Hard News by Russell Brown


Total Attitude

I think Mark Gosche summed it up last night: as an MP and minister he'd been to any number of awards ceremonies, but none had been as good as the inaugural Attitude Awards.

The awards are the work of the small team that makes the disability issues show Attitude TV. Earlier in the year, they decided not only to provide an event to recognise achievement in the disability sector, but to really turn it on. They nailed it. The Attitude Awards wasn't just a glamorous event but a really soulful one.

I saw Attitude's associate producer Curtis Palmer (who, along with Robyn Scott-Vincent, developed the idea, landed the sponsorships and produced the event) before the ceremony and he admitted to getting "a bit emotional" when he'd come down to the Sky City Convention Centre and seen the room dressed.

He wasn't the only one struggling to keep a handle on his emotions when the Pearl fashion show opened proceedings. Those young women -- wheelchair users, Down's, all the flavours -- were so obviously enjoying their moment of giving it heaps in a nice frock. (It may give you some idea of the strutting energy on stage to know that the catwalk music was The Checks' 'What You Heard'.)

I thought a lot during the evening about the common cause shown by this group of people who had found themselves with a non-standard experience of the world through such a wide range of circumstances, whether born or made different.

We come into contact with Attitude when they did a story on our family -- and, as I explained on the night, it was quite a step to let the boys be interviewed unaccompanied on camera: but an easy one, once I'd decided these were people we could trust. I was thus honoured to present the Attitude Enterprise award to Samuel Gibson and his lifelong friend Campbell Easton.

Sam was born with osteo genesis imperfecta (brittle bones), and over several years he and Campbell designed the EziRiser wheelchair, which launches in the US this year and Europe next year. Brilliantly, they dispatched their first containerload to the US yesterday, they same day they got their award.

The ACC Supreme Award went to dancer-choreographer Suzanne Cowan, whose legs were paralysed in an accident, but who returned to her art, and who is now completing her masters in dance at Auckland University.

Philip Patston's comedy set was fairly wicked. He had his serious moment too ("It's the shit sandwich" he explained): Instead of talking about disability or being differently abled, perhaps, he said, it was time to simply look at it in terms of overall human diversity. I think so. If there's anything living around difference teaches you, it's how we're all different.

(You can see the awards highlights on TV One on Sunday night at 10.30.)

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