Photo of Sir Robert Martin, a white man wearing a black coat and a red medal.

Remembering Sir Robert Martin, a Pioneer of the Self-Advocacy Movement

Photo of Sir Robert Martin, a white man wearing a black coat and a red medal.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The team of the Disability Rights Fund (DRF) mourns the passing of Sir Robert Martin, one of the trailblazers of the self-advocacy movement. He was the first person with an intellectual disability to serve on the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since 2017.  

Sir Robert was tireless in his pursuit of independent living and ending institutionalization, energizing the global self-advocacy movement. “Children are innocent, and it is too risky to leave it to the State to look after children. They need to be part of a family, they need love, opportunities, and individual care…My hope is that all the children of tomorrow grow up in caring, well supported families and communities and societies shift to be inclusive of all people,” he shared in a powerful witness testimony to end segregation and institutionalization.  

Co-Chair of DRF board, Maria Ní Fhlatharta, fondly remembers Sir Robert as a devoted activist. “He was a giant of our movement and a wonderful friend to so many. His loss will be felt across the globe, but particularly in his beloved Aotearoa New Zealand. He shared his own experience of institutionalization as a young person and fought to ensure others had a right to independent living and experience a full childhood. Sir Robert was one of the great disability rights elders, and a true leader,” she said.  

Rest in peace, Sir Martin! Your powerful advocacy and enduring legacy will live on in self-advocacy movements around the world that are creating systems of care and belonging.