Time: Occupational Therapy: Setting the Pace

By O'Sullivan, Grace | New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy, March 2011 | Go to article overview

Time: Occupational Therapy: Setting the Pace


O'Sullivan, Grace, New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy


This paper was presented as the Frances Rutherford Lecture at the New Zealand Association of Occupational Therapists Conference, on 8 September, 2010 in Nelson.

I extend greetings to you who have arrived to support the reason for this day. I greet you, I greet all amidst the memory of those who have gone before.

   Tena koutou ki a koutou kua tae mai nei, ki te tautoko te
   kaupapa o tenei ra.

   Tena koutou, tena koutou i roto I o tatou tini aitua

Frances Rutherford is credited with being a visionary leader of occupational therapy's development in New Zealand. As the third principal of the School of Occupational Therapy she was able to shape and drive forward occupational therapy education. She followed advances within the profession throughout her later life. I know because I was the occupational therapist at Selwyn Village when Frances Rutherford resided there, and she was always interested in hearing of developments within the profession.

The title of my presentation--Time: Occupational therapy: Setting the pace--is intended to convey a threefold message about professional development. Occupational therapy has a long-standing focus on enabling people to overcome human performance deficits. How we embrace our philosophy, how we make sense of it and promote it, is connected to how we establish our place as practitioners. In other words, our occupational selves are an expression of our professional integrity.

Situating knowledge

Out of respect for Maori tradition, I would first of all like to take you on a journey that will tell you where I have come from and the paths I have travelled. In doing that my goal is to open up a space where you can understand the context that has shaped the message I want to share with you today because "In order to understand a work [issue] we have to reconstruct it by retracing the process by which it came to be" Grenz (1996, p. 99). In keeping with this statement I will outline some of the significant events that have guided my approach to occupational therapy practice.

My canoes are many, my mountains are numerous, I say that because I have lived in eight countries and I believe the person I am today has been shaped by cultural experiences in each of those countries. My tribe name is Lafferty, my father was John, my mother was Grace Stewart, my family motto is: Fortune favours the brave. My sub tribe is O'Sullivan, my name is Grace.

My father's family originated in the south of Ireland, in an area known as Connemara, County Galway. Later generations lived in Scotland. My mother's family has roots in Scotland and Wales. Both families were people of the land inasmuch as they were farmers, gardeners, miners, and artisans. My father, who was a civil engineer, met my mother in Wales. I was born in the outskirts of Glasgow, in Scotland. The fifth of six children, I was raised in a secure family environment. I attended local schools, both primary and secondary and enjoyed long idyllic, summer holidays in Wales where my mother's family owned a large farm. In reflection I consider myself fortunate to have been born into a loving and supportive family. It gave me a strong foundation on which to construct my life.

As a teenager I completed an apprenticeship in hairdressing, not because I had a burning desire to be a hairdresser, I just didn't want to work in an office. On completion of my apprenticeship, I went to Canada and that was the beginning of a lifelong passion for travel, exploration and challenge. I returned to Scotland when my father had a stroke but with the best intentions in the world I found it hard to re-settle and much to my parent's dismay I soon moved on to London. From there it was only a matter of time before I was off again, hitchhiking in Europe. In light of the cultural diversity I had been exposed to my view of the world had expanded because when "we stand in different places in the world, we naturally develop different perspectives on the world and different interpretations of the world" (Gadamer cited in Grenz, 1996, p.

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