6 March, 2012
NZ Disability Support Network National Conference
Tēnā koutou katoa
It gives me great pleasure to be here today, and to be among those of you who work in the disability sector. I am reliably informed that more than 80 percent of the providers of support services to people with disabilities are represented at this forum – it is great to be with you.
Tēnā koe, to the organisers of this hui, particularly John Taylor (Chair of the NZ Disability Support Network); to Clare Teague, your Chief Executive; tēnā koutou, to all of us who are here for the kaupapa of working towards a more equal and brighter future for those faced with disabilities – tēnā tātou katoa.
I have to admit to being inspired by your fabulous conference flyer, featuring the concept, ‘light the fire for action on inclusion’. It invites us to rekindle the spark that burns within us all; to reach out to another; to dance with flames, to dare to believe that each and every one of us can enjoy a life of brilliance.
I have been asked to share with you my vision for the future of the disability sector. I believe, that in order to look forward and dream, we must remember where we come from, and reflect on our history, and the aspirations that our tupuna, our elders had for us in this generation.
It is a great source of comfort to know that no matter what hardship or issue we face today, you can guarantee there was a story of hope, of resilience and of courage that can be found in our histories and our spoken memories.
Although it is not widely known, there are many stories in our oral archives about those who faced disabilities. I thought I would tell you about one story I can recall here, is that of a Tainui ancestor named Hape.
Hape, literally translated means club foot. The story goes, that when it was time for Tainui waka to set sail from our ancestral homeland of Hawaiki to Aotearoa, the people were asked to do a test in order to get a place on the waka.
Hape failed this test, due to his clubbed foot, and he was left behind in Hawaiki.
The waka carried on its journey to the shores of New Zealand, and those on the waka waved farewell to him in their wake.
The journey was long, and rough, and it was not long before many forgot about Hape, the man they had bid farewell in Hawaiki.
The waka eventually made its long journey to Aotearoa, and landed in the Waitemata Harbour in Auckland. As the people in the canoe disembarked they could see a man standing on the hill in the distance.
It was none other than Hape, the man they had left behind in Hawaiki.
Hape, who some say travelled by stingray to Aotearoa, had arrived in behind many weeks ago. And he stood up on a hill and called them on to the land, those who had left him behind.
The place where this event took place many centuries ago is well known to many of us here. The event was known as Te karanga a Hape, and where this event occurred is known today as Karangahape Road, or K’Rd in Auckland.
I wanted to tell you this story for a couple of reasons. The first reason is to show you that disabilities affect us all as whānau. It is in our history, and it is in our whakapapa (genealogy), and we have fond stories and memories handed down to us by our tupuna of the great feats achieved by those among our whānau who were faced with disabilities.
Whānau Ora, is about drawing your whānau together and recognising the collective strength that we have. It is about supporting one another, and it is about recognising the ties that bind each of us to each other, and to our tupuna before us, to our elders that have long gone.
I truly believe that there is something in Whānau Ora that can benefit all of us. Our greatest strength is in those who support us and love us – and I believe it is in harnessing that collective strength that we will all benefit as communities of Aotearoa as we move into the future.
The second reason I wanted to tell you this story is because I wanted to share with you a tale about resilience. A tale about rising above judgement, and society’s expectations and prejudices, that shows no matter who you are, or what issues you face, you too can achieve amazing things with a little bit of resilience, and a lot of courage.
Thirdly, I wanted to tell you this story about Hape because it really is an old tale about changing attitudes. Hape, who was a chief in his own right, stood proudly that day, and showed those of his whānau who had left him behind, what he was made of, and what he could do.
Improving attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people is one of the goals that I have over the next three years as Minister for Disability Issues. It feeds in to a larger vision, that one day disabled peoples will enjoy the same rights and privileges as all other citizens in this country; that we will break down stereotypes and prejudices; and that each and every person regardless of whether they are disabled or not, will have the right to an amazing life.
In Budget 2010, we allocated three million dollars over three years towards a campaign to target widespread attitudinal change towards disabled people and underpinning this campaign, which focuses on the constraints of a disabling society, is a belief that we must change attitudes if we are to break down barriers that prevent disabled people from participating as equal citizens in this country.
The campaign objectives align to Article 8 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which states that nations will make steps towards combating stereotypes, prejudice and harmful practices that relate to persons with disabilities.
While it is only a small fund, the campaign to date has funded projects that focus on areas such as employment of disabled people; developing disabled people as community leaders for change; increasing accessibility to goods and services; and highlighting the skills and the abilities and contributions of disabled people as members of their community.
It is an important project, and one that I am sure will have long lasting benefits into the future.
