Disability Awareness Day Speech

  • Hon Carmel Sepuloni
Disability Issues

Fa’atalofa atu, malo e lelei, Kia ora koutou katoa, Da Jia hao [dah-jah how] (hello everyone in Chinese Mandarin) and An yong hae seyo yeo leo bun [ann-yong-hah-say-yo yel-lo-boon] (hello in Korean)

Thank you [Felix and/ or Sanny] for the warm welcome and introduction. Thank you to our Kaumātua, Matua Monty Hune (Snr), and Whaea Kaanga Skipper for your special opening.

I would like to acknowledge the Chairperson of Howick Local Board, David Collings, and Auckland Council’s Yongjie Li.

Thank you to the organisers of today’s event,  thank you to all the participants and their families and whānau and thank you to the many organisations represented here today who provide services and work with disabled people so that they have the opportunity to achieve their goals and aspirations.

It is a pleasure to be here today, and great to see so many people from the disability community here. Thank you for taking the time to be a part of this event and celebrate our diversity. Can I also thank all of the sponsors for making this event possible today.

This event is about diversity, opportunity and participation. It is a great and fun way to celebrate this community and raise awareness. It is fantastic to see so many performances and stalls here today to support the disability community.

As the Minister for Disability Issues, I love being able to be a part of events like this. It is an opportunity to celebrate the diversity and achievements of the disability community, and it is also valuable for me to hear directly from people about the work they are doing and their experiences.

This Government is committed to working to build a truly inclusive society and supporting disabled people to live their lives to their fullest potential. We want to celebrate and further diversity in New Zealand. We want to make sure that we make our communities as inclusive and prosperous as possible.

This has remained true in all the work we have been doing, and one thing that has been important for me over the last year is talking to disabled people, organisations and groups across the country, and more importantly- listening. As a Government we can’t create an Aotearoa that is better for everyone without hearing from people their experiences, insights and solutions.

There are some really exciting things currently underway in order to create a more inclusive and accessible Aotearoa, which have been driven by insights from the disability community. Firstly is the development of the next Disability Action Plan. After extensive community consultation and feedback, the Office for Disability Issues is now working with the Disabled People’s Organisation’s Coalition and gathering ideas on the actions to be progressed by Government agencies in the new Disability Action Plan 2019-2022.

The feedback I heard during the public consultation demonstrated that there is no shortage of ideas for action. Much of the insights that will be harnessed in the development of the Action Plan have been gained first hand over the last year in meetings across the country that I have hosted or attended to hear directly from people with disabilities on their expectations for action.

The Disability Action Plan will be including a commitment from Government agencies to respond to the experiences and needs of disabled people and their families/whānau and will outline how to progress the New Zealand Disability Strategy and give effect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Another key initiative I want to talk about is our accessibility work programme. Accessibility has been a hot topic over recent years. I hear stories on a regular basis from New Zealanders of their lived experiences of how challenging life is because of access issues.  This is not ok – I know we as a country can do better.

That is why in December last year Cabinet agreed that officials should work with key stakeholders including disabled people, employers, experts and of course disabled people’s organisations to consider how we might progress accessibility and what role legislation might play. I want to acknowledge the Access Alliance for their constructive feedback and advocacy in this area.

We know that accessibility is a factor that affects people beyond the disabled community. It is an important issue for a range of people including speakers of other languages, parents with strollers or older people with decreased mobility. Being a more accessible community is a benefit to all people.

We want all New Zealanders to be able to participate fully in society.

Accessibility is such an important part of enabling a meaningful life that can often be taken for granted. I am certain that the accessibility work programme will unlock improvements that transform the future, and enable a greater number of people with and without disabilities to live their life to the fullest.

Once again thank you for inviting me to speak today.  Thank you to everyone in attendance and those who have organised to make this day happen.

It is a day of information provision, participation, celebration, participation and diversity.  It does not ignore the challenges of disability but it does remind us that alongside the challenges of disability there is potential and opportunity.

The Disability Awareness Day is an integral part of achieving and spreading awareness of our diverse disability communities in Aotearoa. So thank you very much for the invitation to be here and speak, I am as excited as all of you to see some of your wonderful performances and stop by your stalls.