Disabled ally honoured

MNZM for mother keen to help the disabled to have voices heard more

Rosalie Willis





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Rebekah Corlett, from Raumati Beach, has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education. Recognised for her work championing the rights to education for children with disabilities, fighting for them to feel truly seen and valued, she said being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit was surreal. “To think that someone, somewhere saw the mahi I do as worthy of this level of honour is incredibly humbling. It’s all very surreal. I’ve known about this since November and it still hasn’t sunk in. “As a Maori woman, and as a parent of a disabled teenager, I’m used to feeling invisible. That’s a feeling parents like me are very used to, so I accept this honour in solidarity with all the families who still feel invisible — and voiceless — in their own school community.” Co-ordinating the Very Important Parents Equity in Education New Zealand Facebook group for parents and families of children and young people with learning disabilities, Rebekah helps to provide advice and resources of all the latest information to more than 4000 members. Motivated by love and admiration for her kids and all the kids who fit uncomfortably into the education system, Rebekah is inspired by her 13-year-old daughter, Sophia, who has limited verbal communication and uses an AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication) device to communicate. Addressing Parliament on World Autism day in 2019 alongside her daughter, Rebekah spoke about being an ally, not an advocate. Her message was intentionally provocative to point out that while many non-autistics (particularly parents) like to speak over autistics, and call it advocacy, Rebekah spoke about being an ally instead, “pass the mic to autistic people, and turn up the volume”. “I will continue to push for systemic change to remove barriers to accessing education for all children with additional needs — at a local and national level.” As a member of the Ka¯piti Coast District Council’s accessibility advisory group, Rebekah’s passion at a local level is to see more accessible public spaces suitable for locals and visitors of all ages and all abilities. She has been a member of the Governing Committee of Inclusive Education Action Group since 2017 and was a member of the consumer panel for Autism New Zealand. She was also on the Mahinawa Specialist School’s board and is a contributor and member of Awhi Nga¯ Ma¯tua, an online community for parents of children with disabilities.