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Speech: 2010 Mainstream Awards - Hon Tariana Turia

Hon Tariana Turia

Minister for Disability Issues

Wednesday 24 November; 5pm


Speech: 2010 Mainstream Awards - Hon Tariana Turia

Thank you Peter Brown, for your kind introduction.

This day - 24 November - is a big day in our household. Exactly a year ago I underwent a surgical procedure which in effect, has given me a whole new lease of life.

The impact of the operation has given me a spring in my step, increased energy, and a greatly enhanced sense of wellbeing. And so I have been thinking about the concept of a new lease of life as we celebrate this event, the 2010 Mainstream Awards.

These awards, in themselves, represent a new lease of life - having been transferred from the State Services Commission - where this programme has been located for the last 32 years - to its new home in the Ministry of Social Development for the past two years.

I want to thank the State Services Commission for your dedication in building this programme up, and creating a legacy which the Ministry of Social Development is proud to carry on.

But the greatest 'lease of life', of course, is in the opportunities afforded to so many disabled people and their families, who having been given that much needed initial boost by Mainstream now know the universe is truly theirs.

And so it is a real pleasure to be here, to recognise and celebrate the successes of Mainstream's placement specialists and public sector employers.

Mainstream shows that with the right opportunities and support, people with disabilities can access real work for real pay. And what better outcome can there be than that?

All of us know that with meaningful employment lies the opportunity to grow independence and self esteem, and to live life to its full potential.

Mainstream has now developed a solid reputation - and a database to go with it, of people who have flourished from the 'lucky break' into work they took up through this programme.

In that inventory we will find labourers, record keepers, health professionals, policy analysts, teacher aides and even a Chief Executive. The initial support and development offered by Mainstream has been, in many instances, life-changing; offering an opportunity to flourish.

What is so exciting about the Mainstream placement is that it enables people the chance to develop the things they can do, to expect the possibility of success.

As Minister for Disability Issues I am committed towards promoting a new lease of life for an otherwise disabling society. I want to see New Zealand being a place which will not tolerate the negative attitudes and practices which can seek to limit those who already face challenges. I want to be part of a nation where diversity itself is mainstream - where our differences are acknowledged and our commonalities shared.

The Budget this year earmarked $3m dollars for a public awareness campaign to change attitudes and behaviour. I am excited about this social change campaign which is motivated by the desire to actively promote the participation of disabled people in every day life.

I also recently announced the establishment of a full-time Disability Rights Commissioner within the Human Rights Commission, to place increased emphasis on promoting the rights of disabled people.

I have also sought the support of the Office of the Ombudsmen to undertake a protection and monitoring role.

In a third tier of monitoring, disabled people's organisations will be actively involved to ensure that Government agencies concentrate on the things that really matter to disabled people.

All of these initiatives, help to create the environment that we are all looking for, to ensure that people with disabilities are able to benefit from meaningful and rewarding work.

Today we are here to celebrate the successes of those State sector employers and placement specialists who are actively promoting the participation of disabled people in their work places.

I want to thank the Mainstream placement specialists who see the potential in your clients and work with them to overcome all obstacles as you support them on their journey to employment. We greatly value your expertise, your commitment and your work.

And I am so proud of all of our employers who have gathered here today.

Participating in this programme requires determination, resourcefulness and a positive attitude from both the participant and the employer - it's about being work-ready; and attitude-friendly. But like anything else, when people are committed, when they build those vital human relationships, and when the workplace community opens its arms and its mind to new horizons, it can and it does change lives.

As State sector employers you are setting an example for all employers - you show the difference that people can make when they look at someone with a disability, and think about how best they can bring them onboard into their team. It's the Can Do approach that New Zealanders are known for.

And now....the moment you have all been waiting for....

It is my great pleasure to announce the recipients of the 2010 Mainstream Placement Specialist and Employer of the Year Awards.

I will firstly read out the names of the finalists, before I announce the winners and runners up.

