Voyager Leadership Programme Graduation Ceremony Speech

  • Tariana Turia
Disability Issues

I want to firstly acknowledge your Chief Executive, Sonia Thursby, who has been instrumental in establishing this initiative, to enable the participants to dream their dreams, to grow and to achieve what they may never have thought possible before.

I have been really looking forward to being here today, to celebrate this inaugural graduation of the Voyager Leadership Development Training Programme. 

And I have been particularly looking forward to meeting the young people whom we are honouring tonight, for their success over the last year in this programme.

Tonight we pay tribute to fifteen young people with disabilities who have boldly gone where no one has gone before – in working in the field of psychology; taking on the challenge of being a business entrepreneur; or pursuing a long held dream of being in the army.

There is a really great clip on Youtube which features Natalie Brunzel and Cameron Calkden talking about the platform that the Voyager Programme has offered, for young people to unleash their full potential.

This is a programme to support each graduate to be the very best that they can be.

It’s innovative, it’s unique, and it’s developed with and by people with disabilities, for people with disabilities.   And it’s totally tailored to the dreams of aspirations of each of the voyagers on the programme.

One story that really captured my heart was the experience Cameron shared of wanting to be a great public speaker.  He decided he’d live the dream, and what he most wanted to do was to meet Billy Graham.   As he said, “how cool would it be" if he got to meet him.

Well he did more than that – Cameron flew down to Wellington to meet Billy, he went out to dinner with him, spent the day with him, and then before long Cameron was off to London to give his first public speaking presentation.

That’s what Voyager is all about – making the impossible possible.

Tonight is all about celebrating the journey you have been on - reflecting on the hard work that has got you to this point, and also recognising your fellow travellers.

It is about celebrating the Voyagers who have walked alongside you, and supported you with the networks, the resources, and the opportunities to go forward.

If I look back at the various leadership opportunities I have had in my life, I know, absolutely, that it has never been about just me.  It is about our collective dreams, our aspirations for a better world.  

I would have to say that every day in Parliament I am reminded of my aunties and uncles, my mokopuna, all of my whanau – those who have walked before me and those who will follow.   I am driven by my absolute commitment to them, to take up their concerns and desires, and to do what I can to make the difference.

Your whanau, your family and friends, have been a vital part of the voyager concept and so I want to also recognise everyone who has supported this programme and contributed to the success of our young leaders.

A special thanks must also be made for the business community and funding sponsors who have supported this very important programme; and in particular Te Pou.

Finally, I was drawn to the statement made on the Certificate of Graduation, that

“a good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader; a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves”.

That is a wonderful comment about the philosophy that has driven this programme – that we will find our best solutions within – we can do for ourselves.

I’d like to also take this opportunity to pose a question to us all as to how we best utilise the learning achieved with Voyager in meaningful and satisfying employment.

Right now, while we are meeting, hundreds of delegates from across the world are attending the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.   A key focus of the United Nations forum is on employment opportunities to enable people with disabilities a chance to use their talents for the larger good of society.

And I guess we always have to ask ourselves whether we have got the balance right.  

Sometimes it seems that all the emphasis is going into disability pensions or social welfare benefits, more than it is in supporting the right to work and employment.   Uppermost in my mind is how we can best contribute to the betterment of society.

Finally, I want to return to our focus for today.

Older people often have a habit of saying our young people are the leaders of tomorrow.  What this programme has reminded us all is that young people are also the leaders of today.

I am so proud to congratulate you all as graduates of the Voyager Leadership Programme.

There is nothing stopping you now.

I wish you all much courage and good strength, as you now leave this programme equipped with all the tools to chart your own journey forward.   This is your opportunity to dream big; to try new and challenging experiences, and to aim high to reach your goals.

I have every confidence you will do us all proud.