The July interview: making a difference in Christchurch
Arts Access Aotearoa has introduced its Making A Difference Arts Advocates Programme in Christchurch. Facilitator Prudence Walker talks about why she’s involved, what drives its members and what she hopes the programme will achieve.
Q. Tell us about your involvement in the disabled community in Christchurch?
A. I work for CCS Disability Action three days a week as its Disability Awareness Co-ordinator. I work with different groups to develop and facilitate learning and discussion around disability issues. I also do some support work with people in the community.
Over the past six years, I have held a number of different roles with CCS Disability Action, both in Oamaru and in Christchurch. However, for five of the six years I have always been involved in disability awareness education. It’s an exciting area working with the preconceptions, knowledge, prejudice and fears that individuals and society have.
I first became involved in the disability sector after acquiring several brain injuries and being diagnosed with a brain tumour as a teenager. After rehabilitation at Burwood Hospital’s Brain Injury Unit, I became a member of CanTeen and later, I became its National President.
I became involved in Arts Access Aotearoa’s Making A Difference Arts Advocates Programme in Christchurch after an opportunity following on from my participation in the Be. Leadership Programme in 2013.
As well as a lived experience of disability I bring empathy, facilitation, communication and administrative skills to this work.
Q. What drives the members of the group to undertake this advocacy training?
A. Members of the programme are driven by a desire for improved access and participation in arts and advocacy. The 15 advocates have varying reasons for undertaking the training. Some are artists, performers or people who love the arts; some are all three. Skills and interests include photography, dance, drama, painting, tape art, writing, jewellery, comedy, crafts and music.
Participants’ experience of impairment and disability include people who have recently acquired impairment and those who have always lived with impairment. Regardless of where individuals are, they share a common interest in and love of the arts. This makes them committed to working for better access across all the artforms.
The group represents a wide range of disability experience as it relates to both arts and advocacy involvement. Participants are able to share with each other and engage with arts venues and key people in the sector to promote inclusion and two-way engagement.
Q. What do you think the programme can achieve for Christchurch?
A. Christchurch is an interesting environment with a compromised arts sector in terms of traditional venues. It’s also an exciting one in terms of opportunities for new ideas, creativity and greater accessibility.
This programme will see disabled people engaging with arts venues and key people in the sector. I believe doors will open to create and develop conversations around access.
The arts sector will gain a face and a voice representing their access participants and customers, while disabled people will develop the confidence and connections to advocate for greater access for everyone.
The possibilities are near endless!