Building on this work with the wider community, I believe we must also focus on ensuring that people with disabilities receive quality services that meet their needs with dignity.
In terms of service delivery within the disability sector, one of the key projects that we have been working on is the Enabling Good Lives report. I established a working group (of which John Taylor is a member) to think about what supports the Government should provide to people currently receiving day services and community participation services.
The working group responded that it is not just these services that needed to change that disabled people want supports that:
- are self-directed and give them choice and control over their lives
- take a whole of life approach, rather than have their supports split between different programmes
- support them to live an everyday life in everyday places
- that are mana enhancing
- that build and strengthen relationships between disabled people, their whānau and their community.
I am a staunch believer in all of these things, as it is this holistic approach that empowers people to take control of their own lives that also underpins Whānau Ora as well.
The working group proposed that the current centre-based approach should be “incrementally replaced” with facilitation-based support and this would mean focusing on enabling disabled people to do everyday things in everyday places in communities, rather than on provision of ‘special’ places or activities for disabled people.
I want to thank all of those of you who participated in the process of producing the outcomes of the report, and I want you to know that I support the vision and the direction outlined in Enabling Good Lives.
We are currently undertaking work in Canterbury supported by the Ministries of Social Development and Health, to test the concepts outlined in this report. Canterbury was chosen because there has been significant damage to many current services for disabled people. Although traumatic and devastating, it has provided a unique opportunity to think about what supports would look like in the future.
Gordon Boxall and Mark Benjamin are leading a project to bring together disability sector stakeholders in Christchurch to develop a plan (with practical and realistic steps) for transforming disability supports in Christchurch – along the lines of the Enabling Good Lives report.
The Canterbury Steering Group includes disabled people, family members and providers, as all parts of the sector will need to work together on the many changes. Under the leadership of Gordon and Mark, the group has also invited submissions from local disability stakeholders on the key elements of Enabling Good Lives, and has invited ideas on how this could be implemented in their local community.
In terms of next steps, the Ministries of Social Development and Health are currently investigating expanding this project into Wellington and Hamilton.
Another programme of action which is currently underway is the Ministry of Health’s “New Model for Supporting Disabled People”. This model is closely linked to Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities, that is living independently and being included in the community.
There is a demonstration of the core elements of the new model in the Western Bay of Plenty/Tauranga area. This has included the engagement of ‘local area co-ordinators’ who walk alongside disabled people to help them plan and build a new life in their communities.
Currently, a significantly expanded individualised funding scheme is being developed and is expected to be implemented in the near future. This will give people considerable flexibility over what they purchase with the funds that they are allocated. In my view it can’t come soon enough. I am really clear that I want individualised funding to be expanded to other service lines in disability support services – and I want the circle of friend’s concept to be part of that approach as well.
There is also a programme called ‘Choice in Community Living’ which is currently in place in Auckland and Waikato regions, which provides another means of contracting for support for people who do not wish to use individualised funding arrangements. This programme aims to support people who have previously been in residential services to move to alternative arrangements where they have greater choice about where they live, and who they live with.
The Ministry of Health is in the process of identifying disability support providers for the Choice in Community Living demonstration and I am told that some of you at previous meetings have expressed strong interest in being part of that work.
In both of these initiatives, the Ministry of Health is seeking to work in a collaborative way both with disabled people and their whanau, and with providers, meaning that all of these groups are part of the design and implementation of their programme of support.
There are aspects of this work that could easily align with the approach of Whanau Ora. It is my hope that disabled people will also benefit from this aspirational initiative which seeks to harness the strength of families as collectives; empower them to be self-determining; and provide a space where whanau can dream big, and work towards achieving those aspirations.
The most basic concept that underlies this approach is the belief that no one is or should be alone in their endeavours. That no matter who you are, you are a precious member of a whanau that cares for you, and that together as a collective you can all rise above any issue that comes your way.
It really is about resilience. And resilience, is something that we all need if we are to break barriers, and change attitudes in this country.
If I go back to the story of Hape that I told earlier, I want to let you know that his strength and determination are remembered today not only because he defied the odds, and broke barriers to achieve what was thought to be ‘unachievable’.
He is remembered, because his whanau have remembered him. His descendants remember him. They are the legacy that he has left behind, and they in turn remember the legacy that he left for them. That is the value of Whanau Ora, it is about recognising that we all have something to be proud of, and something to fight for.
For those of you who work in the disability services sector, I just want to leave you with one final message. The work you do is invaluable. It is much needed and invaluable.
So I commend you for the service that you provide the disabled community, and I wish you well in your planning and wananga over the next three days.