Text Size + - reset

Skip navigation.

Newsletters > Manahau: Resilience and Celebration > 2010 > March > Paul Gibson – Working for Better Health and Education

Manahau: Resilience and Celebration

March, 2010

Paul Gibson

Paul Gibson

Paul Gibson has his work cut out for him. Working at the policy and strategic level, he’s tackling two of the biggest areas affecting disabled people’s lives: health and education.

Paul is the Senior Disability Advisor at Capital and Coast Health. He works to ensure DHBs, hospitals and health services are responsive to disabled people. “Some disabled people have health issues related to their impairment. When these are accounted for, disabled people have significantly worse health outcomes than non-disabled people,” says Paul.

His involvement in advocating for disability rights can be traced back to his university days. Here Paul met other disabled students at a time when disabled people were becoming more politicised. “We started naming discrimination when it existed and we were increasingly defining ourselves in social, rather than medical, terms.” In 1993, Paul was involved in setting up CAN DO at Victoria University, a group run by disabled students.

Paul is now working in a medical environment and meeting some challenges. “This is a largely clinical workforce and getting them to understand disability in social terms is not easy.”

Paul has a wealth of experience and skills to draw on. He went through the school system as a vision-impaired child. After a few stints at university, he gained a Masters degree in public policy. Paul has previously worked for two key disability organisations in New Zealand, the Disabled Persons Assembly and CCS Disability Action.

In connection with Paul’s position at Capital and Coast Health, he is one of five people who advise the Minister on the Review of Special Education, Hon Heather Roy. “All five of us come from very diverse backgrounds, but we each bring our knowledge and passion for education.”

In providing advice to the Minister Paul see his role as bringing a “perspective of a disabled person who has direct experience of the education system and knowledge gathered from years of working with disabled people and their families.

The Review of Special Education discussion document proposes a vision for education for disabled people. This vision includes what the disability community want, such as:

To be “continually learning, having friends, real jobs and enough money, things to do that are meaningful or of interest, a place to call home, loving relationships, and leaving behind a world better for our being here.”

Reflecting on his experience, Paul says, “New Zealand has been great at developing visions but struggles to implement these. Disability issues have not been given priority.”

Paul strongly encourages everyone to read and respond to the review discussion document.

2 Responses to “Paul Gibson – Working for Better Health and Education”

  1. Mark Thornton-Pett Says:

    Hi Paul
    I note that you have been appointed to the advisory panel that Heather Roy has set up for the Review of Special Education in NZ. I am somewhat alarmed that there appears to be no representation for the interests of Special Schools on the panel. Since you are listed as an advocate for disabled people I am emailing you my concerns in the hope that you will at least condescend to listen to what I have to say.
    When people mention the words ‘special schools’, there is this blanket assumption that they are austere closed door institutions where disabled children are ‘dumped’ in order to keep them out of the mainstream. Whilst this may have been true in the past, it most definitely does not apply to special schools today.
    My son attends Carlson School for Cerebral Palsy in Auckland. It is a remarkable school that provides rich educational opportunities (via a personalised education plan) that would not be available to my son in the mainstream school. In addition he receives physical therapy that helps to maintain robust health again at a level which a mainstream could not provide.
    It is interesting to note that well meaning institutions like the IHC seem hell bent on closing special schools (we repeatedly see news articles where they are calling for the closure of ALL special schools). I wonder how in touch you really are when you see that the people battling to keep schools like Carlson are the parents of the children that attend the school. Who do you think knows what is best for the children that attend special schoolfs, the government, groups such as the IHC or the parents of children attending the school.
    If you really are an advocate for disabled children then you will appreciate although a child with severe physical and learning disabilities as a result of cerebral pasy and a child with vision impairment are both classified as disabled, the best educational solution may not necessarily be the same. My son happens to fall in the former category and the education he receives at Carlson school is amazing. PLEASE PLEASE remember this surely we have a right to decide whether or not we can send him to a special school.
    Can I ask that before you make any pronouncements/judgements on special schools, that you visit one or more of the schools to see what they do. Maybe even talk to some of the parents and se what they think.

  2. Angelo Gjerde Says:

    There’s noticeably a bundle to know about this. I assume you made certain good points in features also.

Leave a Reply