Mana Whaikaha update November 16

I was wondering this week about the question of “what is a good life?”

When I think about what makes my life good it is family, friends, a sense of belonging in my community, a life purpose, contribution and achievement, a loving home and economic independence. What I also reflect on, is that accessing government funded supports is only a part of what contributes to a good life.

What brings me to these reflections is that now, six weeks into system transformation, we are finding that most people who are engaging with the system are doing so only around access to government funding, not about what are all the opportunities and resources that might be available to use to help build full and meaningful lives where people belong in the shared spaces of community.

Over the past eleven years as Enabling Good Lives has taken shape there has always been a clear message from the disabled community that the disability support system was not flexible and unable to respond well to individual preferences. However, while these are early days, and while we do have examples of people pursuing very different life options, the majority of people appear to be seeking more of the same. Yet we know that we cannot do the same thing over and over and expect different outcomes.

This is not to say that funded supports are not important and even essential for many disabled people and families. If funded support is all we seek, it is all we get. It would be a great pity should this opportunity for real change in how disabled people are seen in the world, be seen only in terms of more Government money to buy more of the same services that often did not meet people’s needs in the first instance.

We must not lose sight of the fact that the lives of some people living with disabilities may not reach their potential. Not because of any personal limitations that the individual may have but because some of us responsible for the promotion and development of what might be possible in their lives have limited vision of the potential that disabled people have for a full and purposeful life. This is because we are ourselves are affected with fears, anxieties and stereotypes.

A key factor in much of this is the extent to which most of us are limited by what we have not yet seen or experienced. Our beliefs about what is actually practical, and reasonable tend to be things which are already part of our life, what we already know and are familiar with, rather than options which are as yet untried or unfamiliar. So, what we consider to be “realistic” is most often more of what we already have, more of what has already happened rather than what has not yet happened, or may yet be possible. In many cases, we may be deeply sceptical of what is new simply because the old is so comfortable, even if it is not all that satisfying.” 

Lorna Sullivan 
Director, Kaitūhono/Connectors team 
Mana Whaikaha.