Disability Forum

  • Tariana Turia
Disability Issues

Disability Forum;  Bowen State Building, Wellington
Delivered by Hon Georgina te Heuheu

This is an important day – indeed it marks a significant milestone in our shared commitment to removing barriers for disabled people.

I want to firstly pass on apologies from Hon Tariana Turia who has been speaking on behalf of the Government at the World Health Organisation’s Global Forum on Non-communicable Diseases. In that forum, New Zealand has come to the world’s attention through the bold and comprehensive efforts we have taken in addressing tobacco control.

I like to think that in this disability forum today, we may be making advances which also establish a global gold standard, in the vision of a society that is fully inclusive of our diverse population.

It will be a vision owned and understood best by disabled people, who will tell us when New Zealand becomes fully inclusive of them. A high benchmark but one worth aiming for.

This event marks ten years on since the launch of the New Zealand Disability Strategy, on 30 April 2001.

And so as we reflect on the last decade it is opportune to recall the origins of that strategy – a strategy which has endured as a living document to focus government agencies, community organisations and individuals on achieving results for disabled people and their families.

Its beginnings emerge out of a commitment to partnership. Initially the Ministry of Health established a steering group of disabled and non-disabled people to oversee the development of a new vision for New Zealand.

The Disabled Persons’ Assembly then facilitated meetings around the country and 700 written submissions were received as part of the consultation process.

I would hope that this partnership between government, disabled people and disability sector organisations continues today – and I look forward to your comments as to how well this partnership is working in practice.

The focus for today is on building better engagement between government and the disability sector.

It comes just after our first report to the United Nations on implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been completed, in consultation with disabled people and groups across the sector. We had meetings, online forums, surveys, and received written submissions, before the report was finalised and submitted to the United Nations in March.

I am proud that the report shows that New Zealand is relatively advanced in its implementation of the Convention and considerable work has been achieved across all the articles.

This report will help us to measure progress in achieving New Zealand’s vision of full participation and improved wellbeing for disabled persons and their families. It focuses us on where we are now and what still needs to be done.

A key highlight for me over the last year has been the project we funded from the 2010 Budget, for the Convention Coalition of disabled people’s organisations to run a rights monitoring programme, as part of independent monitoring of the United Nation Convention.

In July, for the first time, the Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues will meet with the Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman and the Convention Coalition to discuss progress and priorities with implementing the UN Convention.

It is somewhat staggering to me that it has taken ten years to get to the point of such a meeting taking place – but nevertheless it is certainly a big step forward for the conversations to be taking shape.

Another initiative from Budget 2010, was three million dollars over three years for a campaign to improve attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people. The focus of that campaign is to address the constraints of a disabling society – we need to see a widespread attitudinal change before we will get a change in behaviour.

The campaign will fund community-driven social change, strengthen existing initiatives and support new approaches to changing attitudes.

There are two primary funding channels:

• a national strategic partnership with organisations to develop and implement projects that will increase access to employment, education, and goods and services

• the Making a Difference fund for local, community-based initiatives that are collaborative and have support from across the community.

Today I’m really proud to announce progress in both regards.

I am delighted to announce the initial national partners are the:
• Be.Campaign;
• Deaf Aotearoa;
• Maori and Pacific Island Disabled People’s Leadership Programme;
• Diversity New Zealand.

I’m pleased to be able to share the exciting news that the first round of grants, totalling $100,000, from the Making the Difference fund has been distributed.

There were 61 applications received. However, seven stood out as being most likely to influence attitude and behaviour change at the community level.

The recipients are:

• The Huria Management Trust – this is a project to review and challenge the impact of tikanga on disabled people in Tauranga. The project will run a school holiday programme involving each marae in the area and run an annual poukai. A strategic report will also be produced that will focus on effective attitude and behaviour change.

• Auckland Disability Law and Community Law Canterbury - this is a pilot project to increase knowledge and understanding of disability within the legal community. The idea is to improve the responsiveness of legal services.

• Ngati Hine Health Trust Board (Whangarei) - this project will produce work plans for eight marae across Northland to achieve greater accessibility to buildings and facilities. It will also encourage increased leadership and participation of disabled people on their marae.

• Hot Spot Productions (Auckland) - the project will use a community circus concept to gain better acceptance and inclusion of disabled people. Classes, workshops and shows for people of all ages and abilities will be provided.

• Upper Hutt City Council - the project will develop and launch resources that can be used to train staff in community facilities to improve customer service for disabled people. One resource will be produced specifically for Upper Hutt and the other will be shared with councils nationwide.

• Voice Thru Your Hands Trust (Palmerston North) - fifty two workshops will be facilitated to raise awareness of the value and importance of New Zealand Sign Language for disabled children with communication difficulties.

• CCS Disability Action ( Hawkes Bay and Manawatu/Horowhenua) - this is a collaborative project to develop presentations, interactive media and resources for young people in secondary schools, focussed on the message, ‘All people have value’.

A second round of grants will be announced later this year and I look forward to receiving more innovative and exciting proposals. It’s certainly evident to me that we’re off to a good start with these seven.

As a Government we are aiming to provide a comprehensive and consistent response to disability issues. This is why we have set up the Ministerial Committee on Disability Issues. We want our Ministers with portfolio responsibilities that involve disabled people to work closely together – and across their portfolios – on a single action plan.

This means government agencies need to better focus their activity and policy development on what makes a real difference in disabled people’s lives. To do this we must work smarter and collectively on common areas.

The Ministerial Committee has agreed to its Disability Action Plan, with three key areas of opportunity to advance action across government agencies. These areas are:
• supports for living – how Government funding aligns with the Ministry of Health’s new model for disability supports
• mobility and access – what Government can do to enable disabled people to move around their community and access the built environment
• jobs – what Government can do to promote disabled people getting into paid work.

A particular and recent priority has been the rebuilding of Canterbury over the next 18 months. Government agencies will be working with the new Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority on:

• accessibility for disabled people becoming a key focus for the repair and rebuilding of property and infrastructure;
• redesigning supports for disabled people who have experienced significant service disruption.

Out of the damage and disruption there is an opportunity to embed the concepts of accessibility for all people on the new shape of the city.

Finally, I want to make particular acknowledgment to Deaf Aotearoa for the efforts that are so prominent in our minds this week in the celebration of New Zealand Sign Language awareness week.

At Parliament tomorrow, there will be a celebration to mark the release of our national anthem in sign language. We will now be able to proudly perform the anthem in English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language. What an achievement!

On Friday we are launching the Be.Accessible website. This is an exciting new initiative that will provide people with information on the accessibility of existing facilities and services, as well as tools and resources on how to improve accessibility for all.

I want to thank you all for being here today, for taking some time out to share the ongoing challenges you face, and your willingness to help us all find solutions that work for you, and for all disabled persons and their families.

There is so much to do – but if there’s one thing the disability sector demonstrates in great abundance it is the enormous enthusiasm and the energy for making a difference. There is no better time than today to create the space for real conversations to occur, for dialogue to begin.

Tena koutou katoa