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Access: Some aspects of New Zealand’s disability history – part one

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  • WaterDragon,

    As I read and think about this, I re-know how much of our disabled history is left unknown. This good summary represents one of many strands, most of which are unknown, let alone subject to any serious analysis. There isn't "A" disability history for NZ, but there's so often a desire to have a nice neat package. This may come from people who have no real contact, from people from the outside, or from disabled people themselves who haven't explored and are looking at where to begin. So take these perceptive pieces, these points from which you can dive deeper, and do that diving people.

    Behind you • Since Jul 2011 • 73 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Hope more people dive in and have a go at writing their versions/stories.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3178 posts Report Reply

  • David Herkt,

    I particularly found the quoted poem interesting.

    “Oh Mother, save me from Dr. Gray

    ‘Cause teacher says he’s coming to-day

    And if I’m stupid he’ll take me away…’

    In Janet Frame’s novels [including the vastly under-rated 'Intensive Care'], there are many variants on this, in verse and in prose. Frame herself had been a resident at Seacliff, and her experience is translated quite clearly into her work. I’ve got used to the fact that Frame’s works are not as fictive as people think…

    This is a version of State Power and its proponents in New Zealand that doesn’t often get explored, but somehow it still affects us today in many ways.

    I find it immensely sad.

    Auckland • Since Sep 2007 • 52 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    This is a version of State Power and its proponents in New Zealand that doesn’t often get explored, but somehow it still affects us today in many ways.

    It has also affected the culture around too many disability leaders – a real reluctance to stand up to power.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19594 posts Report Reply

  • WaterDragon, in reply to Sacha,

    It has also affected the culture around too many disability leaders – a real reluctance to stand up to power

    You’re right, Sacha-few too many individually focussed souls around but there’s another aspect to it too- there may have been a lot more standing up that was done, but it doesn’t get into the public attention space anywhere near enough- maybe it’s not as enticing to a journo as a nice juicy stereotype of inspiration, or a government department engulfs and vanishes it as part of the process.
    It’s part of the public record that Quentin Angus wrote a bill about having a disability advocacy agency way back around 1981 (International Year of Disabled People) that after some full free and frank discussions got debated in Parliament (possibly due to the energies of JB Munro). But who today really knows Quentin stood up to power about it, because it was important for disabled people.
    As I said, you’re right, but like FB relationship statuses, standing up can be “its complicated”.

    Behind you • Since Jul 2011 • 73 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    I’m talking more recently. There’s a real passivity in the way some people think of themselves and their potential for action. It’s deeply encultured and makes perfect sense if your life depended on institutions.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19594 posts Report Reply

  • EliotBlennerhassett,

    4th paragraph - should be "1846 lunatics ordinance"

    Christhcurch • Since Jan 2010 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene,

    My old man was a bit of a eugenicist, which was why I spent a great deal of my childhood hiding my deafness.

    I did a bit of research into the history of deaf policy, seeing how most NZ histories on the subject tend to be school biographies, with all their subjectivity.

    In 1880, Vogel helped found what is now the Van Asch School, choosing Lip-reading over Sign Language for the curriculum. Sign Language become punishable behaviour and would not be taught again until 1979.

    By contrast, America's first deaf university was founded in 1859 and used Sign Language from the get go.

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Marc C,

    Quoted: "In this context, Plunket was started in 1907 to train mothers to grow healthy little citizens and soldiers for the empire. Founder Truby King, who had a physical impairment, later became Inspector General of Health.

    He, his wife and supporters were positive eugenists who believed that teaching mothers the strict rules of scientific mothering would increase the fitness of the race."

    "After World War Two the revelation of the extent of eugenic policies in Nazi Germany (including the death of hundreds of thousands of disabled people) dampened overt policy enthusiasm for eugenics."

    Well, well, well, I thought that it was the Nazis that were blamed for all this kind of stuff, but New Zealand and other countries seem to have been doing the same, but did in the end not go quite as far as Germany did under Hitler and his criminal government.

