24 May 2024

People of Parent to Parent Celebration!

To mark our 40th Anniversary Year, we hope you enjoy the latest in our series of fun, fortieth-themed interviews with the People of Parent to Parent.

Meet and greet

You don’t often meet someone who is both a numbers and a people person, but Julie-Ann strikes a rare balance. With her expertise as a professional accountant and over 15 years involved in Parent to Parent, she’s highly astute about the ins and outs of keeping organisations financially stable—and keeping families on an even keel through the ups and downs of navigating the disability sector.

While she first came to Parent to Parent looking for a connection with other parents of intellectually disabled children, she became the Chair of the Greater Canterbury Committee and then a Board member in 2018. Julie-Ann’s forward-thinking influence throughout her involvement is a credit to her balanced perspective and net positive outlook.

A strong paddler in our waka—meet Julie-Ann, who always appreciates that there are two sides to every coin and chooses to focus on the bright side.

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata!*


Can you tell us you’re a parent without telling us you’re a parent?

How much I love the Seesaw app would give you a clue! As you see, I’ve become such a pro that I can navigate it while on an actual seesaw 😉.

Tell us your age without telling us your age (and, to make it extra tricky, you must use the number 40).

Barack Obama became the first African American president in my 40th year.

X 40th Celebration multiplication X

Tell us about 4 Parent to Parent initiatives you’re excited about seeing happen in the next 4 years.

  1. More SibSupport events happening across NZ. The SibSupport programme means a huge amount to us as a family because it enabled a massive shift in the mindset of our other two children. They were very isolated as well, but they never spoke of it. They just didn’t realize, but when they came away from the events you could see the change in attitude to their brother. It was just beautiful, and they haven’t been to that many—probably only three or four. Fabulous.
  2. Providing even greater awareness around the EGL rollout. These days many mums and dads in families are working, so it is hard for them to find the time to research EGL. Parent to Parent will ensure these principles are understood and smooth the progression.
  3. Continuing to be up to date with the latest technology to connect in every way possible with families. Parent to Parent is right up there with our systems and is constantly looking to improve.
  4. On-the-ground support being available in every region in NZ. I’m hopeful we will be able to fund more resources on the west coast of the South Island and other places where the population isn’t as high.

In x10 words, could you explain what you love most about Parent to Parent?

Support Parent connection, creating friendships, education and empowerment of parents.

Tell us about 4 people who have inspired you to do the work you do.

  1. Patrick has provided me with confidence I did not know I had. Being the mother of an intellectually disabled child can be frightening to start with, but we are the best advocates for them and must be strong to face the challenges. Sometimes, you need support to get there, which is what Parent to Parent is here to help with. The other side of the coin is the extreme joy Patrick has given us as a family, and his milestones were celebrated every step of the journey.
  2. Inclusion: Patrick attended mainstream primary school. Over the six years, we often had teachers who had never had ORS kids in their classes. Watching them learn about Patrick and their excitement when he surprised them with his learning and abilities was brilliant. The pupils also learned that Patrick could communicate in his own way, had a sense of humor, and was readily included in lunchtime games. Patrick and his fellow ORS friends have given this group of neurotypicals the awareness that disabled kids are not incapable and that they can be included in workplaces and the community in the future. We often used to joke that we were doing a service to mainstream!
  3. Because we live rurally, special education teachers came to our home when Patrick was three and four years old to do physical and speech therapy. One of them was Anne Campbell (wife of a previous Parent to Parent President, Peter Campbell). I told her I didn’t know anyone around here with a child like Patrick; it was very lonely. She said I should ring Parent to Parent. That was the best day ever, Bev Bennett—a past Greater Canterbury coordinator—was my first contact with P2P. She was brilliant at communicating with new parents, an amazing fundraiser, an awareness advocate for Parent to Parent, and a provider of events for families that were so well-attended. She also matched me with a Support Parent mum in Taitapu. I’m still great friends with the families I connected with in 2008, all these years later, even though we don’t see one another often.
  4. Rural connection: One of the first events I attended was in rural Canterbury. It was eye-watering to see 35 parents attend. They were hungry for information and connection. Many families are physically isolated and must travel to the cities for services. I did not know any other intellectually disabled children before Patrick started school. These days, with modern technology, the connection is easily accessed, even if it is only over a screen. Ensuring these parents are empowered is so important.

Finally, please give us a x10-second elevator pitch about where you see Parent to Parent in another 40 years?

Parent to Parent will be a household name and accessible to everyone. Every family has a relative/family friend with a disability, so Parent to Parent, as a pan-disability organization, will be the first service they will reach out to when help is sought through technology. Parents will be fully informed of services and connections for their children to ensure the best life is lived.

* What is the most important thing in the world? He tangatahe tangata, he tangata. It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

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