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Fourth National Disability Conference

Hon Tariana Turia

Minister of Disability Issues

2 July 2014

Health and Disability Commissioner Fourth National Disability Conference, 2 July 2014, Alexandra Park, Auckland

I am so very pleased to have the opportunity to join you again.

Thank you, Henare Mason and Ngāti Whatua, for the warmth of your welcome to us all.

I congratulate the Deputy Commissioner Disability, Rose Wall and the Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill for this excellent initiative. From the look of your programme there are some fabulous features of this day ahead.

I am so looking forward to hearing from Hinewehi Mohi and Carol White of Raukatauri Music Therapy Trust. Hinewehi’s daughter Hineraukatauri and the beautiful evocative waiata that bears her name always represent to me the audacity to dare to dream, to expect a wonderful life. Thank you Hinewehi for your powerful advocacy for your daughter, for people with disabilities and their whānau and for Raukatauri music therapy.

We are also in the company of some award-winner New Zealanders: Robyn Hunt - 2013 Winner of the Supreme Attitude Award delivers keynote speech – and Rachel Noble, who was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her contribution to the disability sector are just two of the stars lined up in this conference today.

Much has happened since I opened your first National Disability Conference in 2010.

We have much to celebrate – but also much to anticipate in terms of the expectations we should continue to have about enjoying a very different future for disabled New Zealanders.

I am so inspired by the theme you set for your conference: “How do we all raise the volume of the unheard voice?” I am conscious of the two people outside this room who have come to mourn people they have lost. They have the courage to stand outside today and I heard their voices today.

And in light of that theme I want to return to the first and last verses of Maya Angelou’s classic poem, Caged Bird.

A free bird leaps on the back of the wind

and floats downstream till the current ends

and dips his wing in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill

of things unknown but longed for still

and his tune is heard on the distant hill

for the caged bird sings of freedom.

That poem speaks to me so clearly about the daily challenges that disabled people and families face in living their lives and their universal desire to dare to claim the sky.

Disabled persons have told me, in every day that I have had the privilege of serving you, that they do not want to be restrained or restricted by the cages of a disabling society.

They tell me they long for things unknown, to dip their wing in the orange sun rays, to enjoy the greatest lives possible to live.

It was clear to me when I became the Minister that despite everything government agencies were doing, too many disabled people and families were saying it was simply not enough.

They told me that they did not want to surrender all their independence and control to disabled persons organisations to speak on their behalf either.

They want a people-driven system in which the needs and priorities of disabled persons are at the fore. In essence this is about reflecting that common measure of accountability - nothing about us, without us.

As Minister I have been determined to support real change happening that reaches disabled people in their everyday life.

We have started on a journey, but we need to keep the momentum going. I really encourage disabled people and families to keep holding government agencies to account so that we can ensure that the good work we have will deliver real change.

I do want to just remind ourselves of all that has been achieved in the long term strategy for change.

Enabling Good Lives has been such an exciting approach in being totally driven by outcomes for disabled people.

In 2010, I asked a group of leaders from the disability sector to take a blank piece of paper and come back to me with what daytime supports for disabled people should look like. They developed a vision for the whole system and said “This is what fundamentally needs to change to create good lives for disabled people and one of the underpinning principles is that disabled people and their families have greater choice and control over their supports and over their lives. That means they can decide for themselves what would work best for them to meet their aspirations.

The fact that Enabling Good Lives has come from the community, not from the government, is crucial.

Having said that, I’ve also been heartened by the strong support of my Ministerial colleagues in endorsing this approach.

In Christchurch, where the demonstration has been going for a year now, we already have a group of school-leavers who are starting to try new things with the opportunities offered by more flexible joined-up government funding.

It is just so moving to hear the stories of our young people leaving school and embracing the transition, not fearing it.

The new Waikato demonstration is an opportunity to try the Enabling Good Lives approach in quite a different context from Christchurch.

There is still a long way to go, but Enabling Good Lives is providing the direction. It’s important to me that it has been driven by disabled people, families and providers. That means, importantly, that it is going to continue beyond me.

The second key highlight is the Think Differently Campaign to promote positive attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people.

