Smash­ing down myths

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By ROSE CAW­LEY

FIRST and fore­most Lor­rie Mack­ness wants to be seen as a woman.

She doesn’t want peo­ple to sim­ply glance at her wheel­chair, or her walk­ing frame, or to quickly no­tice her im­pair­ments and then la­bel her dis­abled.

‘‘I am a woman but peo­ple don’t see that first.’’

The 62-year-old cen­tral Auck­land res­i­dent has al­ways been a strong fem­i­nist.

When she was in an ac­ci­dent and started to lose her mo­bil­ity things in her life started to change.

‘‘It was so hard, in fact I didn’t even as­so­ciate with be­ing dis­abled.

‘‘I didn’t even want to be in the same room as those with dis­abil­i­ties be­cause I didn’t want to be lumped with that la­bel.’’

Be­com­ing the dis­abil­ity spokes­woman for the Na­tional Net­work of Stop­ping Vi­o­lence Ser­vices woke her up to re­al­ity.

‘‘I didn’t have time to be scared any more. Th­ese amaz­ing, pow­er­ful and cre­ative peo­ple just smashed down those myths.’’

As she be­gan to rely more on a walk­ing frame and then a wheel­chair it was the ‘‘nor­mal’’ views of so­ci­ety that she started to ques­tion.

‘‘Dis­abled women’s voices have never been heard,’’ Mack­ness says.

‘‘The days when men talk for women are over, the days when Pakeha talk for Maori are over but non-dis­abled peo­ple are still talk­ing for us and we think those days are over.’’

The Women’s Fo­rum mem­ber says un­der New Zealand law, dis­abled women can be ster­ilised with­out their con­sent.

‘‘The United Na­tions has said that is a form of tor­ture.’’

And she says the Gov­ern­ment isn’t do­ing enough to ad­vo­cate for dis­abled women.

‘‘They know the hor­rific rate of vi­o­lence against dis­abled women, and dis­abled peo­ple.

‘‘Yet there have been no steps made to make refuges or ad­vo­cacy agen­cies legally re­quired to be ac­ces­si­ble to us.’’

She says even if dis­abled peo­ple can ac­cess the ser­vice many of the staff have no train­ing in deal­ing with peo­ple who have im­pair­ments.

‘‘I know that un­less you are part of that cul­ture you can never re­ally, truly get it.’’

That is a driv­ing force be­hind Mack­ness’ de­sire to see New Zealand dis­abled women es­tab­lish their own pow­er­ful voice.

‘‘We need to cre­ate our own voice, then maybe oth­ers will hear,’’ she says.

This week­end Mack­ness will be cel­e­brat­ing the achieve­ments of New Zealand women at the In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day event at CCS Dis­abil­ity Ac­tion.

‘‘I’ll be putting on my fancy dress and long gloves be­cause this day is all about cel­e­brat­ing.’’

Pos­i­tive at­ti­tude: Lor­rie Mack­ness is speak­ing up for dis­abled women.

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