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Speech: Turia - Be Launch

Hon Tariana Turia
Minister for Disability Issues

06 May 2011 8pm

Be Launch; Auckland War Memorial Museum

Firstly, may I acknowledge, John Allen, Chair on the Board of Be.Institute, Chair of the New Zealand Employers Disability Network and Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, for your visionary leadership in establishing this Be. Accessible initiative.

I want to also thank Sir Don McKinnon – Director of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, for your generous partnership in hosting us here tonight and for your ongoing commitment to accessibility.

I have never been happier to be here in Aotearoa; on our whenua.

Earlier this morning, when we touched down after a 30 hour flight from Russia, I felt that incredible urge to fall to the ground and kiss our home soil.

And while I restrained myself at Auckland International Airport, who knows what will happen when I arrive back in the valley of Whangaehu – returning to my birthplace, my marae, the land that has been home for my whanau, hapu, iwi forever.

It is that powerful and compelling sense of being home.

I must admit I have never been the greatest traveller.

But over the last ten days, I have had the privilege of representing New Zealand at the World Health Organisation’s Global Forum on non-communicable diseases.

The architecture was breath-taking; the cultural tapestry of artistic treasures utterly unique; the opportunity to learn and listen to world leaders was indeed an honour.

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But there’s no place like home.

In many ways, the concept of the Be.Institute is just like coming home.

It is that yearning drive we feel, for the sense of the familiar – the call to return to the places we feel comfortable, safe, at ease with the world.

It is entirely appropriate that the launch of the Be.Institute and the two flagship programmes, Be.Accessible and Be.Leadership be here at Auckland War Memorial Museum.

For it was after World War One, that as a nation we realised that we needed to put in place the strategies and the support that would help disabled persons feel at home. Soldiers who had sustained injuries during war, returned home wanting to resume life as normal as it was before.

It might have been rehabilitation, artificial limbs or subsidies for people with vision impairment- whatever it would take to help pave a new pathway ahead. Our returned soldiers wanted to work; to farm the land; to set up house. And some just wanted to Be.

The approach we took then laid the groundwork for our lives today, in how we hope to make a tangible and constructive difference in the lives of disabled people.

This Museum today, then stands to honour the memory of those before us, while also opening its doors to the future.

And it is in its decision to be accessible to all that we truly realise the depth of your commitment to being a perfect host.

This is an essential principle in the philosophy of Be.Accessible - it is about making the towns, the cities, the nooks and crannies of New Zealand accessible to everyone, attractive to all.

And there is no better role model of this approach than Minnie Baragwanath – the Chief Executive of the Be.Institute.

Whenever I see her, I am reminded of the lyrics of another Minnie – Minnie Riperton and that song “loving you is easy cause you’re beautiful”.

Our Minnie – Minnie Baragwanath - not only has the most wonderful energy herself – but she makes all of us feel beautiful too. She does that by her powerful belief that we must do everything we can to make New Zealand a welcoming, accessible and inclusive nation.

It’s not just information about buildings – it’s the whole package: the accommodation, public transport, sporting and civic amenities; dining out; entertainment. It’s about how people can get out – how they can live an everyday life – a working life – an education.

Be Accessible starts from the basic premise that all of us need to think about how to be accessible in every possible setting – whether business, local government; services or premises.

I remember the night Minnie came bounding into the Beehive, to talk with the Ministerial Committee on Disability how we could apply the Be.Accessible concept to the 2011 Rugby World Cup tournament.

She asked us some simple questions – how could disabled persons, the elderly, people with temporary injuries; people with pushchairs – become involved, included, engaged in the tournament activity. It certainly got us all thinking.

Be Accessible operates on two levels – the first tier is about bringing together the information, making it available to assist visitors, tourists, disabled persons in knowing how to access services and places.

Tonight then, we are launching the Be.Accessible website to do just that – to grow our thoughts and ideas.

The second part is developing tools and resources for businesses and local councils and organisations to know How to be.Accessible.

I am delighted to also celebrate the launch of the business toolkit tonight. Be.Ready provides some handy tips on how to be accessible now and how you can plan for the future.

Another highlight of tonight is to welcome and promote Be.Leadership as part of the Be. Programme. Be Leadership is dedicated towards developing disabled leaders of the future. Over the next year, twenty emerging leaders will be challenged, inspired and supported to be the best leaders they can be. And as I’m sure all of you would have already noticed, Matt Frost and Ursula Becroft-Thynne – our two stunning MCs – are members of this inaugural Be.Leadership programme

It is the leadership of people like Matt and Ursula that will make such a positive difference in changing people’s attitudes and behaviours so that New Zealand is inclusive of all people.

Disabled people have often said that the biggest barrier of all is the disabling society in which they live.

They tell me, they just want to be free to BE – to go to the gym; to have the job of their dreams; to yell with excitement at the rugby; to enjoy a concert. To be part of it all – not merely a spectator in an armchair from afar.

What’s stopping them? The biggest barrier is the attitudes of others

In Budget 2010 the Government funded three million dollars over three years for a social change programme to address attitudes and behaviours towards disabled persons.

Be.Accessible is a strategic partner in this campaign. Be is all about partnerships. It was first developed with local government, individuals and disabled persons organisations.

The Auckland Council; Auckland District Health Board and the Auckland University of Technology have all committed their own resources to becoming more accessible.

So how can we best support the Be.Conversation?

I am so very pleased tonight to announce that as part of this year’s Budget package Government will fund Be.Accessible to the tune of four million dollars over four years.

This new funding is to expand the Be Accessible and Be Leadership programmes.

This funding will ensure that Be Accessible can:
Improve the accessibility of the built environment;
Create better access to information;
Support the inclusion of disabled people in employment and community life;
And change attitudes and behaviours in society.

I am really pleased that we are able to support what I personally know to be the most wonderful project which will do so much to create a 100% accessible community.

Be Accessible is about doing what we can to make our home welcoming and more inclusive. The benefits for all of us are vast.

There is a great self-help saying: If it is to be; it is up to me.

With Be.Accessible – the Be Institute and Be Leadership – we have changed that saying with one word.

If it is to BE; it is up to WE.

Now let’s make it happen!


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