from Wellington.

Their stories are compelling – each of our three leaders have taken up a huge range of activities with breath-taking enthusiasm. What I love about these three young people is that not only are we celebrating their achievements, but we also know they will have an impact as role-models for others whose lives they touch.

The Association recognises the importance of learning from life – and their kit, Let’s Plan for the Future is an excellent resource for assisting parents, families, professionals and future employers with the knowledge, the information and importantly the inspiration to support the journey from school to full participation in life.

The kit reminds us that we can all play a role in promoting opportunities for people with Down Syndrome in our community.

Someone who knew a great deal about making a more inclusive community, is also being honoured tonight.

At this ‘T4T’ we are presenting the inaugural Val Sturgess Memorial Award to recognise the work of a remarkable volunteer.

Volunteering is the ultimate demonstration of a democracy in action.

As we begin the countdown to the General Election, I think we should all remember that while we vote in elections every three years, when we volunteer, we vote every day about the type of community we want to live in.

The Val Sturgess Memorial Award is a fitting tribute to the life of a very special volunteer, a woman who to her last days was meticulous in her attention to detail, a passionate and dedicated advocate and a true champion for the community.

Finally I want to make mention of the clever symbolism of this T4T event.

Tea 4 Trisomy 21 refers to the third copy of chromosome 21 and the date of World Down Syndrome day. It is a unique way to recognise the triplication of the 21st chromosome through a high profile tea party.

On the 21st March - just a couple of days away – all across the world people will link into the website: www.worlddownsyndromeday.org and share the unique ways in which they are contributing to the global voice, of advocating for the rights, inclusion and wellbeing of people with Down Syndrome.

I therefore encourage all of you over tea this afternoon, to share what it is that you can do, to strengthen the global voice, to raise awareness and to celebrate the people we know and love.

Tena tatou katoa.


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