And I'd like to ask Peter Martin to help me, and to tell us about each of the recipients as they make their way up here.

The three finalists for the Mainstream Placement Specialist of the Year Award are:

* The Supported Employment Agency, Rotorua * The Emerge Supported Employment Trust, Wellington and * Poly-Emp - Employment and Advisory Services, Auckland

The Merit Award goes to:

* Emerge Supported Employment Trust, Wellington

This award is in recognition of the excellent support, Emerge Supported Employment Trust has provided Mainstream participants.

Emerge Supported Employment Trust has had a long standing relationship with the Mainstream programme and has consistently provided quality placements and excellent support to participants. This award recognises the continual quality of support provided to participants even when some placements may be challenging. We want to acknowledge that in the past year, Emerge Supported Employment Trust has provided over and above the expected support to Mainstream participants to help both the employer and supervisor.

And now.....the runner up for the 2010 Mainstream Placement Specialist of the Year Award is...

* Supported Employment Agency, Rotorua

Supported Employment Agency has provided supported employment services in the Bay of Plenty region for 20 years. Together the team has made more than 20 Mainstream placements in the last two years, in areas where employment opportunities are limited, especially during times of economic downturn. This agency has a team of focussed and passionate staff who show outstanding tenacity and perseverance in placing people with disabilities into employment.

The winner of the 2010 Mainstream Placement Specialist of the Year Award is..

* Poly-Emp - Employment and Advisory Services, Auckland

Specialising in finding employment for people with intellectual disabilities, the employment specialists at Poly-Emp offer a unique model of specialised support and training programmes. They provide a pathway into employment, with individual pre-employment counselling and training, excellent job matching and high quality on-the-job support, leading to an outstanding success rate for their mainstream placements.

And now for the 2010 Mainstream Employer of the Year Award.

The finalists are, in no particular order:

* Newlands College in Wellington, nominated by Robert Dooley, Gary Braddock and Emerge Supported Employment Trust

* Unitec New Zealand, nominated by Rawiri Te Awa and Poly Emp - Employment and Advisory Service and

* Auckland Regional Dental Service nominated by Andrew Martin and Elevator

The Merit Award winner is:

* Unitec New Zealand,

Rawiri Te Awa had never worked in paid employment until his Placement Specialist negotiated a placement for him at Unitec in Auckland. He was a very shy young man when he started, but with the support of his supervisor and colleagues at Maia he has 'found his mana and knows his worth." In short his workmates have helped him to become a lot more self-confident and able to make a valuable contribution to the workplace.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the runner up of the 2010 Mainstream Employer of the Year Award is...

* Auckland Regional Dental Service.

Before his placement at Auckland Regional Dental Service, Andrew Martin had never worked in paid employment. His supervisor Renee went out of her way to make sure that Andrew was a valued member of the team, and given plenty of opportunities to learn on the job - including getting his NCEA Level 3 Certificate. Andrew says that 'Renee and the team prepared him so well that his first day on the job, after the Mainstream placement was over, was just like another ordinary day at the office.

And now for the overall winner of the Mainstream Employer of the Year for 2010. The winner is...

* Newlands College

Kevin Hatley from Newlands College has provided a remarkable example of inspiring leadership in the employment of people with disabilities. He wanted to show his disabled students that they had a future in the workforce, so he chose two young men with significant disabilities to provide classroom support. Both men praised Kevin's ability to find innovative solutions to training and his inclusive attitude towards them and his students. Now working as teacher aides in the school, they feel a real sense of achievement and fulfilment in their roles.

Congratulations to our runners up and winners.

You have undoubtedly changed lives, not only for the people who have gained meaningful employment through you - but for their families and communities too.

You are leaders and role models, and your contribution to employment for people with disabilities sets an example for all to see.

You show what can be done when you opt to believe that another person deserves a new lease of life. You give us the confidence to know that all of us have a special place within the mainstream flow of life.

Thank you to all of you for coming today and for sharing in this celebration.


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