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Reflections from the Forum of Pacific Disability

Reflections from the Forum of Pacific Disability Ministers Meeting
Monday 26 October 2009
Hon Tariana Turia, Minister of Disability Issues

The sharing of kai – having food together – is a time-honoured tradition across all of the cultures of the Pacific– where boundaries are broken down, where the people come together. Over the last few days there were some special occasions where Ministers from right across the Pacific region joined together in such ways.

But there was a more to treasure in these last few days than the fresh seafood, the pawpaw and the wild pork – as delicious as they have all been.

We have shared experiences at the Pacific ‘Disco’ (named by the Australians to refer to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons) which have given us vital insights into each other’s situations and we left all the richer because of the friendships and connections made.

The forum continued the existing close alignment which is essential to the effectiveness of our development efforts.

We in Aotearoa are working with Australia to implement the Cairns Compact towards effective co-ordination of development resources between all our countries; and to express our mutual interest in working together with the nations of the Pacific.

This was the first meeting of its kind in the Pacific.

The meeting provided an unique opportunity to discuss common challenges and agree tangible actions to support the human rights of people with disability within a cultural context.

The discussion about the Convention as an aspirational document to inform our national plans was a way of thinking about the way in which we act on our commitments. Clearly what countries need from the Convention is for access to resources to enable them to implement their plans.

If we are going to get serious about disability and improving outcomes for disabled peoples, it must be dealt with by other Ministers in our governments as well as ourselves.

In Aotearoa, the Ministerial Committee on Disability that I have established comprises the Ministers of Justice (including human rights), transport, finance, health, state services, social development, and education – with the ability to widen if need be.

As we have heard, however, it is not laws and policies alone that change a reality.

It is clear that every Government needs an integrated approach to addressing disability in every portfolio, ensuring no gaps right across the social and economic sectors. Building partnerships with the disability sector is critical.

I am a firm believer in whanau ora – so getting into the homes and investing in the empowerment of the family unit is a very important part of this process.

One of the unique aspects of the forum was the bringing together of civil society groups, and especially disabled persons. I listened carefully to the challenge issued by Graham Innes, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner for Australia.

Graham encouraged us to invest in the full participation and involvement of disabled persons at all levels from the marketplace to Ministerial forums. I am pleased we had an opportunity to hear back from disabled persons at the forum.

New Zealand has been a strong and long-standing supporter of disability. Our support has continually emphasised the importance of including people with disability in the decisions that affect them.

In the Pacific we supported many of the Disabled Persons Organisations represented at the meeting. NZAID has supported the Pacific Disability Forum from the very beginning in 2006 when they were first establishing as an organisation, from strong beginnings as a network.

This also is an important recognition of the Agenda for Action that came out of the Paris meeting – that development is best when the people, the infrastructure and the policies of the home country remain a fundamental platform of the change required.

We are delighted that Australia has recognised the strength of the Pacific Disability Forum and will partner with New Zealand to support the forum and their members.

This partnership will ensure that people with disabilities are the leaders of the disability movement in our region.

With New Zealand’s support, the Pacific Disability Forum has been developing a grants scheme for Disabled Persons Organisations.

We are pleased to announce that the first round of the Pacific DPO Fund will close on 11 December 2009. This scheme will be managed by the Pacific Disability Forum.

We look forward to continued engagement and to ensuring New Zealand’s support aligns to the Pacific Strategy on Disability.

I want to thank the Creative Centre for hosting us and showcasing the great work they are doing with disabled peoples.

I extend my thanks to Hon Ngamau Munokoa for her chairing of the meeting; and to their excellencies, the Queens Representatives; Sir Frederick and Mrs Goodwin and to the Prime Minister Hon Jim Marurai; for extending the hospitality of the Cook Islands to us all.

Tariana Turia attended the first meeting of Pacific Disability Ministers in Rarotonga, Cook Islands; October 21-23.; 2009.

The conference was attended by ministers, government officials and community representatives from Australia, Cook Islands, Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Soloman Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.


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