LASISENIA B. TUITUBOU
Minister for Youth and Sports
SPEECH AT THE OPENING OF THE FNSC ADAPTIVE AND INCLUSIVE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY & SPORTS WORKSHOP
The Honorable Assistant Minister, Iliesa Delana
The Executive Chair of the Fiji National Sports Commission
Senior Government representatives
Workshop facilitators: Chris Nunn, Kathryn Tessier and Angela Mancini
Representatives of FNCDP and affiliates
Ladies and Gentlemen
Bula vinaka, Namaste, Salaam Aleikum and a very good morning to you all.
I am delighted to be here this morning to open this workshop as we seek to promote physical education in our schools for learners with disabilities. I would like to extend a warm welcome to our facilitators and I hope you will enjoy your stay in Fiji and the unique Fijian ‘bula spirit’. Certainly, we look forward to tapping into your combined valuable experience to ensure our learners with disabilities and our teachers benefit and implement systematically what they learn from you. Australia has a rich history of inclusion and we look forward to adapting your experience to Fiji.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Government is clear about our responsibility to promote and embrace inclusion as a result of the commitment made through our Constitution. As people involved in sports, we fully understand the positive impact of sports on social inclusion and this is something we need to maximise.
We continue to encourage our National Sporting Organisations to mainstream sportspeople with disability into able-bodied and hearing federations. Through this, we want to ensure that sportspeople with a disability are acknowledged as sportspeople first and foremost and that they receive quality PE and coaching as our sportspeople without a disability do. This will certainly complement implementation of the draft Disability Bill and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which Fiji ratified on 7 June 2017. Through this Convention, we aspire to ensure that all persons with disabilities have access to PE and sport at school and after leaving school. Equal rights must be promoted equally.
To promote inclusion further, the Ministry applied for and received an allocation of $120,000 this year to ensure persons with disabilities are able increase their participation in physical activity and that NSOs make their contribution to this process. This will be managed by the Fiji National Sports Commission and will help to train personnel to promote inclusion comprehensively in sport and for our disabled sports organisations to support the process.
Fiji continues to recognise the contribution to sport by people with disability. In the past two years, two female athletes with a disability have scooped the National Sportswoman of the Year Award which they truly deserved and we believe the future for disability sport in Fiji looks bright.
We are all aware that sport alone cannot address all challenges faced by people with disabilities. However, these developments display our ongoing commitment to address their needs, using sport as a vehicle to contribute to inclusion. This will encourage further change to how communities perceive people with disabilities while reducing stigma, discrimination and, dare I say it, fear of difference. The Ministry and the Sports Commission will design new initiatives and programs to empower persons with a disability; to change perceptions of members of the public and to promote the maximum participation of persons with disabilities in public life. The Honorable Assistant Minister is a prime example of our approach and commitment. He won Fiji’s first gold medal at the 2012 Paralympic Games and an achievement we hope will be matched and emulated in the near future.
All stakeholders must implement and strongly advocate for inclusive sport as a useful and cost effective tool to build and foster social cohesion. It promotes participation by bringing people together and providing a platform of greater acceptance of our different abilities despite our physical or sensory or linguistic ability.
I am delighted that the initiative taken by my Ministry in identifying and applying for this grant from the United Nations Office of Sports Development and Peace has borne fruit. We acknowledge the support received in this process from:
• His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Fiji
• the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts
• the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation
• the Ministry of Health and Medical Services
• the Sports Commission
• the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee
• the Oceania National Olympic Committee
• the Fiji National Council of Disabled Persons
• Special Olympics Fiji
• the Fiji Paralympic Committee
• the Fiji Association for the Deaf
This is a true example of teamwork and will hopefully continue into the implementation phase of this project.
The Sports Commission will lead the implementation with the wonderful financial support of USD$100,000 received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea through the UNOSDP. The donors are adamant that this funding promotes activities from which will come the curriculum. This will go long way to ensure that we meet our commitments as we strengthen our advocacy for inclusive sports. The Government’s mantra of ensuring “No one is Left Behind” must be pursued especially in schools, involving teachers, parents, care givers, communities and the cross-section of our society.
The Ministry and the Ministry of Education have begun the process of addressing quality PE in special and mainstream schools. We are working to add to literacy and numeracy through physical literacy particularly as we seek all creative ways to address the challenge of non-communicable and lifestyle diseases such as obesity and heart disease. The NCD statistics for the Pacific are frightening and we cannot afford to lose young people before their time. Nor can we afford the increase of our amputee population with up to 1 amputation every 8 hours in Fiji, often as a result of NCDs. Persons with disabilities are not spared from NCDs and this adds to the urgency of implementing a comprehensive PE programme in all our schools.
As we know, quality physical education promotes social, cooperative and problem-solving competencies. Physical education and activity provide opportunities for our children to develop their skills, explore their abilities and to improve their academic results. Early participation in PE and early discovery of talent and abilities have a lasting and positive effect on us all.
The Ministry will closely follow the process and results of this one-year program and its impact on our learners with disabilities and our teachers. We will also work in partnership with the Sports Commission and NSOs to include the programme as part of our rural and urban training sessions. Through cooperation with Ministers of Sport in the Pacific, we hope to share the learning so that they can adapt the program to their specific national needs as we meet our commitment to south-south cooperation.
The Ministry, with other Ministries, will continue to emphasise PE and sports development and the beneficial impact on young people. Sport has a positive impact on anti-social behaviour and can effectively divert youths from participating in illegal activities. However, while we focus on the youth, we must not forget the impact of physical activity on the elder generations many of whom succumb to NCDs far too early.
The Ministry emphasises advocacy work and community-based awareness that involves our communities. Maximum involvement of families, community, faith-based organisations and stakeholders will see the holistic progress of such initiatives, achieving positive results.
I wish you all well in meeting our combined commitment to inclusion. It is my pleasure to declare this Adaptive and Inclusive Physical Activity and Sports Workshop open.
Vinaka. Dhanyavaad. Shokran. Thank you.