Tena koutou katoa
Ka mihi atu au ki te tangata whenua, te hau kainga, nau te reo i karanga mai ki a matou, i mihi mai ki a matou tenei ope.
Ki te ope kua huihui mai i te ra nei, mo tenei hui whakahirahira – tena koutou, tena koutou, aa tena tatou katoa.
“She blew his mouth and nostrils, and with two fingers lightly massaged his chest until the mucus began to drain freely.
She took a pendant from her ear and put it on the blanket beside him. ‘Tokowaru-i-te-Marama. Ko Tokowaru-i-te-Marama te ingoa o tenei,’ she said.
And so we are introduced to the character Toko, in Patricia Grace’s award winning novel, Potiki.
As his kuia, Tamihana, literally breathes life into her mokopuna we are already aware that this is a special child. But what we learn as we travel through the pages of Potiki, is that the wh?nau itself has been blessed with a special gift – the gift of Toko, no ordinary child.
Toko was born prematurely and as a result his left shoulder was lower than his right shoulder. As he grew his capacity to walk unaided was reduced, and he eventually found himself bound to a wheelchair.
Amidst his physical disabilities Toko has an extraordinary ability to see beyond today; what Grace calls a ‘special kind of knowing’. The small community in which he lives offers a supportive environment; a haven for people who might otherwise have been marginalised by a disabling society.
I love the stories of Patricia Grace because they show us who we are – they are a mirror to the world of the wonder of wh?nau – and for that they will always be a best-seller in my eyes.
Today then, we start a new chapter – as we launch the Maori Disability Action Plan – Whaia te Ao Marama.
Like the best of Patricia Grace, our setting is the perfect location to acknowledge the work that has been undertaken to date and to celebrate the possibilities for disabled M?ori and our wh?nau in our future lives.
Wainuiomata Marae has a long-established history in supporting those with disabilities, and contributing towards a more accessible community. This marae regularly hosts events for the local disability community, including an annual Maori disability information day, and a number of Ministry of Health disability forums.
The marae was also refurbished with mobility needs specifically incorporated into its design – you are indeed a state-of-the-art model of what we should expect of all our marae, all our homes, all our places to be.
Thank you for your on-going support, and for allowing us to be here with you today.
I want to acknowledge so many of you that have come together to celebrate this wonderful occasion.
The independent advisors who helped to steer this project into fruition; Tania Kingi and Charmeyne Te Nana-Williams, t?n? k?rua.
I acknowledge the Ministry of Health, the National Health Board, Te Piringa, Te Rau Matatini, the Federation of Disability Information Centres and many other agencies who have supported the development of the plan.
We are indebted to our story-tellers who gave of their time and their experience – and of course this plan has been enriched by the tautoko and the challenges of our wider whanau, hapu and iwi who participated in this project. This is your story and we acknowledge your leadership and your commitment in getting it right.
Over 200 people attended hui and focus groups throughout the journey – that is a fantastic investment in the authenticity and enduring value of the plan.
All of you have also demonstrated a special kind of knowing – you have carried the beacon of hope that is represented in this document today – the pathway into the world of light and enlightenment, Te Ao Marama.
But there are a few people I want to particularly highlight – Sylvia R?tahi; Rainus Baker; Karen Pointon; Maaka Tibble, Ruth Jones and David Tamatea – the Maori Disability Leadership Group.
One of the nuns from the Sisters of St Josephs in Whanganui – women whom I have the utmost respect for – will often say to me that “those in a position to name hold the power”.
In other words those who hold the pen, the policy or the putea are often able to construct perceptions and realities which reflect their experience. For too many years for disabled persons, their story has been told by others – well-meaning or not – the story inevitably takes on a different flavour when it is seen through someone else’s eyes.
As Rainus says in this plan, “Sometimes I do get labelled and I don’t like it…. No, I’m a normal person just like you. I don’t care if I’ve got a disability. I’m just a normal and loving person like you, and you should awhi it”.
The power to name is about the expression of voice – it’s in the ability to tell your own story, to shape the way in which you are seen.
Today we are not only launching Whaia Te Ao Marama: The Maori disability action plan for disability support services, we have also come to acknowledge your contribution to this project, and towards enabling Maori disabled people to live good lives as Maori within our communities. In some ways it is sad that we have to spell out the right to be tangata whenua in our own land.
