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Speech: Turia - Manawatu Stewart Centre Trust

Opening of new Building : Manawatu Stewart Centre Trust
38 West Street, Palmerston North
Hon Tariana Turia; Minister of Disability Issues

Friday 6 November 2009

I want to thank Susan Forde, your Chairperson; and Janet Webb; the Centre Manager; for the opportunity to join with you today, to share the opening of the new buildings for the Stewart Centre in Palmerston North.

It is wonderful to see the poutama design represented so prominently in the Stewart Centre brand.

The steps of the poutama pattern represent the journey of life, stretching both into the past and the future; striving ever upwards.

The emphasis is on the pathways we all walk in our journey towards enlightenment, one step at a time. Every step is an opportunity to pause and reflect; to celebrate the challenges we have overcome in our pathway to healing and recovery.

And so today, I am so pleased to be with you in this house of revitalisation or rebirth, Te Whare mo te whakaoranga.

The Manawatu Stewart Centre has a very strong vision – to provide positive rehabilitation and community participation in partnership with people who have acquired brain injury.

I like the words participation and in partnership – this is a vision which is about working together, creating a safe and supportive social environment to recognise the essence of who you are.

I’ve had a look at some of the publicity about this place and it seems to me there are a few people at this centre who receive so much publicity they must warrant celebrity status.

There’s Phil Larking – who features in stories about living with aphasia – the stroke induced loss of speech. Phil’s story demonstrates his incredible determination to face his future with optimism – developing a vegetable garden at the Stewart Centre; volunteering at the Hospital’s Garden of Tranquility; and exhibiting a series of his paintings of the Manawatu landscape.

Neil Turner features in another newspaper, in an article showing how Neil uses a digital camera; an address book and a diary as essential props to assist him in communicating with others.

Or you could switch on TV and see Phil Newman featured on the Attitude programme, showing the nation how he has adapted to a new and greatly changed life, after his motorbike accident.

A special highlight for me was reading about Ian McRae’s fantastic success earlier this year, when he was awarded a Diploma of Achievement from Te Roopu Mana Hauora o Manawatu, in recognition of his efforts in giving up smoking.

Now we’re not just talking about a sudden decision here – Ian had been smoking for forty years, ever since he was fourteen years old – so his achievement is really inspiring for us all.

These are just a few of the stories from the Manawatu Stewart Centre; which tell me this is a good place to be; a place to grow; to progress and develop, one step at a time.

The stairways to achievement experienced in this centre are as varied as one would expect in the tapestry of life.

Everyone here has their own poutama to climb, their own unique journey to achieve their aspirations.

You get a really good sense of the diversity of the rehabilitation activities when you look through the newsletter.

There’s the Music group on Monday mornings; the ‘art of conversation’ speech therapy sessions in the afternoon; on Tuesday it’s time for Tai Chi; Matariki was celebrated in style with Maori kai and a visit to an art exhibition; there was the exchange to Taradale; and on Friday afternoons a women’s group meets.

But probably the report which got me really excited was the blessing of Club Med – the new activity room. I was really moved by the description of the process of whakanoa – the blessing of the building to bring it into the everyday realm.

It reminds us that what this centre is about is not just the schedule of pre-vocational and vocational programmes for people who have acquired a brain injury.

This centre is also about a spiritual journey to wellness.

A fundamental aspect of wellbeing is the way in which whanau and families are included in the personal plans for each of the people who attend this centre.

And I think it is always important to remember that the origins of the seven Stewart Centres start with family – the commitment of Alex and Mary Stewart to their son, Tommy.

Tommy had sustained a traumatic brain injury as a result of a horrific car accident, and was originally categorised as having suffered a severe injury – yet with the support of the rehabilitation centre is now assistant caretaker at Ruawai primary school.

At the end of the day – literally – every one who walks in these doors – whether they are health professionals, the people attending day activity programmes; volunteers and staff – return to homes with families and what we call in the disability sector, ‘natural networks’.

These natural networks – our friends, family, community – are an essential part of the road to recovery for all people who have suffered a brain injury and it is vital that they feel actively engaged in every decision and development made.

I loved the focus promoted by Maxine of a communication partnership – training people in our social world to be better communication partners – that means all of us!

I want to recognise too, the enormous commitment of those helping agencies in the community, who have allowed this Centre to thrive. I’m thinking of funders such as the philanthropic trusts, Palmerston North City Council; Housing New Zealand, the Rotary Club and the Easter and Central Community Trust.

Your support – alongside the funding from ACC contracts and some more limited support from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Social Development - does so much to help to keep this centre going.

I know this year has been challenging with the brunt of the recession having an impact on donors, as well as the issues you have experienced in trying to access health funding for new clients.

I want to acknowledge that the efforts to secure funding are really demanding – and I think you are definitely on the right track in establishing yourselves as a coordinated national organisation, with certification and quality standards agreed across all seven centres.

The pathway forward is all about collaboration, cooperation and communication – and I really hope with that approach, the compliance costs will be reduced and you can concentrate on your core business –the business of supporting individuals to achieve the potential they aspire towards.

Finally, whether you are a rehab coach, a volunteer, a social worker, a workshop tutor, a board member, or one of the people involved in the day activities, the Manawatu Stewart Centre is a key part of your every day life.

I am so proud to declare this new building open. May all your days be blessed, and your journey forward an opportunity for us all to celebrate. Tena tatou katoa.


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