Pati honoured for his work to remove disability stigma

LEE-ANNE EDWARDS
Last updated 11:22 10/01/2012
HUTPatiweb
Music maker: Pati Umaga QSM performing with his band Kabasa at the Pacific Artists Collaboration Village, part of the Rugby World Cup Real NZ FestivalntsG, in the capitalnte last year.

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Helping to break down stereotypes about people with disabilities amongst the Pacific Island community is a major driver for Pati Umaga.

The Naenae resident has been awarded a Queen's Service Medal for services to the Pacific community.

Mr Umaga knows the problems facing the disabled. A fall from slipping on a shower mat in 2005 left him paralysed.

"Removing the stigma about disability within our own Pacific community is a big thing for me. We kind of get left a bit behind because we're still trying to come to terms with how our culture views the disabled.

"We're often seen as being 'broken' and told we should stay home, but with a lot of hard work we're making inroads into changing those views. There is quite a groundswell of positive stuff happening within the community; we're getting there slowly."

A musician, he was involved with the establishment of the Tu Tangata programme and co-founded the Contemporary Music Programme at Whitireia Polytechnic. He was also a member of the Holidaymakers band, which had a number one hit with Sweet Lovers in 1995.

As a result of his accident he formed the Wellington Pasifika Disability Network.

In 2009 he was lead organiser for a Tsunami Benefit Concert and has been a judge for the Pacific Music Awards and the Central Region Secondary Smokefree Pasifika Beats Competition.

Last year, as part of the Rugby World Cup Real NZ Festival, he organised the music component of the Pacific Artists Collaboration Village a day-long event showcasing Pacific culture held in the Wellington Town Hall and Civic Square.

"It was part of the lead up to the Tonga vs France game and I got to perform with my band Kabasa, which really added to the day for me."

His work on behalf of the disabled includes chairing the ACC National Serious Injury Service Advisory Group and serving as a member of the Health and Disability Commissioner's Consumer Advisory Group, along with other advisory roles.

"We're also working on the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which will eventually influence government policy globally."

Despite a heavy schedule, Mr Umaga places great importance on maintaining his musical links. "I'm a bass guitarist and really enjoy being involved in the music scene. It's good to have something to balance the meetings, papers and stuff I usually deal with."

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