More than 80 Pacific peoples with disabilities, their families, carers and providers gathered to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities at the Ministry for Pacific peoples, Manukau. The event was hosted by Tofā Mamao, the Auckland regional Pacific disabled peoples and their families and carers collective; supported by PIASS Trust and the Ministry.
This years’ theme is "The Future is Accessible": the need for everyone to look towards a future where the barriers that stand in people’s way no longer exist. Hon Jenny Salesa, Associate Minister of Health, encouraged those present to ‘have their say’ and participate in the review into the New Zealand health and disability sector that is currently underway. The review is focused on ensuring the health and disability system is strong, equitable and sustainable.
Keynote speaker, Barry de Geest, Chief Executive of the Renaissance Group, shared his inspirational life story. Born with no arms and short legs as a result of the drug thalidomide, he has not let his disability stop him from achieving his dreams. Barry attended “regular school”, represented Otago in rowing, married, had children and in 2001 founded the Renaissance Group, one of New Zealand’s largest support organisation for peoples with disabilities.
“You’re only limited by what you think… Have a go. You can do and be anything you want,” said Barry de Geest.
Tunumafono Fa'amoetauloa Avaula Fa’amoe, Vice Chair of PIASS Trust, meanwhile, spoke of the seen and unseen barriers that hinder peoples with disabilities’ participation in society.
“We are not limited by our abilities but by how others perceive us and define us… We need to keep challenging those narrow mindsets to ensure disabled and abled people alike thrive and prosper,” said Tunumafono Fa'amoetauloa Avaula Fa'amoe.
Hon Jenny Salesa with (L to R) Hamish Crooks (CE Pacific Homecare), Sonia Hawea (CEO Taikura Trust), Tunumafono Fa'amoetauloa Avaula Fa'amore (Vice Chair, PIASS Trust), Toleafoa Ray Tuala (Relationship Manager, Ministry for Pacific peoples) and Dr Amanda-Lanuola Dunlop (CEO Vaka Tautua).
Tofā Mamao Chair, Lavinia Lovo, giving the welcome address.
International Day of Persons with Disabilities is celebrated on 3 December each year. Started in December 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly, the day aims to encourage a better understanding of disability issues.