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“Other countries can learn from each other in the area of disabilities. Australia has a companion card scheme. New Zealand should implement it here.” That’s the opening paragraph and key message of Thane Pullan’s recent blog called Time for companion cards.

Thane Pullan and Richard Benge, Arts Access Aotearoa, in the newly re-opened Isaac Theatre RoyalComedian, software developer and insightful writer, Thane participated in Arts Access Aotearoa’s Making A Difference arts advocacy workshops last year in Christchurch. These provided disabled artists and enthusiasts with practical advocacy tools to encourage better access.

Australia has a national Companion Card Scheme that allows eligible card holders to purchase two tickets to an event or venue for the price of one. Companion cards are issued only to people who have a permanent disability and require the assistance of a companion carer to attend events or visit venues. The card holder does not have the disadvantage of paying for two tickets and the benefit for the venue is that a ticket is being sold and two people are attending. Companion cards are accepted at participating “affiliates” (the venues or events), which accept the card at the booking stage.

Advocating to introduce the scheme in New Zealand

Arts Access Aotearoa has been advocating for some time to the Government for the introduction of this scheme to New Zealand. We are being listened to and I hope to be able to report progress on this later in the year.

Thane, who requires the assistance of a companion, would benefit. “I believe that many events would happily sign on to such a scheme. I never used to ask for a companion ticket for local events, but times are tough. I find that many people are happy to let me have a companion ticket if I request one.”

The time is right

I believe the time is right as there is a willingness, certainly within the arts and cultural sectors, to consider the adoption of a companion card scheme. In fact, many venues are already providing companion card tickets or discounts on a case-by-case basis.

This year's Te Matatini offered a free companion ticket for disabled visitorsFor example, Te Matatini offered free companion tickets to disabled people who require a companion to attend the festival with them. Held in Christchurch last week, this biennial four-day national festival of kapa haka attracts around 20,000 to 30,000 people through its gates. Another company offering free companion tickets is the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Letter to the editor

Advocacy is a key role for Arts Access Aotearoa. When we heard about Te Matatini, I wrote a letter to the editor of The Press, congratulating the organisers.

Here is part of the letter: “ … One in four (1.1 million) New Zealanders lives with a disability that impacts their daily lives. For people who enjoy arts and cultural events such as Te Matatini, theatre and concerts, the cost of buying an extra ticket for their carer can be prohibitive.

“Australia has a National Companion Card Scheme, which means eligible people with lifelong disability can participate at venues and activities without having to pay for a second ticket for their companion or carer. Some organisations in New Zealand’s arts and cultural sectors are offering this but it’s time New Zealand introduced a national scheme like Australia.”

Arts Access Aotearoa will continue to advocate for the adoption of a national companion card scheme.

Creative Spaces Mentor Programme

In other news, Claire Noble, Community Development Co-ordinator, and I held Skype meetings over February with the mentors and mentees on the current Creative Spaces Mentor Programme. This year-long programme is for current and future leaders of creative spaces who are matched with mentors to guide and encourage their professional development and sustainability.

You can read interviews with mentor Maggie Gresson and mentee Bridget Donohue, who are halfway into their mentoring relationship.

Please let me know your thoughts about a companion card for New Zealand. If you represent a venue or event that can offer companion tickets please me know and we can promote this on Arts Access Aotearoa’s website and social media. Please email me on richard.benge@artsaccess.org.nz or call 04 802 4349.

 

 

A companion card for New Zealand

 
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