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Matatini and access

Dale Johnson, Tumu Whakarae (Our National Māori Strategic Policy Leader), talks about her experience at a recent Kapa Haka event.

Kia Ora koutou, as many of you may have heard, a worldwide Kapa Haka event (Matatini) happened recently in Otautahi (Christchurch). I had the amazing opportunity to attend the event, and not only be amongst the excitement, but also witness the beauty of Maori culture coming to life on and off the stage.  It is something many Maori look forward too, especially me, a person who is Maori with a disability.

Whenever attending an event as HUGE as this, my first thought is always “how accessible is the venue going to be?” And will disabled people be supported or will there be an awkward undertone of a big white elephant in a small room.

I would give the event 8.5 out of 10 for taking into account the needs of people with disabilities. It wasn’t perfect (suggestions for improvement are mentioned below), but, boy, it was the best I have ever seen at Matatini.

The Whaia Te Ao Marama tent, which had a symbol of a wheelchair on it, provided shelter against the elements and was situated so people had a full view of the stage.   The tent was situated on ground level and staffed by volunteers so plenty of water and small kai was being passed around. The tent and volunteers impressed me.

The staffing of the tent was also important because, as usual, some people tried to jump in and make out they were disabled when it began to rain. Of course, when the sun came out their disability had suddenly disappeared.

Outside the Whaia Te Ao Marama tent, I was entering mainstream territory, meaning I was the same as everyone else. A bit nervous, but again the hospitality of Ngai Tahu was incredible. People came to you, asked if you were okay and if you needed any assistance. People weren’t too fussed to do things for you, if you required help.

As I stated earlier though, a few things could help improve the accessibility of future Matatin events:

  1. Maintain Accessible Parking – the first day you were allowed to park outside the entrance. The second and third day, it seemed to be reserved for shuttles. People with a mobility parking cards and obvious signs that they had a mobility need, were asked to park further back. I really felt for those that had to walk long distances.
  2. Accessible Toilets – couldn’t find any.
  3. Making a Difference Fund – Advertising that carers could attend free of charge, when supporting a person with a disability.  This wasn’t well advertised, and it needed to be advertised earlier, it is little use adverting on the week of Mataini when people would have already made plans.? The earlier everyone knows about this, the better. And of course advertisement and support from the organisers of Matatini is important.

A huge gratitude to the manaakitanga and hospitality of Ngai Tahu hapu and iwi, volunteers, Te Piringa, CCS Disability Action, Ministry of Social Development – Making a Difference Fund, and many more to helping ensure people with disabilities are able to participate in community events.