Richard Hoskin (Parnell, 1967 -70) - OC of the Month - February 2023
Monday, 27 March 2023

Our Old Collegian of the Month for February 2023 is Richard Hoskin ONZM (Parnell, 1967-1970).

At the 2022 Queens New Years Honours, Richard received the honour of Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his longstanding and important work with the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind. He has also previously received an Honours Tie from King’s in 1977 for his achievements in Athletics when he represented New Zealand at the FESPIC games 1977, held in Australia that year, winning gold in Discus, Shot and Sprint, and bronze in Long Jump.

Born in Mt. Albert in 1953, Richard attended King’s Prep from 1959 to 1966 before entering college in 1967 as a Parnell House border. After he became blind in 1970, he spent a few months in Major House, but moved to Manurewa High School for his seventh form year where there were better resources for blind students.

Losing his sight suddenly at seventeen was bewildering. After eleven years of school, Richard found himself educated but illiterate, unable to read or write. He was cut off from all the sports he loved, commonality with his friends slipped away and he was driven to develop a new group of friends. Through their understanding and caring, they kept him included and gave him the backbone to face the daily traumas associated with rehabilitation. Before he was ready to take on travelling to the United Kingdom by himself to study, it took eight years of ‘wandering in the wilderness’ to learn Braille and to type; to master the use of a long white cane to navigate the streets. He had a raft of menial jobs including dark-room technician, switchboard operator and factory work, all soul-destroying enough to ensure he set his goals higher. Eventually, he was able enough and set off for the U.K. with his first guide dog Digger. If anyone asks, ‘how long did it take to get over it?’ his answer is “coming to terms with it is insidious, but one never gets over permanent disability. Every day brings a new challenge, whether it be a website that’s inaccessible or low scaffolding over a footpath.” Richard considers himself fortunate. Resilience, patience, tenacity and a large dose of Virtus Pollet has helped.

Between 1978-83 Richard studied at the North London School of Physiotherapy, a physiotherapy school funded by the Royal National Institute for the Blind under the mandate of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, UK.  He completed his degree and then worked in the National Health Service for a couple of years before returning to New Zealand where he bought his first physiotherapy practice in Glenfield on the North Shore. He developed his physiotherapy business into a company employing 30 staff providing rehabilitation, sports, and musculoskeletal services in 18 secondary schools throughout Auckland, in conjunction with 7 private clinics which provided private and Accident Compensation services. His specialty was manipulative therapy after attaining a diploma of Manipulative therapy in 1995. Richard retired in 2015 after  thirty-five years in the physiotherapy field.
Subsequently, Richard spent eleven years as a director on the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Board, with the last nine of those years as Chair. The strengths he brought to the Foundation were strategic development, financial literacy, risk and health and safety management, quality improvement and performance review, industry knowledge and business analysis. He retired from the RNZFB Board in 2020 and is currently publishing a series of books aimed at children in the 2 to 6-year-old age group.

In Richard’s ‘OC of the Month’ interview he shares with us some of his life challenges and successes after losing his sight as a teenager.

When you were at King’s College, what did you want to do for a career after you graduated?
I planned to do law and went to Auckland Law School, but it was too soon after becoming blind and I had not developed adequate reading and writing skills needed to do the course work, so I left.

What is your best memory of your time at King’s College?  
I was fortunate to love boarding school life in Parnell. The sports facilities were fantastic. I was lucky to be good at sport, representing the school in field events (Intermediate), playing Second XI hockey, and winning the Junior tennis doubles title 1967. Between 1967 and 1969 I won various athletics field events.

Which staff member do you remember most favourably from King's College and why?
Mr George Kerry. He was my House Master and at one point Latin teacher. He was fair and supportive. As my 4th form teacher, he was able to inspire me, a rather mischievous and rambunctious boy, to get stuck in academically.

What advice would you give to your school age self?
Be fit, be educated, be resilient, be tolerant, be aware the world around you changes quickly, and don’t burn bridges.

Tell us about yourself now and what you do for a career?
Liz and I have been together for more than fifty years. I have two married daughters and three young grandchildren.
I have retired from both PhysioACTION and Blind Low Vision NZ.  I have turned to writing, having written an adult novel; a novel for intermediate age students; and a series of picture books for 3-6-year-old children.

What does/did your job involve?    
My life’s work was physiotherapy. When I sold my business in 2013, I employed about thirty staff, providing physiotherapy services through seven private clinics and to seventeen secondary schools throughout Auckland. 
For nine years I was Chair of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind. The organisation provided support to 14,000 people who were blind, deafblind or had low vision; employed about 300 staff with several thousand volunteers; had an annual budget of $35M and assets of $150M at the time. I retired after eleven years on the Board at the end of 2020.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?
The greatest challenges for me were the barriers that beset people who are blind. Overcoming the impediments related to accessing the physical environment and transport; accessing information and the written word; and access to employment. That said, about 75% of blind people are over the age of seventy. This age-group often have comorbidities, thus further complicating rehabilitation and habilitation efforts.

What would you say is your biggest achievement to date?

Two achievements would be finalising the development for a $350M retirement village on the RNZFB’s Parnell site which will assist the organisation to become more financially independent during rocky financial times, and bringing about a constitutional change that broadened the criteria for people to receive RNZFB services from a rigid ophthalmological test, to including all those who were unsafe or distressed due to their loss of sight.

What is the single thing that would most improve the quality of your life?
Quite simply, it would be wrong to say anything else apart from having my sight restored.
What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
My laptop so I can continue to write. It also includes my digital library access.
My ever-faithful black Labrador Guide dog ‘Banner’
A bottle of Laphroaig Lore whisky, though I might need more than one

How would you like to be remembered?
Tolerant in political view, fair in financial matters, altruistic in the communities I’m involved with, and conscientious about completing my activities.