Launch of community-led research report: ‘Spaces of Belonging’

  • Hon Carmel Sepuloni
Disability Issues

Fa’atalofa atu, malo e lelei, Kia ora koutou katoa

And welcome to the launch of the report ‘Spaces of Belonging’.

I want to acknowledge Dr Carey-Ann Morrison from Imagine Better, Dr Esther Woodbury from the Disabled Persons Assembly, and Professors, Lynda Johnston and Robyn Longhurst, from Waikato University for their leadership in bringing together this community led research project.

I’d like to acknowledge Paula Tesoriero – Disability Rights Commissioner, Gary Williams – Māori advisor to the project, Gerri Pomeroy – President of the Disabled Persons Assembly, and Tony Paine – Chief Executive of Imagine Better. It is lovely to see you here.

Importantly, can I welcome and acknowledge people with lived experience of disabilities who have contributed to the report; some of which are here today with their family and whānau. 

Tonight is an opportunity to not only launch the report but to recognise the importance of the reports theme of belonging.

Some of you may already know that as a government we have an agenda to develop a fully accessible Aotearoa. I think the conversation about belonging is particularly pertinent as we think about accessibility. The report points out that a focus on belonging can progress conversations beyond simple notions of inclusion and exclusion. It’s something that is a valuable complement to this government’s thinking.

I want to commend the researchers for really putting disabled people at the centre of the report and validating the expertise that people with disabilities have through their lived experiences. Reports like the one being launched today, remind us of the important role that qualitative data can and should play in understanding what it takes to truly experience belonging and community for people with disabilities.  With my officials and the information I often commission, I’ve stressed the importance of ensuring that data and analytics be complemented by the lived experiences and practices of real people.

Good quality and reliable disability data are crucial to understanding the needs of disabled people, their families and communities.

Government has not been very good about collecting information about disabled people in the past, which is a challenge also faced internationally, but we are slowly getting better.

I am looking forward to the results of the 2018 Census, which are due to be released in September this year as this will use the Washington Group Short Set of questions. I understand that a number of other government departments will also be incorporating these questions into their surveys.

The Washington Group Short Set aren’t the perfect solution to our data challenges, but they do allow censuses and surveys that are not disability-specific to produce robust data about how the lives of disabled people differ from those of non-disabled people.
While we develop our data collection tools, reports like the one we launch today help us to build our understanding of the experiences of disabled people.

As I previously mentioned, I know a number of you here have lived experience of disabilities and have actively contributed to the report we are launching today. I believe that understanding the lived experiences of disabled people is an important approach for improving policy responses across government.

Just last month, the Independent Monitoring Mechanism met with Ministers to discuss data collection as well as other key priority areas. I have invited all Ministers to consider how best to ensure that participation of the disabled community occurs within the work of their respective portfolios.

Thank you once again to the authors of the report. The findings have given me a lot to think and reflect on. I hope that you are able to share it widely and that it stimulates conversations and actions towards more spaces of belonging across Aotearoa.

Fa’afetai lava