I am well used to attending formal signings – but the majority of these are between two parties; the Crown and iwi.
This event today, is remarkable for the scale of collaboration it represents, and I want to formally acknowledge all those parties who have put their hand up, to take ownership and drive leadership of the Taranaki Disability Strategy.
I therefore commend the initiative of the mayors of the
• South Taranaki District Council;
• Stratford District Council;
• New Plymouth District Council;
• Chair of the Taranaki Regional Council,
• Chair of Taranaki District Hospital Board,
• Chief Executive of Sport Taranaki
• Regional Commissioner of Work and Income,
• The Taranaki manager of Idea Services,
• Chairperson of the Taranaki Maori Disability Coalition Group,
• Chair of Disabled Persons Assembly Taranaki,
• Manager of Accessible Taranaki,
• Chairperson of Parafed Taranaki and the
• Chair of the Taranaki Disabilities Information Centre Trust.
The partnerships you have established over the last two years are extremely impressive and will make this strategy sustainable and meaningful. It is critical in today’s challenging times for communities and organisations to work together. You will achieve more by joining your resources than trying to do it on your own.
Your strategy is remarkable for another reason. The vision that all of you have signed up to is a brave and challenging one which works on many levels.
Your vision is for every person with impairments to lead a life free of disability.
Now some of you here today may think how that can be?
How can a Disability Strategy have as its primary goal a life free of disability?
It all comes back to how we define disability.
This Strategy uses the definition of disability defined in the NZ Disability Strategy 2001. Disability is defined as when people have more challenging experiences of the environment or attitudes from others, because of impairment.
Disability is therefore experienced when a person experiences physical or attitudinal barriers in living their life. What is certain is that at some point in our life-time we will all experience a reduction in our sensory functions, mobility or mental capacity.
I am really proud to be part of this important signing today to also acknowledge the outstanding efforts that have been made in this region about disability.
In 2011, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery received the inaugural Big 'A' Creative New Zealand Arts For All Award in recognition of its work in becoming more accessible to the disabled.
And this year, WOMAD New Zealand, was also awarded the Arts For All Award. Of its nomination, the judging panel said that “WOMAD gets accessibility in every way and is a benchmark for what other organisations can aspire to”.
That is a fantastic statement of the type of commitment this community is already making to accessibility. But what is even more pleasing is to know that these organisations aren’t just stopping there.
In 2013, for the first time, Deaf festival-goers to WOMAD will be able to pre-book for a sign language interpreter to meet them at stage performances, workshops and cooking demonstrations. In this way the festival organisers are signalling their commitment to challenging themselves to do all they can to increase accessibility, to truly bring WOMAD to the world.
I have drawn on these two examples because I think they demonstrate the type of leading-edge thinking which Taranaki is displaying in its everyday approach to the challenge of a disabling society.
This strategy takes that thinking further with the commitment to four guiding principles:
• Equal opportunity for all
• People are valued for their abilities
• Nothing about us without us
• Community ownership
I really love these four simple statements of faith.
They tell me that in Taranaki, disabled people will be involved in the decision-making process particularly where the outcomes will directly affect them. It indicates that key stakeholders in your community are putting up their hand to achieve the vision of an inclusive society. You are showing the way as a pathfinder for other communities; driving the strategy forward by your collaborative efforts.
I think what is most impressive about the advances you are making in Taranaki is how closely it reflects the leading edge changes that disabled persons and their families are pioneering at a national level.
Enabling Good Lives is a key component of the Disability Action Plan. It sets out the long-term direction for changing how disability support services are provided so that disabled people and families have more choice and control over their lives.
The Enabling Good Lives approach was developed by the disability sector in partnership with government agencies.
It is about building up the capability of disabled people, their families and communities so that support can be provided from the community instead of just relying on specialist disability services. It puts disabled people in the centre of their own development and support.
At the hub of the Enabling Good Lives approach is the intention that whanau and disabled people, can determine for themselves how they want to live, and empowering them to make their own choices about how they are supported. It’s also about getting rid of the funding silos and simplifying the system so people can plan for all aspects of their lives at the same time.
At a national level, Ministers are going to hold government Chief Executives to account for achieving the shared outcomes of the Disability Action Plan.
We want to see practical changes with measurable targets that reach the lives of disabled people and their families/whanau.
Here in Taranaki you have already made important inroads to making the Enabling Good Lives approach resonate throughout your communities.
In this ceremony today, you have signed up to three clear goals:
1. That the Taranaki Community is aware of and understand the issues facing disabled people.
2. Disabled people are seen and valued for their strengths and abilities.
3. People with impairments have equal opportunity to positively engage in our community.
In all these goals, initiatives, and the models we are promoting at a central level, the approach is to ensure that disabled people and whanau are a part of decision-making throughout the entire process – embarking upon their own waka.
In many respects this is a manifestation of Whanau Ora, which seeks to harness the strength of families, empower them to be self-determining, and provide a space where whanau can dream big, and work towards achieving their aspirations.
There is a lot to do. We must ensure that mainstream services are inclusive and accessible to disabled people.
It is about thinking differently; taking on the challenge to be accessible, to support disabled persons and their families to really plan out what a good life means for them.
Taranaki – you can be well proud of what you have achieved – and have committed to achieve.
I wish you all well in making your vision explicit; in achieving your goals; and in supporting disabled persons and their families to live the lives they most want to.