Many voices, one call
The disability community has many voices in Tairawhiti. Shaan Te Kani tunes in to the latest call being made by local whanau to fill gaps in disability support and services for the elderly . . .
Those with the quietest voices, often have the greatest message to share. But when those voices come together as one, they can have a great impact.
That is the kaupapa of Karanga Maha ki Te Tairawhiti, an initiative of CCS Disability Action.
Karanga Maha is the gathering of “many voices coming together”. It is a forum for whanau with a disability or impairment to have their say about the gaps in the Tairawhiti community, relating to disability service provision.
It was delivered through a series of wananga, which were one-day workshops of discussion sessions and information sharing.
Tairawhiti held three hui towards the end of last year with the first in September, and the following two in November and December.
The first hui was for whanau to let CCS Disability Action know where the gaps were in terms of disability support, as well as support for kaumatua (elderly).
At the second hui, various agencies were invited along to talk to whanau about the support that they provide to whanau with disabilities, and how to access their services.
The third hui was a bus trip around Gisborne to show whanau the various services around town that they have access to, and where they are.
The tour took in the wide range of agencies, from Life Unlimited and the Blind Foundation office, to the Inland Revenue Department and Te Wananga o Aotearoa.
“We’re supporting people toward independence,” said Dorothy Taare-Smith of CCS Disability Action Tairawhiti.
“With us showing them where these places are, they can go there on their own when they need to.
“We encourage our whanau to take advantage of all while they can.”
CCS Disability Action Midland Region general manager Colene Herbert says it is important that the community know how the service can support them.
“We are very open to supporting within the sector of health and disability,” she says.
“We service 600 people in Tairawhiti and it is growing. We have many exciting things to share with whanau. We have a proposal for elderly services, for home and community support for kaumatua.
“We want community groups to use our facilities, especially small support groups who have nowhere to meet; you can use our premises.”
Hearing concerns of the communityColene says Karanga Maha has been a great opportunity to hear the community’s concerns, and new ideas are already being implemented in response.
“It is a new concept to Tairawhiti but has existed up north for a long time.
“We used the concept, ‘many voices come together’. You tell us where the gaps are and we’ll show you the way.
“We hope to develop leadership among our whanau. We hope the next roll-out of Karanga Maha will be run by the people.
“The karanga (call) has also been put out there by some of our whanau to go back to the marae, so it is likely the next roll-out of Karanga Maha will happen on a local marae.
“At the first hui it was clear to us that people didn’t know about what services or support is out there.
“They don’t know how to navigate the system. It’s a very convoluted system, even for us as professionals, let alone whanau. They don’t know, what they don’t know.
“We have seen them struggling when they don’t need to, so we’ve tried to respond by providing more support for them.
“Also, as a result, we have been able to korero with other providers to see how we can all work together. The beauty of Karanga Maha is we have been having these conversations and collaborating.”
One of the messages that came through loud and clear was a lack of support for disability whanau in the rural areas.
“There have been no provisions for people up the coast, but we have a responsibility to take services there.
“We have developed a new role to service that area, and that’s one of the wonderful things that has come out of this.
“Next time, we could also take part of the hui there.”
It’s a topic that is close to home for Colene, who was born and bred up the coast.
“I grew up in the richness of having a sibling with an intellectual disability. To say his presence in my life influenced my career pathway is an understatement.
“I watched my mother struggle up there, there were no services.
“We have come a long way from putting your children into an institution. My mum refused to buy into it.
“We have an aim to keep everyone supported living in natural environment.
“People have been talking about their roadblocks, so it’s up to us to remove the barriers.
“We purposely went out of our way to get a 4WD vehicle to get to places like Waikaremoana and the coast, so we can support them and remove the barriers.
“From the learnings of Karanga Maha, 2019 is going to be an awesome year.”
Dorothy Taare-Smith said Karanga Maha provided a platform for voices that were often marginalised.
“Karanga Maha acknowledges that the needs of whanau are not always met,” she said.
“Our whanau are not always heard and these hui have given the people a voice.”
A key focus of the hui was to ask whanau, particularly Maori whanau, if their cultural needs were being met in the services they deal with.
Cultural consideration is an area that Dorothy is especially passionate about.
“We had awesome feedback from the whanau. They asked questions like how can iwi or Maori organisations help?
“The cultural aspect is vital for our people. Many Maori whanau disengage with disability support services because their needs are not heard, and as a result they are disadvantaged.
“We want to empower our whanau and support them in taking leadership in their own lives and communities.
“Whanau who have a disability face the same challenges — economic and social barriers — that the rest of Maori face, but they also face barriers that all people with a disability go through.
“It’s imperative that their cultural needs are being met. We want whanau to let us know if the processes they are forced to go through are in line with their cultural needs and wellbeing, and that it is appropriate for them.
“I hope that these hui will enable us to improve our mahi.”