A taste of the world stage for Robert

By Liz Wylie -
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BACK HOME: Robert Martin is happy to be tending his garden after making world news in New York last week.PHOTO/ BEVAN CONLEY
BACK HOME: Robert Martin is happy to be tending his garden after making world news in New York last week.PHOTO/ BEVAN CONLEY

Robert Martin was pruning the rose bushes at his Whanganui East home yesterday - a far cry from rubbing shoulders with international United Nations delegates in New York.

Mr Martin arrived back in Whanganui this week after becoming the first person with a learning disability to stand for and be elected to the UN's Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

His historic achievement has attracted worldwide attention.

"I travelled to New York with People First national manager Cindy Johns," Mr Martin told the Chronicle.

"She supported me and we were given a powhiri at the New Zealand Mission in New York - that made me feel very welcome."

Former Minister for Disability Issues Dame Tariana Turia nominated Mr Martin for the post in 2014 and the current minister, Nicky Wagner, was with him in New York this time.

As a member of the UN committee, Mr Martin joins a panel of 18 experts who monitor the implementation of the disability rights convention. He said the newly-formed committee had 17 men and just one woman.

"When I made my speech, I said we will have to do something about the gender balance next."

After putting in long days in New York attending meetings and being interviewed by international journalists, Mr Martin was happy to arrive home on Monday. "A group from Idea Services and the Somerville Centre were waiting with a welcome banner at the airport.

"I have known a lot of those people for most of my life and it was lovely to see them waiting for me."

There will be a celebration for Mr Martin at Whanganui District Council on Friday and he has engagements in Wellington next week.

"I hope to catch up with Dame Tariana soon - I called her from New York and she was very pleased for me."

Mr Martin will take up his new role in January, travelling to Geneva, Switzerland, to meet the committee twice each year and he will hold the position until 2020.

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