Hard News by Russell Brown


How disabled people are excluded from public leadership

by Robyn Hunt

Nearly thirty years after the introduction of Equal Employment Opportunity, (EEO) into the New Zealand public service there is still an impenetrable glass ceiling for Deaf and disabled people. While government continues to “promote” employment for disabled people, career paths and advancement in the public service for people who identify as Deaf or disabled are problematic.

EEO has been relatively successful for women, who have reached a critical mass, but a timid and conservative bureaucracy seems reluctant to harness the skills and talents of nearly a quarter of the population, including disabled and Deaf women.

The Office for Disability Issues was set up in 2002 to implement the first Disability Strategy and as a disability contact point for all of government. Later it became responsible for oversight of the implementation of the Disability Rights Convention, (CRPD.)

At the time of establishment this structure within the MSD was not ideal for many in the Deaf and disabled community. There was wide discussion then about the importance of having a (qualified) director who identified as disabled or Deaf. Disabled people applied but the first director was non-disabled, as was the second. At the time of establishment a governance council was suggested, but an advisory group of Deaf and disabled people was what we got. That was not successful for a variety of reasons and was abolished.

Fifteen years later we seem to have made no progress at all. Numbers of disabled people in the public service have not been collected for many years, although they were collected in the early days of EEO, and were woefully low compared to the proportion of Deaf and disabled people in the overall population. The situation may not have changed.

More Deaf and disabled people are graduating from university. A record number of 103 Victoria University graduands had disabilities in the May 2017 graduation, the highest number for any of Victoria’s graduation periods, I frequently meet lively, smart, ambitious and talented young Deaf and disabled people, but I don’t get a sense that the public sector is keen to snap up their services. Some have joined the public service and have struggled or left. A few remain.    

Now the third director of the Office for Disability Issues has been appointed. This is not a personal criticism or attack on him. Brian Coffey is an experienced public servant with a special education background. But where is the disabled or Deaf leader who should be in the role? Where is the Deaf or disabled person who was being encouraged and career-developed for the role, an ideal opportunity?

I don’t know who applied, or what the process was. I’ve been approached in the past by recruiters for a disability NGO. When I indicated I wasn’t available to apply I was encouraged to provide other names, which I did. The role was also advertised in the usual way. A disabled person was eventually appointed on merit. That seems to be a sensible way to proceed for a role so important to the disability community.

Many years ago I wrote a paper for a Department of Labour seminar on employment. My subject was defining merit. In the paper I explored the possibilities of redefining merit to include the Deaf and disability experience as positive. But I fear that considering a broader range of life experience, skills and attributes as well as the necessary academic qualifications is a bridge too far in today’s risk-averse public service.

There’ll be no change if we always do what we always did. We’ll continue to get the same old policies and outcomes we always have, and these don’t bode well for the advancement of the rights of Deaf and disabled people, or indeed the New Zealand Public Service.

Robyn Hunt is a communications consultant via her company AccEase, a long time disability advocate and commentator and a former Human Rights Commissioner


Friday Music: A melodic thread

Jed Town has been through a few musical guises: Beatlesque punk rocker with The Features, and then everything from confronting experimentalist to electronic raver as Fetus Productions. But through it all there's been a continuous thread of melody.

And that thread has never been as evident as it is in his current band, Ghost Town. This video for 'Make it', from the album Sky Is Falling – shot on Super 8 film! – provides a moody, grainy accompaniment to what is a remarkably sweet song.


Now that I have my tickets (after paying a wtf $10.78 in booking fees) I guess I can safely tell you about Nadia Reid's show at the Hollywood Cinema on June 16. The evening will also feature songs from Anthonie Tonnon, poetry by Courtney Sina Meredith drinks by Garage Project and food by Lord of the Fries and trailers and curiosities on 35mm film by John Lily.

It's Nadia's last show before she heads off to Europe for a while. Her second album, Preservation, continues to reveal more of itself the more I listen to it and I'm really looking forward to hearing the songs played live. Here's the most recent video from the album, 'Richard'.


The 19 year-old South London rapper Dave didn't choose his name for easy googling, but I saw him perform this song, 'PictureMe', on a recent Later With Jools Holland and was quite struck by it. It's a dense, flowing meditation on life choices, beautifully captured here here as a video by Lx. He has a new album out soon.


If you live in Wellington and go out a bit, you probably know about DJ Bill E's Atomic and 24 Hour Party people nights at the San Francisco Bath House. He has a special one coming up next Saturday the 27th:

And guess what? I have three double passes to give away to Public Address readers (it's only $10 on the door anyway, but that's like a whole extra drink at the bar, right?). Just click the email link at the bottom of this post and mail me with "See me Go" in the subject line.


Followers of the way and the truth in rock 'n' roll may care to know that a documentary about Australia's legendary Radio Birdman is nearing completion – details here from a newspaper in Birdman's spiritual home, Detroit. There's even a  trailer:

 Meanwhile, just because it's awesome, this guy cut together a video Birdman's immortal 'Aloha Steve and Danno' from actual episodes of Hawaii  Five-O.