What I like most in this action plan is the richness of the korero, the absolute integrity in which our concepts, knowledge and world views have been captured in the text. You have told us that in order to achieve a good life that is self-determined and enlightened, there are four core elements: te ao Maori; te ao hurihuri; te rangatira and tuhonohono.
I absolutely believe that to connect with our whanau, and with Maori we must know something of the experiences, history and world view which define us and connect us through whakapapa.
It is an integral part of building respectful and understanding relationships. It is also a vital part of recognising that our identity as tangata whenua is important to the success and wellbeing of our whanau.
When it comes to developing policy, programmes or supports – that principle of empowering people to live good lives should always be front of mind, and in our hearts – if we can achieve this, then I have no doubt that our future actions in implementing this plan will be a positive and successful experience for our whanau.
For government agencies who will be guided by this plan, I think this principle is also essential to best practice. Your job is to ensure the aspirations and priorities of disabled persons and their wh?nau are able to be explored in the way they determine and that any bureaucratic obstacles or compliance complexities are managed in such a way as to enable that to happen.
We know that tangata whenua have a multi-generational outlook, and an expansive breadth of whanau and whakapapa relationships. This is our greatest strength, and it is in understanding this that we can start to build supports around not only disabled people, but the wider whanau to ensure the best possible outcomes.
This is something which is inherent in everyday thinking, a form of common sense amongst our people, which we are working to see is understood and reflected by governments and organisations working with whanau.
Whanau Ora is an example of where that collective approach can work effectively to support the wellbeing of our whanau. Whaia Te Ao Marama builds on that same approach and interprets it within the disability support service sector.
It is about disabled members and their wh?nau being enabled to determine in their own words and actions a normal life and how this can happen.
The plan outlines Government priorities which have been developed in collaboration with disabled Maori and their whanau. These priorities are:
· to improve outcomes for Maori
· to provide better support for whanau
· have good relationships with tangata whenua
· and to ensure there are responsive disability services
These principles sit alongside the new and innovative model Te Toorino which is developed within this plan. Te Toorino depicts the key elements required to support our whanau to pursue a good life. It recognises our need to live as Maori, to be supported in our endeavours to be self-determining, while also acknowledging our aspiration to be part of the collective, whether that be within our whanau or the wider community.
It also identifies the various organisations who are partners on the journey alongside our whanau.
It is well overdue and my hope is that our kaupapa and tikanga drive our actions, our words, and our relationships moving forward into the future.
In order to push forward with these goals, we must ensure we find ways to reach every single whanau in Aotearoa.
Whaia Te Ao Marama represents a very big step in the right direction towards ensuring that Maori disabled and their whanau are given the appropriate support in ways which resonate with who they are, what they believe, and where they come from and what is enabling them to lead independent and interdependent lives with them in control.
It is the first step in a journey of enabling disabled persons and their wh?nau to assert their rights as guaranteed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Finally, I want to mihi to everyone involved in this plan; for the courage you have shown in daring to believe in our own wisdom; to put into words the aspirations that represent a special kind of knowing.
And in my mind, there’s no-one better to say this than in the words of Ng?ti Porou man, Gary Williams:
“Why can’t we join the dots together to show that perhaps there is a different way to achieve the outcomes that we all needed to achieve? The imported system can’t be working for our people and there’s some indigenous ways which could be working maybe a lot better”.
You must never be afraid to speak for yourselves to challenge the various Ministries you engage with; the providers and services they offer; the multiple agencies that you interact with in your everyday lives.
Some of you have told me that sometimes it appears as if there’s a mega industry built out of your disability. I believe that we need to refocus and to place our priorities on an approach which builds on the strengths of disabled people; which is directed by, for and of them, and applies a ‘whole of life’ lens to every situation.
This will take bravery on many counts. We need Ministries with mettle – who have the insights to look anew at the supports and services on offer and are prepared to change.
We need providers who have the pluck and nerve to adapt their approach to be more flexible to the aspirations of disabled persons and their wh?nau.
And we need you.
I would urge you all to demonstrate the amazing courage and resilience that you have within to ask questions, to demand the best, to place an expectation on everyone’s radar that all you want is to be the best that you can be – to be enabled to live a fantastic life.
I am delighted to launch this plan –Whaia te ao Marama.
Tena koutou katoa