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Be.the Poss-ability; Be Accessible 2012 Celebration – Tariana Turia

I want to firstly thank Deputy Mayor Ian McKinnon for the hospitality of the Wellington City Council in helping to host this event – in itself an act of support for making Wellington Positively Accessible

This morning on breakfast television, the nation was spellbound as we waited for the announcement naming New Zealand’s flagbearer for the opening ceremony.

At seven o’clock the doors flung open, the karanga filled the air, and the runner, Nick Willis, was revealed as the person chosen to lead and inspire our Olympic team over the next month of competition.

Around his shoulders he wore Te Mahutonga – the korowai originally presented by the late M?ori Queen, Dame Te Ataairangikaahu in the Athens Olympics of 2004.

The korowai is a protective cloak on many levels – physical, spiritual, cultural. It is a symbol of embrace – in this case representing that our team are being wrapped in the warmth of home; to nurture them in their pursuits so many miles away.

It seemed to me the perfect image of what we are doing here in this Be.Accessible annual celebration.

For twelve hours after our Olympic flag-bearer was announced Be Institute is lifting the bar, raising the expectations for us all – yet again – of what we can expect of the disability community.

I am always so pleased to attend events in association with the Be Accessible team.

I marvel at the breath-taking enthusiasm of Minnie Baragwanath your Chief Executive. I have been so impressed at the leadership John Allen has demonstrated as Chair – his willingness to Be the Change. And I have learnt so much from the leadership of those nineteen leaders who started off on the Be Leadership programme in March last year.

I want to mihi to those 2011 Be Leadership alumni who gathered together from throughout the land to share a profound series of conversations about how to lead change.

The investment that has been made in disabled peoples leading within and beyond the sector has helped me to see the world differently – through the Be. Lens – to dare to be who you are – to indulge in the art of possibility.

There is another key reason why today is a great day to launch this Be the Poss-ability event. Today is National Poetry Day – and in the spirit of all those poets, who play with words and allow us to explore our creativity, I want to share some ideas from the poet, Douglas Malloch.

If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill,
Be a scrub in the valley – but be
The best little scrub by the side of the hill;
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.

If you can’t be a highway then just be a trail,
If you can’t be the sun be a star;
It isn’t by size that you win or you fail -
Be the best of whatever you are!

Tonight this event is your opportunity to share the amazing possibilities within the disability community that are shaping Aotearoa as the best place in the world to Be the best of whatever you are.

This event signals a change in focus from disability to poss-ability.

The video, Shining a Light on Be Leadership shares some of the stories and the ideals which form the basis of their vision for New Zealand.

Anna Nelson lets us in on her secret – “I am not here to judge or to be judged. I am here to make a difference”.

And what is that difference – it comes from the wisdom of Erin Gough :

“In a truly accessible world the only barriers that we as human beings would face are ones created within our own minds. The possibilities of this world and the experiences within it would be limitless”.

Her challenge is food for thought for us all –for what Be Leadership is telling us is that it is not about what we can’t do; but about what we can.

What if we opened our eyes up to the possibility of accessibility?

How can accessibility achieve Wh?nau Ora – the greatest interpretation of wellbeing and wellness within the context of those who love us most – our wh?nau and families.

What Jade Farrar tells us is basically if it is to be, it is up to me. He is inspired by this message from Maya Angelou –

One isn’t necessarily born with courage but one is born with potential. Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous or honest”.

The words of inspiration that the Be Leadership forum have drawn on give me every reason for optimism about the theme of Poss-ability as a creative strategy to explore the possibility of an accessible world.

And importantly, they remind us, that thinking differently is best achieved together. The Think Differently campaign is about supporting local communities to promote changes in attitudes and behaviours towards disabled peoples.

It is about encouraging courage – and next week when the new funding round opens I hope to see lots of ideas from this night being put forward to stretch us beyond the realms of today’s reality.

We have to be free to imagine what a good life actually looks like for each of us.

And we have to know that we have the strength of support from our families and friends who also live up to our highest expectations of ourselves.

Gone are the days when disabled people have to contend with a legacy of limitations placed on their ability to participate by a disabling community.

Returning to the Olympics theme, I cannot let the moment go by without referring to the Bladerunner – double amputee Oscar Pistorius who will be competing with other Olympic hopefuls in the 400m dash with the help of his carbon fibre prosthetic running blades.

A multiple Paralympic gold medalist, the Blade-runner has always wanted to also compete in the Olympics and World Championships – and so tonight I also think of him as another signal that we can indeed be the best of whatever we are.

Accessibility is all about having the freedom to make ordinary choices; to live independently; to be included and able to participate on an equal basis with others.

It is about making buildings accessible and compliant – it is ensuring transport and workplaces do not act as barriers to all that we can be.

A key priority for me has been in encouraging Government agencies to invest in accessibility as a benchmark for their organisation – working with the Disability Employment Forum and the Employers Disability Network to establish a place where every can fully contribute and where everyone can feel like they belong.

It is so good to see Be making its presence felt here in Wellington.

And I am tremendously excited to meet the second group of people who are going through the Be Leadership programme including our fabulous MCs – Sonia Pivac and Tony Howe.

Tonight is all about the Be vision – to think about possibility – and strengthen our commitment to the goal of making Aotearoa the best place in the world to be for everyone.

Tonight we invite you all to take up the korowai of inclusion – to become flag bearers of possibility – to be the Change!

Tena tatou katoa

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