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I have been a National MP since 2005. And as a representative of Christchurch Central, Canterbury and New Zealand I've become increasingly proud of this country and grateful that I just happened to be born here.

Since I've been in MP, I have attended several events at the United Nations. It's a fascinating place to visit and to get a feel for how the world views New Zealand. Everyone is interested in our little country, they have either visited or want to. Firstly, they always mention our leadership in establishing Votes for Women, followed by our Nuclear Free policy & then admiration that New Zealand led the development of the UN Convention for Rights of People with Disabilities. (CRPD) And it is because NZ’s work in supporting the disabled is not widely known at home that I am writing this newsletter. It is something we can all be proud of.

This week New Zealand has taken its CRPD work a step further. This week Robert Martin, New Zealander, has become the first person with a learning disability to be part of a United Nations Advisory Committee. Robert was elected to the position last year and this week took up his position in Geneva as a spokesperson for disabled people from around the world. It is a proud moment for all New Zealanders.

Robert Martin received a brain injury at birth that led to a learning disability and was institutionalised from the very early age. His childhood and early teenage years were difficult but he left the institution at the age of 15 and started work in the community. Somehow he found the courage to speak up for others around him and lead a campaign to close institutions and demand the inclusion of disabled people in our communities. He became an advocate and leader of People First NZ, fighting for the rights of disabled people. And for many years he worked as part of Inclusion International, travelling the world to work with disabled people's organisations and advocating for the inclusion of people with learning disabilities globally. 

How an intellectually disabled New Zealander helped change the world.

Video with Robert’s background, and the election result:

And it was in this capacity, that he was instrumental in supporting NZ's work to develop the convention. And now as a member of the committee that safeguards the principles of the convention he will make sure that it delivers for disabled people internationally.

Robert Martin is an impressive individual. He personally has done much to change the way people think about people with learning disabilities, in New Zealand and beyond. He is an inspiration and a great role model for all of us. He was made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit in 2008.  

Being at the UN last year when Robert was elected to the committee is one of the special moments my life.  It was a moment of pure joy and absolute pride, in a fellow New Zealander, in everyone who worked so hard to make this happen and finally for our country at the bottom of the world that so often in its short history had taken an international leadership position. 

 So, it’s no wonder that I am so proud and so grateful to be born a New Zealander and to be the MP for Christchurch Central and the Minister for Disability Issues.

You can read more about Robert here and listen to my speech at the UN.


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