Author(s): John McRae
Becoming a Person is the uplifting and challenging story of how an intellectually disabled New Zealander helped change the world. Brain-damaged at birth, Robert Martin was locked away as a child in places for the ‘mentally deficient’ where he suffered neglect, abuse and violence. He came to understand that he and his friends were ‘nothing people; worthless and valueless, without opinions or rights’. Robert became a runaway, a thief, a scrapper and an activist. But he also stole books and educated himself, and began a civil rights campaign in small town New Zealand that helped grow an international movement. He travelled the world, saw horror in giant institutions and pleaded with politicians and bureaucrats for a better life for his friends. In 2003 he stood alone in a crowded hall to address the United Nations: ‘My name is Robert Martin, and I have an intellectual disability.’ Becoming a Person is an often painful, but ultimately uplifting account of a journey from nothingness to celebrity. It challenges us to re-examine our notions of what it is to be human.
JOHN MCRAE is a writer and documentary maker who has spent many years sharing stories and educating others about the lives of people with disabilities. From the first encounter with Robert Martin, John knew he had met an extraordinary New Zealander and determined to share Robert’s story and passion. Over several years he recorded interviews, observations and chats with Robert’s friends and influences and campaigned to gain publication of the challenging result. His current work is in communications, promoting quality education for all children.