Text and video of Jonathan Mosen’s opening remarks to the Disabled Leadership Now protest rally

 

Over the next few days, we’ll be posting highlights from our protest rally on Sunday.

 

First, it’s the opening statement from Jonathan Mosen. Read his address below, or watch the video.

 

Kia ora katou, I’m Jonathan Mosen. Welcome to Disabled Leadership Now! In a very short time, we have built a grass roots movement, and I am stoked by how many people we have with us today. Over 200 disabled people have registered, and many allies have expressed support. A special welcome to those allies watching on Facebook. Our cause has its roots in the Kaupapa of the disability movement and now in international law. It is strong and just. People are feeling upset. But today we are going to focus with dignity and clarity on principles, not people. We are here to shatter the disability glass ceiling respectfully but emphatically. Our journey has been long and is ongoing, and our struggles are more difficult than they should or could be. We know what it’s like to suffer the economic consequences and the indignity of attitudinal, access, and social policy barriers that see too many of unable to fulfil our potential. We live the disappointment and the frustration of being too often doubted, too often underestimated. We are the ones who have been advisors, sometimes paid, usually not, about the programmes and services in our own sector, rather than running those programmes.

I have been advocating on disability issues since I was 16, and that was 37 years ago. Together, we have made change, and we can feel proud of that. There is a lot that’s better than it used to be. But too many problems remain. Right now, we are facing a once in a generation opportunity to do a long overdue 180 in this sector. As other minorities and disadvantaged groups in society have done, we must insist that we lead our Ministry, from the establishment phase onwards, seeking the advice of nondisabled people when that is helpful, educating first-hand not just the public service, but the public, so we become a more disability confident nation.

Disabled Leadership Now was formed because having finally won a Ministry for Disabled People, we were appalled that a disabled person wasn’t appointed to head its establishment, despite capable disabled people applying and being shortlisted.

Some have said that now that the decision has been made, let’s just move on and focus on the Chief Executive role. I like to think that the amazing response to this rally today will send yet another strong signal that only a disabled person will do for that role, but what is happening every working day right now is crucial. I know this as someone who has built organisations from scratch. Right now, critical structural decisions are being taken that will have an impact on processes, systems, culture, and accessibility. We have the chance to build something new and truly transformational. After all we’ve been through to get this Ministry, we must not merely be observing and offering advice to the builder, ultimately to move into a building that may not be fit for purpose. We must have a disabled chief builder. We cannot, we must not, let this go.

Part of our history and culture is also that some of us feel very vulnerable. Sometimes we have been treated by Government entities in a way that makes us feel that we must remember our place. That if we don’t tow the line, we’ll be punished. Because of my IT background, I have been looking after all the IT systems for Disabled Leadership Now, so I have seen the registrations coming in. I have seen comments from people such as, “please don’t disclose my name, I don’t want there to be consequences for me”. I don’t blame anyone for feeling that way. I get it, but it breaks my heart. It’s a sign that many disabled people are nervous about exercising the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, to peaceably participate in our democracy without reprisals. Many disabled people have a hard time trusting Government. Not just this one, but any Government. The announcement of the new Ministry offered a glimmer of hope for many. To then appoint a nondisabled person to lead the Establishment of the new Ministry feels like yet another breach of trust, and that’s one of the reasons why so many people have turned up today. We don’t want a rearranging of the deck chairs. We don’t just want a new name and a fancy new logo. I won’t even noticed that you’ve changed it. So what do we want? We want real change. When do we want it? We want disabled leadership, now!

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