The Commission would like to congratulate Chief Executive of DPA, Gary Williams of Ngāti Porou, who has been recognised in the recent Queen’s Birthday and Diamond Jubilee Honours by being awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for services representing the interests of disabled people both nationally and internationally. Gary who was instrumental in helping to organise the hui, says it will work to encourage and support Māori leadership within the disability community. He recognises the importance of rebuilding the relationships te hunga hauā should have with their marae and whānau.
The following is Gary’s perspective on Māori and Disability: Continue reading…
Māori and Disability: a perspective
Ko Marotiri te maunga
Ko Mangahauini te awa
Ko Whanau-a-Ruataupare te hapu
Ko Ngāti Porou te iwi
One of the most priceless things in my world is standing on my mother’s front lawn and gazing out to the Green House and beyond to Te Mawhai. I can see the urupa at Ongaruru where my father, my maternal grandparents and some uncles, aunties and cousins lie. One day I will lie there too.
Standing behind me is Marotiri.
Shortly I will join the whānau in the backyard where the adults are indulging in raucous one-upmanship and the kids are being kids. This has taken place countless times in the last 50 plus years.
It’s one of those rare moments when I can just be me. I am with my whanau and they see me as:
- a husband
- a son
- a brother
- a nephew
- a cousin
- a father
- an uncle
- a papa
- an equal.
These are all positive and respected roles.
This is the life I was born to, It is where I don’t need laws and other instruments to protect me because being an integral part of my whanau does that.
Although I’d like to stand here forever, I eventually have to move. Every step away from that place is another step closer to a world that sees me very differently.
The further I move, the greater the difference until I am at a place where I am none of the above. My gender, my ethnicity, my age, and my impairment all conspire against me.
Instead of me standing in my own mana, I am saddled with the unfair negative stereotypes of others.
To correct that, I am protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Tiriti o Waitangi, Human Rights Act, Bill of Rights Act and a plethora of others.
These are meant to prevent discrimination and change behaviours. This could take generations before they aren’t needed.
In the meantime, we have institutions like the judiciary, the Government, the United Nations and the Human Rights Commission.
The Commission knows Māori issues really well and disability issues to a slightly lesser degree. Therefore there is mutual benefit for us to support the Commission to improve its capability around disabled Maori.
For many disabled people including Māori, by the time we complain to the Commission we’ve gone through a whole process that started with discrimination through to convincing ourselves that, with everything el se going on in our lives, it’ll be worth the effort.
It’s this that the Commission has to be cognisant of.
The other thing to know is that disabled Maori have tried all the ways that have supposed to improve our circumstances.
For example, until I was 13 I went to Hatea-a-rangi. The school supported me and, if I applied myself, I’d top my class.
Due to accessibility issues at the local high school, I moved from my home to a large institution for people with impairments. From being the boss of my world, I was suddenly an insignificant part of other peoples’ very different worlds.
Because I had no kaumatua to guide me, my self-taught coping skills meant I gave up things that I really should have kept e.g. te reo. I also became very selfish as I competed for meagre support resources.
That inward focus on my own needs was also indicative of my being parted from my whānau and then being singled out.
I then tried living in the community - without supports. This lead to an invidious choice of remaining in community or returning to institutionalised living where basic supports where provided but at the expense of fundamental rights and responsibilities.
I did choose the community but it was very tempting to opt for the physically easier alternative.
Reflecting on my experiences, I’ve been thinking about our mostly Euro-centric dominated world and the movement towards individualism and supported disconnectedness from other people like whanau and neighbours. The earthquakes in Christchurch have shown that the first tranche of supports aren’t necessarily going to be from contractors.
The more I think about it, the more uncomfortable I feel about having to separate myself from others.
My uneasiness is around the concept of needing to sacrifice naturally occurring supports for artificial systemic supports which may not allow you to live the life you want.
As a Māori with impairments I’ve come to realise that I am best supported by whānau. To do this though, my whānau may need support as well.