Rosie Macleod featured in the local news about three months back after completing a 9km 'wheelathon' to raise funds for her activities as a disabled sportsperson. That report went on to say that she completed the wheelathon in a time of 1 hour 45 minutes in an unmodified chair on a circuit in Te Horo near Otaki. More details here.
Rosie has lived in Tawa almost 28 years since emigrating from Fiji. She has been confined to a wheelchair since 1990 following a bad fall which saw her in hospital for three months, followed by a further three months of physiotherapy. But Rosie hasn't let her 'disability' hold her back as you'll see in this interview.
And keep an eye out as you're driving along the Main Road between central Tawa and Redwood. The rider of that mobility scooter whizzing along the footpath may well be Rosie.
Where were you born, Rosie?
I was born in Wainibokasi, Nausori, Fiji.
Where did you grow up?
Emperor Gold Mine in Vatukoula on the western side of Viti Levu, Fiji. I contracted polio at the age of 3 in my village which was in Rewa. At age 9 I went over to Australia for treatment. "I was very sad as I had no family there."
When I returned to Fiji at the age of 11, I was wearing calipers and used crutches which I didn't like at all. My family were happy to see me and yet didn't quite know how to relate to me. Before I left for Australia I was able to walk, but after returning I wasn't able to walk at all when my calipers were removed, not even able to walk with crutches. It was a difficult time for my family.
Where were you educated?
When I got back from Australia, I went to the Vatukoula Marist Convent School "where all the nuns are", then was transferred to the Vatukoula Goldfield Primary School. I then attended the Nelson High School right next door. Started to learn classics and literature. In my last year a teacher from New Zealand taught us to do Maori dancing which was really good - "quite different".
What is your line of work?
When I left school I worked at a timber company as a filing clerk. 1996-1999 I worked at the Wellington Ministry of Education in the Funding section. 2007-2009 became a member of the Wellington City Council Disability Reference Group. I'm on the National Pasefika Disability Leadership Group and also on the Wellington Pasefika Disability Network.
What about family?
Single mother of two grown children. I have three awesome grandchildren. "So pleased my kids and grandchildren don't live far away from me. I see them lots and am blessed to have them."
What are your interests/hobbies?
Represented New Zealand in 2007 as a member of the New Zealand Women's Wheelchair Basketball team in Australia. Unfortunately we didn't qualify for the Paralympics at Beijing 2008.
I started playing wheelchair tennis at the Tawa Lyndhurst Tennis Club with new wheelie players. The tennis club committee have taken on board the importance of the club being accessible for people with disabilities, e.g. wheelchair users.
I'm going to take on air rifle shooting next. I've also been enjoying having a go at Integrated Dancing in Newtown. It is a unique dance form that combines dancers with and without disabilities.
How long have you lived in Tawa?
In 1980 my mum sent me to New Zealand to look after my little three-year-old cousin in Tawa. I was supposed to stay just three months but it was extended. "I guess I was good" [at childminding]. At the end of three months I met my [now] ex-husband. Returned to Fiji, came back [to Tawa] in 1982 and got married. I've been here ever since.
What do you think is great about Tawa?
"I love Tawa because it has strengthened my character. It's made me become who I am today." Tawa is a family-oriented place and I'm very happy that my ex-husband and I were able to bring up our two awesome kids here. I love going anywhere in Tawa on my mobility scooter - just being able to say hello and talk to people is really nice. I love my mobility scooter!
What, if anything, would improve Tawa?
People using recycling bins/wheelie bins shouldn't block the footpaths, nor should cars. Rubbish collectors should place recycling bins and wheelie bins away from the footpath after emptying the rubbish.
What is your favourite dessert?
Pavlova with nuts on it.
Favourite sports team or sportsperson?
I like the Tall Blacks.
Favourite style of music?
I like pan pipe music and, every so often, Christian music. I like country music.
Favourite holiday destination in New Zealand?
I think it would have to be Kaikoura. "I like the lobsters. I went there ages ago. It was nice."
Favourite quote or saying?
I have one here: "God grant me The Serenity to accept those things I cannot change, The Courage to change the things I can, and The Wisdom to know the difference."
If you could meet any two or three people (alive or dead), who would they be?
The President who had polio, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Nelson Mandela. "They are both great people who had a lot of courage, strength, wisdom and enormous empathy."
The third one would be my parents.
What three things would you take with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
A torch that doesn't rely on batteries, a Bible and a guitar.
What is one talent you would like that you do not have?
I think I have it. I just need confidence - being a speaker I suppose. I'd also love to be able to play the piano. In my young days I used to play the guitar and sing solo in my church back home in Fiji.
What is one talent you have that you could not do without?
My sunny disposition and attitude.
What accomplishments/achievements in your life give you much satisfaction/pride?
Bringing up my two kids. "That was a joy."
Also the three Wheelathons I've done. I did two 10km wheelathons in 2007, one in Wellington, the other from Porirua to Tawa, and then on 31 July this year.
What two or three interesting things about you that local people might not know?
Following my bad fall in 1990, I had another in 1992 and again in 1993. I was hospitalised for a few months each time, followed by ongoing physiotherapy. On the third occasion, when I had plenty of time for thinking, I realised that I had not done things that I wanted to do. I made myself a promise I would do them. So in 2004 I got to go tramping, indoor rock climbing, abseiling and canoeing. Now I can say in my old age "Ah! I have done it".
What are two or three things you would like to do before you die?
To help Tawa become a place of accessibility for seniors and for the disabled.
To see my two grown-up children and grandchildren all have a wonderful life.
To see Fiji become an accessible inclusive society for people with disabilities who have the right to live in homes that are accessible, work in working areas that are accessible and basically have a healthy lifestyle just like any normal able-bodied person.
Compiled November 2010.