Congratulations to a hero

Last updated 05:00 01/01/2013

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Cliff Robinson is the Waikato Times Person of the Year.

The name may not be instantly familiar. Cliff Robinson is not well-known, he hasn't won a major sporting title, he's not an entertainer and he hasn't launched a multimillion dollar business. But the Thames resident is an ordinary person who has had to cope with an extraordinary load.

Mr Robinson has been providing full-on care for his disabled son and daughter for 42 years.

His children, Johnny and Marita, have the rare neuro development disorder microcephaly, while Johnny is also schizophrenic and a diabetic. Mr Robinson's wife walked out early on and he has devoted his life to their care.

Meanwhile, for more than a decade, he and a small determined group have fought a huge legal battle for the recognition of home-based caregivers. Their argument: it is discriminatory that outside caregivers can be paid to look after their children but family members cannot. Finally, incredibly, after a journey through the Human Rights Review Tribunal, High Court and ultimately the Court of Appeal, the seven families involved have won that battle.

It now means the ministry has to come up with a way to pay the parents of disabled children who care for them.

While there is still some water to flow under the bridge it is a perfect time to pay tribute to Mr Robinson's courage, determination and selflessness.

So much of society's focus these days is on the cult of celebrity, one-upmanship and reality show contests, where everything is about the individual. It is all about winning and making a noise.

It is refreshing to see someone not utterly motivated by his own needs. And to do what Ciff Robinson has done for more than 40 years is an incredible reflection on the man.

For Waikato Times Person of the Year, Mr Robinson had some worthy competition from other nominees, including victorious Chiefs coach Dave Rennie, netball champion Laura Langman and singing sensation Kimbra. But Mr Robinson's big heart and understated manner won us over.

A friend of Mr Robinson described him as a hero. We couldn't agree more. His two children have truly been his life's work.

We congratulate the Waikato Times Person of the Year.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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