Marae Accessibility Toolkit

  • Tariana Turia
Disability Issues

I am absolutely rapt to be here today, to celebrate the launch of Te Whakaaheitanga Marae Accessibility Toolkit.

There is no better message than that of the vision of CCS Disability Action: Te Hunga Haua Mauri mo nga tangata katoa : including all people.

How do we truly care for all our people? What does inclusion mean? How do we ensure the environments we live, work and play in, are safe, friendly and accessible?

And importantly how do we increase awareness about the various health and disability issues that members of our whanau may face when at the marae.

With those questions swirling around us then, I want to firstly mihi to Sandy Pokaia, the former Chairperson of Te Roopu Tiaki Hunga Hauā Māori Disability Support Network. Sandy was instrumental in establishing the Marae Accessibility Project and unfortunately is not able to be with us tonight.

I want to also acknowledge the new chair of the Network, Vivien Nasser and all of the sponsorship organisations who have so generously opened their arms (and their cheque books) to support this project. Without your partnership the Te Whakaaheitanga Marae Accessibility Toolkit could not have been produced.

I know that completing this toolkit has taken time and energy to get to this point, and I appreciate the absolute dedication of the marae Accessibility Project Working Party to make sure the vision of Te Roopu Tiaki Hunga Hauā Māori was realised.

This is a project that is very dear to my heart.

Yesterday I was sitting with members of Barrier-free in my office, and we talked about some of the accessibility examples which make such a difference – things like level pathways; wider doorways and hallways; ramps and safety rails.

I shared with them the startling realisation that I had come to about my own brother since taking up the role of Minister of Disability Issues.

My brother was a tetraplegic and when I thought about how we responded to issues associated with his every day, I realised we just went about life, as normal. In fact I don’t think I ever connected the term disability with him or with us – he was my brother and that meant everything.

But when I thought about how we cared for him at our marae, I realised a few things.

His independence was compromised immediately – we had to lift him over the barriers at the entrance to the marae; we have no concrete pathways so pushing the chair over wet grass was always difficult and he had to revert to the portable chair which restricted his capacity to be self-managing.

We had made him reliant on us at the marae without even realising the impact this would have on his independent spirit.

And so as I look to the leadership of Te Kauri Marae in implementing changes to make their marae accessible I reflect on our own experience, and absolutely admire what you have done.

In essence, Te Whakaaheitanga Marae Accessibility Toolkit, provides with a model of good practice for all marae to learn from.

In the pages of our resource you show us what an accessible marae looks like from the moment we step out of the car into the car park, all the way to the whare nui, to the seating of the paepae; the whare kai, and importantly the whare paku.

As Minister for Disability Issues it makes me feel extremely proud to see the realisation of this project and the leadership you have demonstrated by producing this helpful and inspired resource.

The accessibility of marae has been a major focus for Te Roopu Tiaki Hunga Hauā Māori Disability Network Group – and it has been one of the most frequently mentioned concerns when I have met with whanau up and down the motu.

We all know that our marae are the heart and soul of our communities. They are our precious places for meeting, for the strengthening of our whakapapa.

They are the sites of significance where we can discuss and debate the issues of the day. We are drawn to our marae to celebrate births and birthdays; weddings and reunions; and to bid farewell to those that have passed on or to remember them at the appropriate time.

Given the profound importance of our marae, how is it that we have not given enough thought in the past, to ensuring all of our whanau feel welcome, feel included, feel they are contributing to the very heartbeat of the people.

Te Whakaaheitanga Marae Accessibility Toolkit operates from the basis of the marae - providing useful guidance on what will it take to make such a facility accessible. The questions at the back are simply brilliant.

• Is there space for whanau in wheelchairs to support in the preparation of kai?

• Have you thought about using a sound amplification system for hearing impaired whanau?

• Are hazards such as steps clearly identifiable from their surroundings?

• Is there an area where a guide dog can be placed?

• Do you have access to bedding that can be raised and lowered?

These are great starting points for every community to ensure that all people are treated inclusively.

And I want to just pay tribute to those who have been behind the thinking and the design of your logo as a symbol of your vision.

The logo symbolises an obstacle or mountain with the koru in the middle showing the way towards clearing a pathway and eliminating barriers.

The message is clear: “Whatever the obstacle, together we can find a clear path forward.”

This is a powerful and dynamic image of how people with disabilities and their whānau can be included in every aspect of marae activity.

The gains are immense.

Accessibility is all about attitude.

We must strive towards removing the social barriers which can be so disabling, and at the same time put our best minds to work about improving attitudes.

In Budget 2010, we secured three million dollars over three years for a campaign to improve attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people.

We need widespread attitudinal change that will ultimately change behaviour. To get there we need to increase understanding of disabilities and make it relevant to everyone.

Last week I made a pre-Budget announcement that this Government will fund Be.Accessible.

Four million dollars over four years will be allocated for work with local businesses, local government and local communities to inspire and enable a 100% accessible society.

Both these initiatives – the attitudes campaign and the Be Accessible brand – are really exciting and the champions who are driving them provide me with the greatest confidence.

At the hub of our work, is the recognition that even small changes can make a big difference and an epic journey starts with a single step.

You have taken the first step to make sure disabled people and their whānau fully participate in marae hui rather than being relegated to the status of marginalised observers.

You can be very proud of the resource you have produced.

It is my hope that the Marae Accessibility Toolkit will be used by many marae across the country allowing people with disabilities and their whānau to flourish in our marae.

In fact, I can hardly wait to get back to Whangaehu and check out our marae for how well it meets the grades outlined in the kit.

Thank you for your vision; your initiative and most of all your determination to clear a new pathway forward.