Advocates Celebrate 'Institution-Free' New Zealand
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 20, 2006
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND--Disability advocates gathered with members of the New Zealand government on November 14 to mark the end of an era: The closure of the last institution in the nation housing people with intellectual disabilities.
Several hundred people -- many of them former residents of the 13 state-run institutions that have closed over the past 40 years -- gathered in Parliament to celebrate with song, cake and speeches.
Government officials called the successful de-institutionalization of New Zealand an indication of the country's 'maturity' and an example of it being a world leader in providing community-based services to people with disabilities.
Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson said: "The deinstitutionalization process was about ensuring people with intellectual and physical disabilities can live in the community and do day-to-day things most of us take for granted."
People First New Zealand's Graeme Parish, who was institutionalized at age 6, said people with disabilities just want to live ordinary lives.
"When you see a person with a learning disability serving you petrol, making you coffee in a cafe, walking down the street with their partner, walking their dog -- this is ordinary, this is what we want."
Celebration marks end of institutionalised care (New Zealand Press Association)
People First New Zealand
Culture Of Abuse Revealed At Former New Zealand Institutions (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)