Sunday, May 19, 2024

Minister acknowledges passing of Sir Robert Martin

Disabilities Issues Minister, Louise Upston, says New Zealand has lost a true legend with the passing of internationally renowned disability advocate Sir Robert Martin (KNZM) at his home in Whanganui last night.

“Our Government’s thoughts are with his wife Lynda, family and community, those he has worked with, the disability community in New Zealand, and the disability community internationally,” said the Minister.

“In 2017, Sir Robert was the first person with a learning disability (intellectual impairment) to be elected to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and was re-elected for a further term that was due to end in December 2024.”

In 2020, his knighthood honoured his lifetime achievements as a disability leader, his passion, and activism within New Zealand and internationally.

“As a baby who experienced a brain injury at birth, he spent most of his childhood in state institutions. His experiences led to his activism, advocacy, and a life-long commitment to break down barriers for people with learning disabilities,” said Ms Upston.

“He played a leading role in the disability rights organisation People First, became a council member of Inclusion International, and was a strong campaigner for de-institutionalisation and self-advocacy. 

“As the new Minister for Disability Issues, I did not have the chance to work with Sir Robert, but I am familiar with his advocacy for disability rights and that former Ministers worked to support his election to the United Nations Committee. It was a proud moment for New Zealand when he was elected to this important role. I join former Ministers in offering condolences.

“Many disabled people in New Zealand and internationally are living better lives because of Sir Robert’s achievements and commitment, and they will be mourning his passing while celebrating his legacy,” she said.

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