Dunedin barrister Warren Forster has been awarded the 2017 New Zealand Law Foundation International Research Fellowship.
Mr Forster will research overseas systems to develop recommendations for extending New Zealand's Accident Compensation scheme so that it doesn’t distinguish between sickness and accidents.
The International Research Fellowship is New Zealand’s premier legal research award, providing recipients up to $125,000 for study in New Zealand and overseas that makes a significant contribution to our law.
Mr Forster says the award is an opportunity to develop an idea to completely transform people's experience with disability in New Zealand.
"Fifty years ago this week, Sir Owen Woodhouse published his world leading report into New Zealand’s personal injury system. We’ve now got the opportunity to make the integrated world leading disability system that he envisaged,” he says.
“Sir Owen foresaw the problems that we see now when we discriminate based on cause of disability. People’s experiences in both ACC and the disability system need to be improved.”
Mr Forster's research will use the wide definition of "disability" set out on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: "Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others."
His research proposal says access to healthcare, rehabilitation, income support, social support and access to justice for persons interacting with each system are provided in a discriminatory manner in New Zealand depending upon cause of disability.
"Since 1967, there have been various suggestions to extend the ACC scheme to cover disability. The question now is whether there are any suitable models, which could be used in New Zealand to do this."