Member Council Chair understands what drives parents
The new Chair of the IHC Member Council, Lynne Renouf, comes with 45 years’ experience as an activist.
Lynne joined IHC when her son Duncan was born with Down syndrome and has made her presence felt at every level of IHC, pushing for change for Duncan and many others.
She says she doesn’t like being part of an organisation if she can’t get involved in decision-making.
Lynne is a former IHC Vice President and Board Member, and former Chair of the IHC Board Advocacy Advisory Committee. She has been a member of the Kāpiti-Mana Branch Committee and Association for 30 years, including serving as President and Vice President. Lynne is also an IHC New Zealand Life Member and a recipient of the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal 1993.
Duncan was about six months old when Lynne had her first encounter with IHC in 1978. She had a visit from Wellington branch member Jean Clarke, who wanted to know if the family was managing all right. In those days IHC received referrals from Plunket. Jean was the mother of Campbell, a disabled son born 30 years earlier.
Turning up to her first IHC mums’ morning tea in the Porirua East Community Centre, Lynne knew she had found her people. “We immediately started talking, made terrible jokes and in the end had a hilarious time,” she told Julia Millen, the author of the IHC history Breaking Barriers.
Lynne says she understands what drives parents – and that it’s something different for each generation. The parents who came before her wanted to keep their children safe.
“I was part of a group of parents who wanted something more. We were fighting to get our kids into school, so we fought the Education Act.” The Education Act was changed in 1989, with Section 8 giving every student who had special educational needs the same rights to enrol and receive education at State schools as those who did not.
Lynne was working as a relieving teacher when Duncan was born. “It didn’t occur to me that he wouldn’t be going to the local kindergarten. I just took him when he was three and a half.” He stayed there until he went to Porirua East School, a primary school with a new satellite class attached to the Kapi Mana Special School. His secondary schooling was at Mana College. “Duncan never wanted to leave college.”
Nor did Lynne and her group of parents want their children going to sheltered workshops after they left school, so they pushed for day services ‘hubs’, and one of the first was a purpose-built day base in Porirua, Te Wa Huri Huri. It closed during the pandemic. Duncan, who attended Te Wa Huri Huri, died in 2017.
“So I identify with parents who want something different,” she says. “If I was a 30-year-old parent now, I would be wanting quite a lot of stuff.”
For many years Lynne has been welfare guardian and property administrator for two wāhine Māori. Both women were born in Porirua and placed in IHC foster care as young children.
“As they reached 20 years, I was appointed welfare guardian and property administrator. Their start in life wasn’t flash,” she says. Their contract carer effectively became their parent.
“Recently the two blended families and moko moved to Ruatoria – before three months of rain made gumboots the footwear of choice. They are surrounded by very supportive whānau.”
Lynne also holds an enduring power of attorney for an elderly friend who has been supported by IDEA Services since her teens, and she has acted as a ‘friend in court’ for other people with intellectual disabilities who have got on the wrong side of the law.
Lynne says when people work together then disabled people can live their best lives in the community.She says it’s a team effort. “The Mana-Kāpiti Association have been together as committee and friends for 30 years.” Lynne’s challenge now is to guide the Member Council through some changes. She is a member of a working group that is looking at the roles and scope of the Member Council and Associations.
Three new members joined the Member Council for their first meeting in April. They are Denise Mackres, North Harbour Association committee member and Op Shop Manager; John Rossbotham, who was treasurer for the Wellington Association for eight years; and Keith Rea, the former Association Chair of the Waikato South Association and now treasurer.
Caption: Lynne with her two sons, Kris (at left) and Duncan. Duncan, born in 1978, was among the first children with intellectual disabilities who went to mainstream kindergartens and schools. He died in 2017, three years after his father, Dick.