Hi. I’m Karni Liddell.
I’m a former Paralympian.
They always say there’s no such thing
so I should say I’m a Paralympian.
I’m a mother to a five year old boy called Kai.
I’m a social worker.
I sit on the Premier’s Domestic and Family
Violence Council, and I’m very proud
to be an advocate and activist
for my brothers and sisters with disabilities.
On 3rd of December, we celebrate
International Day of People with Disabilities.
So happy International Day of People
This year, CBM Australia will mark the day
by focusing on children
with disabilities in developing countries
and making sure that their start in life
helps them thrive and flourish.
There are around 107.5 million
children and disabilities
in the Indo-Pacific region.
They represent 45% of the world’s children
These children face many challenges,
to education, access
to health care and discrimination.
CBM is calling
for greater investment in these children.
These issues are very close to my heart.
I want to share a story about my own
education, childhood, and how important it is
the needs of children with disabilities.
I was born with my disability.
I have a muscle wasting disease,
and my darling parents were told when I was born
that their first born child would not
walk, would not crawl,
and would not live past her teenage years.
They were also told, whatever you do, don’t
do any form of exercise
or rehabilitation with her.
Make her as comfortable as possible
and put her into a home.
I’m very fortunate that I believe
that the only reason I’m here today,
happy, walking –
I need this thing for, like, parking – and healthy
is because I had an amazing family around me.
I guess for myself,
I didn’t really understand that I had a disability
until I was about 14 years of age,
which is interesting because that was
when I broke my first world record at 50 metres
And the reason I discovered
that I was disabled at the age of 14
when I came back to Rockhampton where I was born,
is that all of a sudden my school
and my community were all worried
about public liability
or Occupational Health and Safety
or what I call ‘risk’
and the most disabling thing for me, I believe,
is this misconception
that I’m the riskiest person in this room
to support, serve and employ.
So at the age of 14,
I was told I could no longer play sport at school.
I could no longer walk up the stairs.
I could no longer do anything physical anymore.
And from there,
that’s really been my fight until the age of 43.
And most of us people with disabilities
in Australia live on fight mode, fighting to do
the basics, fighting for funding, fighting to fly,
fighting to get on a ride at a theme park
and those things are very easy to fix
because that just means, of course
I have travelled the world and I’ve certainly been
to many developing countries
and I sit here in a $35,000 wheelchair.
My car has a $10,000 hoist in the back of it,
which lifts my wheelchair into the car.
If you take that away from me,
you take away my complete independence.
I also have support workers now through the NDIS.
Before that, five years ago, I didn’t have that.
I did everything myself,
My ageing parents had to pay for everything,
do everything, pay for the wheelchairs,
help me and it was a really,
really challenging life.
And the only reason I can actually be a working
today is because I have funding
for the equipment and support
I need to get out the front door of my apartment.
Unfortunately, when I open that front door,
we need the community to open up their doors
because we are the most unemployed group
in this country.
But we’re not here to talk about Australia today,
we’re here to talk to two very accomplished,
impressive humans who are making a name
for themselves in their own countries
by advocating for the needs of people
And I know that I often say I can’t
wait for the day that I can retire from
being an advocate or an activist, which means that
we all have the same rights as everybody else.
Maselina Iuta is a 25 year
old disability advocate from Samoa.
She works for the Deaf Association of Samoa
and is passionate
about climate change and disaster risk education.
is a 26 year old disability
advocate from Kiribati.
I’m actually going to get him to say his name.
He works for the Kiribati Association of People
who are blind or vision impaired
and he is passionate about inclusive education
as we all are.
Thank you both for talking with me today
and travelling all the way here.
I’m excited to have this opportunity
to find out more about your work
and of course, what happens in your country
with people with disabilities.
I’m really interested in your own childhood
probably the social worker in me,
we always start with the childhoods.
So tell me, Maselina, what was it like
for you growing up in Samoa with a disability?
Thank you so much for the opportunity.
I will share my experience today.
like to talk about my experience
when I was a child.
When I was four years old,
I started to go to school
and by that time there’s no accessibility for me.
There’s no interpreter.
I only had my friends around me
and I always ask for help in sign language
and they have no idea how to communicate.
So most of the time I feel neglected, I feel sad.
started become focusing on school
and my teacher was trying to teach me verbal
and it’s really hard.
It’s very difficult for me, most of the time
I don’t understand and I’m trying to ask them
to use sign language, but they always say,
no, I need to learn how to speak.
So when I call home my grandmother, I’m
trying to teach me
how to speak and how to communicate. So
when I go everywhere
I can be able to, to speak.
My grades in school is not good.
I always fail most of my childhood education.
And when I started to meet
sign language, deaf in 2012,
that is the first time that I saw
and it’s given me courage
that I have found the support for me.
Beia, I’m going to get you to say
your entire name, because I am from a place
that you probably never heard of,
just like I hadn’t
actually heard of your country,
which I apologise for.
I’m from a place called Rockhampton,
which is the beef capital of Australia,
so I’ve got a very Australian accent.
So would you mind to saying your full name?
My name is Beia
and my father’s name is Temango.
And your story is a little bit different because
you weren’t born with your disability, were you?
In 2014 when I was 12 years old
and I’ve got blind, I’m called blindness.
I feel a really difference because when I’m,
I had normal vision
and I, I can access everywhere.
When I walk once to school, I can access properly,
when I want to sport, can I sport independently.
But when I have a disability
in 2014 and everything that I already, already
did, I have very difference because
when I want to sport, I can’t access to sport.
When I want to,
in school, I can’t access the school
because no equipment that I want
I can use to
So I talked a little bit before at the beginning
about the label
of being ‘the riskiest person’ everywhere I go,
disables me more than my own disability.
