Sir Robert Martin KNZM's investiture

On October 20, the Office for Disability Issues and People First New Zealand, Ngā Tāngata Tuatahi, celebrated with Sir Robert Martin KNZM, his award as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Sir Robert is the first person with a learning disability to receive this honour. It was formally presented at Government House on the Monday. The Tuesday celebration was an opportunity for over 70 people from the disability community, government officials, friends and supporters to celebrate with Sir Robert and his wife Lady Lynda.
 Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero MNZM gifts Sir Robert a ponamu

Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero MNZM gifts Sir Robert a ponamu

As a child, Sir Robert lived in various institutions and foster homes. He was a founding member of the national Disabled Persons’ Organisation People First New Zealand Ngā Tāngata Tuatahi and worked for many years with disability service provider IHC and Inclusion International – an international network of people with learning disability and their families.

Sir Robert is currently serving as a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for the 2017-2020 term and is New Zealand’s nominee for the December 2020 election of the same Committee.

Sir Robert’s knighthood recognises a lifetime of advocacy for the rights of persons with disability and his achievements as the first person with learning disability to be:

  • involved in the writing of a United Nations Convention – the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • elected to a United Nations Human Rights Treaty Body
  • to chair a United Nations Committee session.

“To me this award is not for me personally but it’s actually for all people with learning disability.

It shows that people with learning disability have leadership qualities.

It shows that we can have a real impact on society.

We can achieve things that people thought were unachievable.

It goes to show the thinking of the past was wrong.

Many people just didn’t think we were worth anything.

What we’re trying to do is turn that all around and show we can learn and we can do anything, given the right assistance in our lives.

People often ask me if I would go through all the bad times again if could change it, and I say yes, because it has taught me a lot, it has taught me my role in the world.

I’ve still got a lot to give. I feel that people with learning disability are invisible around the world and we’ve got a lot of work to do to change that.”

– Sir Robert Martin, KNZM.

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