    While the past is something not to be that proud about, we have more acceptable conditions and better treatment for disabled these days. But mental illness is still something most do not like to talk that much about, that is at least my experience. Many are embarrassed if they suffer a form of it, and those that never do, have still nowadays little understanding of what it means, and how persons suffering various conditions should be treated, cared for and supported.

    For many years disability groups supported the social model to assess, treat and support disabled, but now we have had certain UK "experts" come and tell our government and the medical professionals, that a perverted form of the so-called "bio psycho social model" needs to be used. The drive is now to not just "support" some disabled to live and work, the drive is now to pressure them into work, by not appropriately considering their conditions. Professor Mansel Aylward from the UK is talking about "illness belief" and "malingering", suggesting most that claim to have mental health conditions are not really sick, and that it is just something planted into their minds, that they suffer impairments and disabilities. He seems to dismiss much in the way of new scientific findings about various mental health conditions and their causes.

    I wonder where we are going to head in future? Victim blaming cannot achieve anything positive, nor will it by going to extremes, past, present and future:

    http://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/medical-and-work-capability-assessments-based-on-the-controversial-bio-psycho-social-model/

    http://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/the-health-and-disability-panel-and-its-hand-picked-members/

    http://accforum.org/forums/index.php?/topic/15188-medical-and-work-capability-assessments-based-on-the-bps-model-aimed-at-disentiteling-affected-from-welfare-benefits-and-acc-compo/

    http://accforum.org/forums/index.php?/topic/16092-work-ability-assessments-done-for-work-and-income-%E2%80%93-partly-following-acc%E2%80%99s-approach-a-revealing-fact-study/

    http://accforum.org/forums/index.php?/topic/16737-work-has-fewer-%e2%80%9chealth-benefits%e2%80%9d-than-mansel-aylward-and-other-so-called-experts-claim-it-can-cause-serious-harm/

    Akl • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report Reply

  • Marc C,

    A few years ago the government had set up a committee, which decided to abolish the Mental Health Commission.

    http://my.lawsociety.org.nz/news/2012/committee-endorses-abolition-of-mental-health-commission

    The position of the Mental Health Commissioner was shifted into the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner, and for a few years now Dr Lynne Lane has held that position at that office.

    http://www.hdc.org.nz/about-us/mental-health-and-addictions/about-us/the-mental-health-commissioner

    There was a fair bit of opposition to abolish the Mental Health Commission, as many had concerns how matters relating to mental health would be possible to address as part of the HDC Office.

    I also know of a complainant who made a couple of complaints about treatment issues in the mental health area to the HDC a few years ago, but despite of that person insisting on the case being looked at by the Mental Health Commissioner, the HDC never allowed this. They decided to not investigate, despite of complaints about this, and this raises more questions about how serious government and our institutions are about assisting, supporting and empowering those suffering mental health issues.

    I think the Mental Health Commission should never have been abolished, as I have heard rather little about what Dr Lane has been doing as part of the HDC team. Indeed the whole HDC is not seriously addressing many issues, and only formally investigates few complaints. In a report they presented last year, only about 60 complaints out of a total over 1,600 were "formally investigated", and of those 42 were considered raising justified issues with health and disability treatment.

    And where the HDC finds some practitioners or institutions at fault, they generally just make "recommendations" for the future, and do little more else, than suggest better training, improvement of practices, and so, which mostly is a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket. Some info on the HDC can be found here:

    http://accforum.org/forums/index.php?/topic/14923-health-and-disability-commissioner/

    http://nzsocialjusticeblog2013.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/health-and-disability-commissioner-can-we-trust-in-hdc-independence/

    If the HDC and other institutions would actually be doing more of what the public expects of them, we may move somewhere, also with disabled getting their rights met, as it should happen in New Zealand as the country is a signatory to the UN declaration on the rights of persons with disability.

    Akl • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Sacha,

    too many disability leaders – a real reluctance to stand up to power.

    because.....

    http://www.victoria.ac.nz/sacs/pdf-files/Fears-constraints-and-contracts-Grey-and-Sedgwick-2014.pdf

    Imagine, if, in an alternate universe, one quarter of the one quarter of the population of Aotearoa who identify as disabled paid $10 per year to support an organisation who would truly represent the interests of ALL people with disabilities.