Let’s talk about the stigma and the labels
that are attached to you
in your country, in Samoa.
That is most, that is one of the most challenged
that we face is the discriminate
and stigma of children
and is that it all started from families.
Children can’t access to education
and they can’t support them
and encourage them so they can become
confidence and able
to be in school.
So we really want
to teach our people with disability
to become, encourage them to become brave
and be able to go and be
as the same as other people without disability.
And I also feel like there’s
a lot of work that we need to do with our families
and people that are around us,
that the people with disabilities need us there.
So they have the same rights as others.
They need to teach them to be accepted
and I believe that is something
that we can do to stop that.
Here in Australia,
people with disabilities
are the most unemployed group in the country
and Australia is one of the worst countries
in the Western world
for employment of people with a disability.
Is that the case in your country?
Yes. Yes, it is the same.
There’s a few opportunities for employment.
Sometimes there’s lack of support.
It is experience for me to know
that is not only us
and it give us the courage to keep advocate.
Keep advocate for the support,
support for people with disabilities
to make sure they have the equal rights
for access in employment.
Some people seeing that it’s hard
and some people think it is easy.
So it is something
that we have to think about that we can do it
and encourage and advocate
the government for more employment opportunities.
just recently I was flooded
in Brisbane and I lost everything in the floods
and I discovered that
obviously in a flood,
I lost my wheelchair, my accessible electric bed
and I found that people with disabilities
were very left out of the flood recovery services
because we couldn’t get accommodation
that was accessible, I couldn’t get a wheelchair
because there was no wheelchairs around,
there was six months wait for wheelchairs.
In regards to where you live,
how are people with disabilities supported
when a disaster like a cyclone or a tsunami
or in my case a flood happens?
In our country, there is a,
a Met office is looking for that emergency
Yeah, it’s like a strong wind,
rains and every emergency warning.
And in the bus when they
they did announcement to the public
to prepare themselves before the,
the strong wind coming
and they already forgot about persons
Especially persons, deaf persons,
because when they did the announcement
through the radio and all deaf persons can’t hear
that announcement only persons that can hear,
can receive that information, access
about the emergency warning.
But they forgot about persons with disabilities.
This is in the past.
But now, after that,
we advocate and we advocate to the government.
And they for now,
when they did the announcements to the public
to prepare themselves before the the big waves
or the strong wind, and they, they
did in every social media,
because they include the needs of
and especially blind persons for,
they can access the information
about the emergency warning
and they, for now these are very,
we can access the information,
deaf persons can receive
information from the Met office to provide,
to prepare themselves for the, that emergency.
And we are, we have food are accessible
and we can, we can
access the information from
after we advocate to the government.
Maselina, what about in your country
when it comes to subtitles and interpreters,
it is the same experience.
Like before, we don’t have the opportunity
for our preparation for disaster risk.
But at the moment we have
educating our people of disability,
in preparedness of disaster,
because before there’s no access in information
and sometimes they use subtitles, but
deaf people can’t read
and they always rely on their families
to give them gestures
about preparedness for any disaster.
So there’s little information they get from that.
And one of the biggest achievements that we have
is the opportunity
for us to provide for people with disabilities.
And we able to educate them and ask them
and give them the support that they need, like
the interpreters on TV and on videos as well.
And also our advocacy organisation back
there have representatives in disaster
risk management chairs.
So there’s a person with disability who’s
able to give advice to the government
for make sure that they are include people
with disability in whatever they do
like in planning, what they do after the disaster
and this is a great opportunity for us, as Beia
said that before, it’s
the people who are deaf is the most
vulnerable people because they can’t hear
and they have little understanding in disaster.
That is one of the reason that I am happy
to sit in this.
I have this opportunity
so I can advocate more to make sure that
information and all the resources that they need
for the support of people with disability
have the understand and have the resources
and make sure that governments
are able to support their needs.
And the most important thing is
have them consulted
because we believe in that mandate:
that nothing about us without us.
We love to see more disabled
people sitting at the table
asking them what they really wants to get out
from that discussion,
what they really need to support them with
when it comes to this
vulnerable group that we are.
And also, that’s a great way to employ people
isn’t it, by having us at the table.
So it is International Day of People
with a Disability.
If I could give you a magic wand
right now, what’s your
biggest wish for your brothers and sisters
with disabilities in your country?
I think my biggest wish is more collaboration,
more collaboration with the government,
our international partners
and able to network with our People
with Disability organisation
so that we can share our ideas and able
to learn from our small island countries.
And, yeah, that we are able
to, after this meeting, we are able to
bring our experience, our ideas back,
especially in our development countries.
Beia, what would be your big wish?
Magic wand, you can give me more than one,
for this International Day of People
with Disability, for your country.
I want to
to make more advocacy to the government,
to make sure all, all
are accessible for persons with disabilities
and also with the terminal.
accessible places for persons with disabilities
when they need,
when they access to
the airport and they can fully accessible.
Especially in education, we are,
I want to, to make my advocacy to the government
to improve and to be
of support more,
more support for the,
through the Ministry of Education.
So for that to all mainstream
that are provided there
and we want to asking for the governments
to support, to provide more equipment
for persons or for students
with disabilities around the country.
There is so much to be done
to ensure a better future
for children with disabilities
and also us adults in the Pacific.
It’s been wonderful to be able to talk to you
today and learn about your childhood,
your experiences and your passion
for making the world a better place.
I want to thank you as a fellow advocate
and as a person with a disability,
because even in this country,
aren’t actually fully inclusive or accessible.
So it’s really important for Australians
to know that.
But it’s also important to Australians
to know that we can also help
other people in other countries
that are only getting $4,000
and also unable to access interpreter services,
just to be able to do the basic
which is communicate with others and connect.
Thank you so much for your time today
and everything you’ve done for us.