 The 95bFM Top 10 is pretty fly right now. Number one this week is 'My Smile Is Extinct' by Kane Strang. It's from the forthcoming album Two Hearts and No Brain. Kane's currently touring Europe.

Number two is '030' by Suren Unka on the Japanese label dos . ing. He's been playing there this month. Note that this is a free download:

And number three is Dirty Pixels' 'Spacesuit', the first song from a forthcoming EP. They're the band of Ethan Moore, the son of Phil Moore of Goblin Mix fame. And I think you can tell he was raised on the right records ...

And finally, I've long loved Daughter's 'Youth', more so in the remix. This popped up in my Apple Music yesterday – a cover by Haux, about whom I know nothing. But I like this ...


The Friday Music Post is sponsored by:


Representing New Zealand music


The Oncoming Day

On Saturday night at the Kings's Arms, in the course of a triumphant two-encore show, The Chills' frontman Martin Phillipps made an announcement from the stage. He had recently received his test results back after antiviral treatment – and they indicated that he was clear of the Hepatitis C virus for the first time in 20 years.

"So you'll be hearing from me for a few years yet."

He looked and sounded like a man who had had a great weight lifted from him. I recognised that unburdening from people I'd spoken to for this story about Hep C in 2015.

Martin had earlier, during another break between songs, alluded to his newfound sprightliness, noting that he hadn't had an alcoholic drink for six months.

"I"m going to be one of those annoying alcoholics who gives you updates," he quipped.

Martin's heavy drinking had exacerbated the symptoms of his disease and contributed to irreversible scarring of his liver. Why would someone do something so self-destructive? Hopelessness, basically. Martin had been told he would die soon and said so freely in interviews, even as the band re-emerged into its most fertile time in a quarter of a century. He'd undergone the brutal interferon cure and it hadn't worked. By the time he stopped drinking, "soon" meant months to a year. I've seen that kind of fatalism before in people I know – it's what living under the virus is like.

So the Sunday Star Times headline the following morning, The Chills' dying frontman Martin Phillipps is given miracle reprieve from Hepatitis C, was not an exaggeration. The drug Martin took for 12 weeks, Harvoni, is, (like the other DAAs on the market or in trials) functionally a miracle cure.

But there are a few things in the story that need addressing. It doesn't make it clear that as of last year, a little more than half of the 50,000 New Zealanders infected with Hep C do have access to Pharmac-funded treatment. That's those with genotypes 1 and 1a of the virus. They can walk into their GP's surgery today and begin the process of being treated with another new antiviral, Viekira Pak The others, such as Martin, face a much, much sterner test. Funded Harvoni is available only to people who are on the verge of a liver transplant, or death.

This isn't Pharmac's fault. I explained why it's the case in this Matters of Substance story.

And still, as I understand it, Martin could have been treated sooner and be living now with less permanent liver damage. If only he had not been living within the region of the Southern District Health Board, which has not only refused to prescribe an imported generic Harvoni (cost to the patient, about $1800 versus $87,000 for locally-sourced Harvoni), but to even tell patients they have that option.

The Star Times story mentions generics, but leaves out the most important information. Which is that, as far as I know, there is only one truly trusted source of generics: the Fix Hep C Buyers Club. Fix Hep C is strongly endorsed by the country's leading liver specialist, Ed Gane, and the Hepatitis Foundation. Other sources might provide good drugs, but they also might not, and the results of taking inadequate medication are problematic.

So if you or someone you know are moved to act by Martin's story, the first step is to go to your GP and get tested. If you're unwilling to go to your GP (who might be Dr Judgey), there are other options, including the Auckland Neede Exchange. Read my story for more information on that.

But one more thing. The comments under that Stuff story. I gather some of the worst ones have actually been removed, but even some of those remaining display a staggering lack of humanity. Yes, people make mistakes, they do dumb things when they're young. That doesn't mean they deserve to die.

And as my new friend Tim from Seattle observed of a different little online flurry of Martin-bitching as we left the King's Arms on Saturday night:

"Perhaps you could tell us about the equivalent to 'Pink Frost' that you wrote, so we can have a balanced discussion about your contribution too."


Anyway, here's the video I got on Saturday night of 'Lost in Space', a very old Chills song written in 1981 and later used as the theme for the "rock opera" The Chills in Space, which was performed at the Windsor Castle in 1985. Until recently, when it appeared as the B-side of the 'Rocket Science' single, it never been properly recorded (it does appear on a live album). It was great to hear it again.


Friday Music: Sign of the times

Earlier this week, a video of Snoop Dogg and his crew performing 'P.I.M.P.'  at Jazz Festival in New Orleans came across the social media wires – and it featured an amazing performance. Not by Snoop or any of his crew, but by the American Sign Language interpreter at the foot of the stage.

There's the version on YouTube.

