Don’t Call Me Stupid!

This biography tells the tale of Rewia, a Maori woman from Hawke’s Bay, who was incorrectly labelled intellectually handicapped after a severe bout of meningitis, which left her with extensive paralysis and other physical damage, resulting in the diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy. As the book title suggests, Rewia had a continuous battle to be recognised as a competent human being, capable of rational thought. Right through her childhood and young adulthood she was institutionalised. After being diagnosed she was first sent to Auckland’s Children’s Hospital, and then to the Rehabilitation Centre for Children with Disabilities in Takapuna.

Unfortunately to add even more stress to Rewia’s life she returned to her dysfunctional family at the age of three. Her parents could not cope and so she was eventually made wards of court and put into the care of the Social Services. This, in turn, led to her being fostered by a Pakeha family with which she is still in touch today.

The Sisters of Compassion took her in when Rewia was aged 11. At this institution in Carterton she learned all her basic skills and developed a profound love of reading. When she was nineteen, Rewia returned home to live with her foster family for a short while but, when that proved unsuitable, an approach was made to IDEA Services, the service branch of IHC, an organization that looks after the welfare of people with an intellectual disability. A place was found for Rewia in a residential hostel and in a rural training unit.

As an adult Rewia became involved in the advocacy organization, “People First” and along the way managed to change her service provider to CCS Disability Action. Since then, her life has taken a new turn and, despite ongoing health problems, she has not only managed to regain her dignity but has also experienced a wealth of different opportunities.

One might be forgiven for expecting some degree of self-pity from Rewia in the telling of her story in the oral tradition of her ancestors but, if indeed it exists at all, it is far outweighed by her impressive recall ability, her unflagging optimism and her wicked sense of humour.

“Don’t Call Me Stupid” can be purchased at various book stores around the middle of the North Island including shops in AHURIRI, CLIVE, HASTINGS, HAVELOCK NORTH, NAPIER, ONEKAWA, and TARADALE,

As well as the information office at WELLINGTON’S CCS Disability Action.