    Oh! What advocacy we would have!

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1332 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    The performance of regulatory agencies is part of it, contract obligations are part of it, but more broadly there is a curious passivity not obvious in other disadvantaged groups. A high value placed on being a good boy lest matron withdraw privileges, that sort of thing.

    So I'm not confident better advocacy is simply a matter of structure or funding. Community culture needs to change. Fortunately younger generations have different expectations.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19594 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Hope more people dive in and have a go at writing their versions/stories

    Same. Thank you for getting us started.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19594 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to EliotBlennerhassett,

    Oops, thanks.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3178 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald,

    We have in New Zealand created two classes of people with disabilities.

    Those with serious, permanent impairments under ACC enjoy rights, entitlements and supports that those with exactly the same disability under MOH can only dream of.

    Somehow, we, as a nation think this is OK.

    It isn’t.

    This needs to change.

    This disparity in rights and entitlements merely reinforces the old idea that those born able and disabled through accident, are more worthy than those born disabled or who become disabled as a result of some ‘weakness’ or ‘poor breeding.’

    Those on ACC really do believe they deserve the superior treatment they are entitled to.

    In our experience, (in the spinal injured field) the disparities between ACC and MOH are HUGE….yet those on ACC simply choose to ignore them.

    They also tend to treat those who were injured before ACC came in with a certain disdain….bordering on disrespect.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1332 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Am I the only one who wants much, much more about disabled perspective histories within Aotearoa/New Zealand?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 506 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young, in reply to Will de Cleene,

    Granted Will, but it was only comparatively recently that Gallaudet elected a Deaf president. There was a massive furore with its Deaf students and staff beforehand, let it be noted. Am I the only one (my partner's niece is Deaf) who'd love something similar to Gallaudet here?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 506 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young, in reply to Sacha,

    Depends on the group's occupational culture and origins, really. I got seriously annoyed with the conservative leadership of a mental health consumers group I belonged to, given that I supported a citizenship and social justice model of psychiatric disability and she seemed to believe that it should just be a derivative adjunct of the mental health system.

    So I left. I'm now involved with a far stroppier and more assertive local diabetes group and much, much happier with its occupational culture and governing philosophy.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 506 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young, in reply to David Herkt,

    Ah, Intensive Care, my favourite Frame novel. I would love some talented media figure to film the last third of that book and its nightmarish anodyne future of disability cleansing in post-apocalyptic NZ. Heavy hint hint to anyone tempted to do so :)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 506 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Craig Young,

    I have a memory of seeing a movie of Intensive Care, many decades ago.

    Yes need to have more disability history in mainstream histories, in museum exhibitions, art etc. Most of our big written histories overlook disability altogether, apart from the occasional reference to mental illness. I have just been researching polio and that is another whole area of disability history. Where are the displays of iron lungs or callipers in our museums?

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3178 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    occupational culture

    can you explain this further for me – not a term I’ve seen.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19594 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young, in reply to Sacha,

    It's a term used in organisational psychology and human resource management. It means the set of values,norms, expectations and professional practice and its directives that adhere within particular organisations.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 506 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Someone needs to lobby/cajole/harass/shame academic publishers into funding volumes about disabled histories.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 506 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Thank you Craig. Can it apply to social movements rather than professional orgs?

    (Sorry the Reply linking system is broken at the moment for me).

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19594 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Marc C,

    Well, well, well, I thought that it was the Nazis that were blamed for all this kind of stuff, but New Zealand and other countries seem to have been doing the same, but did in the end not go quite as far as Germany did under Hitler and his criminal government.

    Too right. Most of the industrialised world has a dirty little eugenics secret to some degree; the Third Reich merely made it infamous. And sadly it seems to be making a pale comeback in this day and age of talkback culture war-piggery. Would the likes of Michael Laws and Michael Bassett think any different if they were taken on a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5405 posts Report Reply

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