The interpreter's name is Holly Maniatty and she's a rap specialist. But as the Slate profile explains, she got her start in concert signing years ago when none of her colleagues at the interpreter agency she was working at wanted to do a Marilyn Manson show. She later signed up with a company called Everyone's Invited, which led to her to become a regular at Jazz Festival and Bonaroo – where she signed for her first hip hop group, the Beastie Boys, in 2009.

Strikingly, she's far from alone in what she does. In 2014, the Jimmy Kimmel Show matched her up with two other concert interpeters in a live sign language rap battle.

The woman with the pink flash in her hair in that clip is Amber Galloway Gallego, who is probably the star of the whole scene. This recent Vox video story looks not just at how many artists she's signed for (around 400, including Adele, Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Coldplay) but at the way ASL has expanded and been enriched as music has been taken more seriously as a thing worth expressing.

The Slate profile tells a similar story:

To prepare for the show, Maniatty says she logged more than 100 hours of research on the Beastie Boys, memorizing their lyrics and watching past shows. Her prep work also includes researching dialectal signs to ensure accuracy and authenticity. An Atlanta rapper will use different slang than a Queens one, and ASL speakers from different regions also use different signs, so knowing how a word like guns and brother are signed in a given region is crucial for authenticity.

Signing a rap show requires more than just literal translation. Maniatty has to describe events, interpret context, and tell a story. Often, she is speaking two languages simultaneously, one with her hands and one with her mouth, as she’ll sometimes rap along with the artists as well.

Gallego is involved with a ASL band camp happening in July. here's the video invite. Note that the rapping here is entirely in sign. There's no voice being translated.

But, you may be asking, do deaf people actually go to concerts? Yes they do! Again from the Slate story:

Kat Murphy is a 30-year-old Memphis native who is hearing-impaired; she can hear beats but not words. Along with her boyfriend, Melvin, who is “profoundly deaf,” Murphy was at Bonnaroo and attended both the Wu-Tang and Killer Mike shows. She witnessed Maniatty's interactions with both rappers. “It was amazing,” she said. “She didn't skip a beat or allow it to sidetrack her” when Method Man came calling. Unfamiliar with Killer Mike before the show, she left thinking he “was the most deaf-friendly artist and he really incorporated the interpreters into his performance. We are his new fans.”

Until Bonnaroo, it never occurred to Killer Mike that he had deaf fans; he left the show “honored” to have someone like Maniatty interpreting him. “You wonder how they can even keep up,” he says. “That's an art form; that's more than just a technical skill.”

I've seen interpreters at local events like Webstock, but I can't recall ever seeing it at a concert here. Is anyone doing it? has New Zealand Sign Language been enhanced to take better account of music? Alternatively, is there anyone we could raise some money to get to one of Gallego's camps?


So anyway, there's a ton of ASL on YouTube. This one's topical:

And here's a classic (click through to the clip itself to see the notes on how the words are translated into sign):


A couple of things to keep an eye on during New Zealand Music Month:

The official NZMM Twitter account.

And PopLib, who are back again offering a a gem a day for the whole month


If you have a means of watching British television, this new Channel 4 series is really worth a look.



Some local vibes: a first taste of a new Ladi6 album, Royal Blue 3000, which drops on June 2.

The new Dub Terminator album on Soul Island. On your streaming service, but also here in full as a Soundcloud playlist:

A little more of that forthcoming Micronism reissue. I gather Loop got the test pressings of the vinyl this week and were very happy indeed.

And, finally, a pretty epic dancefloor take on Massive Attack's 'Teardrop'. Free download with reasonably little palaver:


The Friday Music Post is sponsored by:


Representing New Zealand music


Orcon IRL: Mummy and daddy, what did you do in the Tech Wars?

Techweek 2017 has begun in 23 centres around the motu and we're pitching in with a special Orcon IRL at Golden Dawn tomorrow evening.

Much of the week, be it in Auckland, Westport, Rotorua or Whangarei, is serious stuff, so we're going with scurrilous stories and robust opinions.

Our guests are:

Katie Graham, founder of Delicious Mint, which helped build the innovative Songbroker website, and the Bitcoin moneybox service MyBitCoinSaver, among other things.

Heather Gaye, indie web developer responsible for the NZ Olympic Committee website, among many others.

Nat Torkington, builder of New Zealand's first ever website, author of The Perl Cookbook, founder of Foo Camp and player of the banjo.

Paul Brislen, former editor of Computerworld NZ, former CEO of TUANZ and current practioner of independent public relations.

You'll be able to put questions to the panelists and after it wraps up we have Sydney's WCB (William Cooper Barling) to play some betwitching music. Come over! It's free! (And if you can't make it, it'll all be streaming live thanks to the crew at 95bFM.)

Orcon IRL at the Golden Dawn: Techweek edition

Tuesday May 9, 6.30-9.30pm

The Golden Dawn Tavern of Power, corner Ponsonby and Richmond Roads, Ponsonby.

(It's not going to rain and there are heaters, but we're out in the courtyard, so wear something warm.)

RSVP to attend here on the Facebook event page.