Tino Rangatiratanga = self-determination, sovereignty, autonomy, self-government, domination, rule, control, power (Te Aka Online Māori Dictionary).
Making decisions about our lives help define us. They express who we are, and what we think is important. Having a sense of control over our life helps us to feel empowered, motivated, and confident.
We understand self-determination to be more than just decision making; it is about creating a vision of a good life, and then being able to make and act upon choices that realise this vision. Self-determination is about people having control and power over their lives, but it is also about people following their dreams!
For some people this will be about having control over smaller day-to-day activities, like when to go to bed at night, and what to have for lunch. For others, it may be about making bigger life decisions, like what to study at University, or where to live. The decisions people make on a daily basis will vary depending on their plan for a good life.
We believe people with disability are best placed to make decisions about their own lives. If a person with disability requires help expressing their choices and decisions, then whānau and trusted friends are next best placed to help. In saying this, though, we feel it’s important to always hold on to the belief that needing help to make decisions does not mean that a person is unable to make decisions.
People with disability who require support with decision-making should be given every opportunity to be involved in the process. Everyone communicates in different ways. Communication aids, translating information into different formats and allowing for longer time frames to respond are just some of the things that can assist people to exercise their right to make and express their choices.
What this highlights, we think, is the importance of whānau and friends’ attitudes towards choice-making. For some people with disability who require help with decision-making and communicating their choices it becomes a process where those who support them also help them to take on increasing levels of independence. And, at times this might even mean supporting seemingly ‘bad’ choices. Having opportunities to make choices, ‘good and ‘bad’, helps people learn, grow in confidence, and feel secure in their ability to decide on things that affect their life.
For some people with disability and their whānau, part of their vision for a good life is having control and authority over the paid support services they receive. Here in New Zealand, we are beginning to see the development of new funding strategies that enable individualised support and lifestyle arrangements for some people with disabilities.
Community Resource Inc., QLD, Australia.