Budget 2010 provided $3.0 million over three years to invest in taking a social change approach to encourage thinking differently about disabled people. We extended the funding in Budget 2013 to $6 million over two years.

The campaign focuses on four key areas of change:
· access to goods and services
· employment
· increasing the belief of parents, family and friends in the ability of disabled people.
· supporting projects involving disabled Māori and Pacific people.

I have to say that I don’t see many Māori or Pacific people in this room. Is that the other unheard voices? I want to hear their voices too. They are represented in the numbers. They come to my table in small numbers and they need to be supported to be included.

The third highlight has been a new way of working together to set priorities via the new Disability Action Plan.

Truly, I am impressed at how government agencies stepped up and fully embraced a collaborative approach with the seven lead Disabled People’s Organisations, including DPA.

The result, is a clear vision of achieving equal rights of citizenship.

There are five person-driven outcomes that represent what disabled people say matters the most to them - with four shared result areas where Ministers expect to see progress happen over the next four years. These result areas provide consistent direction to government agencies.

The value and richness gained from having the lived experience of disability represented directly to government agencies in the start of policy development is very clear to me.

A new action in the Disability Action Plan, is to do with the issues impacting on disabled people’s exercise of their legal capacity consistent with Article 12 of the Convention.

Article 12 is fundamental to realising many other rights, and reflects the shift in thinking of disabled people from being passive recipients of services to citizens with rights and the ability to act.

The area of legal capacity is a challenge globally.

Many other countries look enviously at New Zealand and what we can do when we put our minds to something. We need to do more.

As an example, People First’s Easy Read individual employment agreement places us on the world map.

In this context, I want to also praise the great work that has occurred through the independent monitoring mechanism which includes the Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Convention Coalition Monitoring, a group of Disabled People’s Organisations.

And I was just delighted that at the 2014 Conference of State Parties to the Convention, held in New York I announced that New Zealand has nominated Robert Martin for the 2016 election for the 2017-2020 term for the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Robert has a learning disability and has a long-standing commitment to the rights of disabled people, particularly those with learning disability. His willingness to put himself forward, and be very visible in the process, is a clear demonstration that it is time to think differently about disability.

There was a very positive reception to Robert’s nomination. I believe this is a demonstration of the strong message in the Convention of enabling all disabled people to participate on an equal basis with others. I wish all the best for Robert’s campaign over the next two years, as he seeks the support of other States for the 2016 election. Ka nui te mihi.

One of the latest initiatives we can all be proud of is to do with New Zealand Sign Language

Budget 2014 includes $6 million over four years for promoting and maintaining Sign Language. The funding will support the recommendations of a group of expert sign language users from the Deaf community.

For the first time we are going to have an official body – the New Zealand Sign Language Advisory Board to provide expert advice to government departments on what they can do to protect and maintain the language.

One of the priorities of the Board is funding for more tri-lingual interpreters who are fluent in New Zealand Sign Language, English and Te Reo Māori. This investment will support more Deaf Māori to play a vital role in their whānau, hapū and iwi, especially on the marae. I would also like to see the voice of Pacific represented on the board.

Finally, I want to note the increased leadership of disability issues across government agencies.

Since 2009, the Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues, which I chair, has provided increased coordination, leadership and accountability across government agencies. The Ministerial Committee brought a focus, at the highest level of Government, on disability issues and the need to advance implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Discussion amongst Ministers has particularly benefited from annual meetings with the Independent Monitors to ensure the voices of disabled peoples are heard on an equal basis with others. I must say that meetings with Ministers has been beneficial. We must do better - for the first time, however, I genuinely believe you are being heard.

This hui is a vital opportunity to bring disabled people, disability service providers, disabled people’s organisations, advocates and policy makers together to ensure a strong focus on the voice

This is a very moving time for me, as I start to make my transition, after eighteen years in Parliament.

I want to sincerely thank each and every one of you for the support you have given me, the inspiration you have provided and the challenges and commitment that you bring to this sector every day.

I have learnt so much from you all – it has indeed been life-changing – and I am so in awe of your leadership, your vision and your steadfast determination.

You have indeed shown me – and all of New Zealand – that there is nothing stopping you from daring to claim the sky.

This is your world – this is your future – and I can only wish you continuing courage as you do all you do to make the difference we need.


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