The National Awards for Disability Leadership have acknowledged the work of seven passionate people with disability in promoting inclusion, with the recipients of the awards announced today on International Day of People with Disability.
The Federal Government has marked the international day with the release of a $250 million strategy, Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021-2031, which has been expected for some time to guide actions on improving the access and inclusion of people with disability across the country.
The national awards are run by the Disability Leadership Institute, an organisation of professional leaders with disability who provide coaching, training and networking to increase the reach of leadership by people with disability in the community.
The Institute says the awards “recognise and celebrate the extraordinary contribution and leadership” of Australians with disability.
Christina Ryan, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Disability Leadership Institute, says, "What a remarkable and outstanding illustration of the diversity of disability leadership in Australia today."
The award recipients for 2021 are:
Lesley Hall Award for Lifetime Achievement - Dr Wenn Lawson for his impact on the Autistic community through work with researchers around the world on topics such as aging and quality of life, his education efforts to make the community see autism differently, and advocacy for Autistic people, including for the rights of children in schools.
Rights Activism - Chloe Polglaze whose contribution to the Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) and Families Australia policy forum led to a fourth priority group being added to the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children successor plan, which will have a positive impact on children with disability.
Inclusion - Ruby Susan Mountford for contribution to LGBTIQA+ disability communities and work in community development through research reports, resources for self advocacy and employment inclusion, and planning for health services to reduce barriers and support community participation.
Innovation - Shane Hryhorec for making more than 50 Australian beaches more accessible to people with disability by delivering beach access training and workshops, lived experience advice, community accessible beach days, organising equipment tests and trials, and creating a free online accessible beach and waterway directory.
Social Impact - Nikki Hind who is Australia’s first blind fashion designer and the founder of her own label, Blind Grit. She is the Fashion Editor of the Wb40 (Women Beyond Forty) Magazine, regularly writing about inclusive fashion and representation of the disability community, but also an inclusion advisor and media consultant.
Change Making - Kimberley Congram whose work in the public service has focused on reforming and transforming inclusion for people with disability in the service, and building an environment of support, inclusivity, trust and diversity.
Arts - Carol Taylor for her work as an award winning artist and the world’s first fashion designer with quadriplegia. Her designs featured in an open runway event in a world first, worn by a cast of models all with visible disability. She is also non-Executive Director of Spinal Life Australia and founding member of the Queensland Law Society Diverse Abilities Network.
The award winners were chosen by a judging panel of people with disability, based on what is important to the disability community.
“These awards reflect what is important to disabled people and the ways that we are effecting change and pursuing equality for our community,” the Institute states.
Strategy welcomed by organisations representing people with disability
The release of the new Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021-2031, which replaces the previous Strategy written in 2010, has been welcomed by disability representative organisations as it is expected to drive action and change.
Minister for Families and Social Services, Anne Ruston, says people with disability deserve to have the same opportunities as all other Australians and that the Strategy, alongside the $250 million of initiatives, will go some way towards achieving that.
“Our focus must be on the ability and capability of each and every person so that people with disability can contribute and thrive in the classroom, workplace and community,” says Minister Ruston.
“Importantly, key reporting mechanisms will tell us what is and is not working and ensure greater transparency across the life of the Strategy.”
Data on the progress of the Strategy will be published annually and a report on implementation will be made to the Parliament every two years.
The Strategy will be monitored and implemented by an advisory council which, for the first time, will be made up of people with disability and those involved in the community.
Welcoming the appointment of the Strategy Advisory Council, First Peoples Disability Network Australia CEO, Damian Griffis, says it includes representation of First Nations people with disability.
“This is a key element to our people having their voices heard,” he says.
“I look forward to working collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure clear alignment between Australia’s Disability Strategy and Closing the Gap so that First Nations people with disability are able to take up their rightful place in an inclusive Australian community.”
The Chair of the Strategy Advisory Council is Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Ben Gauntlett.
“The Advisory Council gives people with disability a permanent role in helping to guide the Strategy over the next decade,” says Dr Gauntlett.
“The success of the Strategy requires a whole-of-community response and only by having the public, businesses and Governments working together can we ensure all aspects of Australian life are inclusive and accessible.”
Other members of the council include:
Carolyn Frohmader, Executive Director of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA)
Jane Spring, Director of Sydney University Sport & Fitness and of the Paraplegic Benefit Fund
Liz Reid AM, Executive Officer of YouthWorx NT
Seriako Stephen, Board Director of First Peoples Disability Network Australia
Natalie Wade, Founder and Principal Lawyer of Equality Lawyers
Cindy Liu, Founder and Co-chair of Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network’s Youth Disability CALD Collective
Special Adviser Kathy Hough, Chair of Council for Regional Disability Services in WA and CEO of Far North Community Services
People With Disability Australia (PWDA) CEO, Sebastian Zagarella, agrees that tracking the Strategy’s progress is an important part of achieving change.
“We anticipate that the strategy’s increased focus on measuring outcomes and its commitment to improving data will help drive and deliver important change across areas such as housing, justice, transport, health and education,” he says.
For WWDA CEO, Ms Frohmader, the Strategy is the key to Australia implementing the rights of people with disability as they are outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
She says it sets the standards which Australia needs to meet and is the foundation of rules, legislation and systems which impact people with disability.
“So it’s of fundamental importance to the future of people with disability in Australia,” she says.
“We commend all partners and stakeholders – including Governments – for the collaborative and transparent way the strategy has been developed to ensure it is truly representative of the voices of people with disability.
"The engagement process has been a great example of how policies can be designed with, not for, people with disability to deliver practical outcomes that people with disability want.”
In addition to addressing the rights of all people with disability, Children And Young People With Disability Australia CEO, Mary Sayers, says the focus of the Strategy on the rights of children and young people is a positive one.
“The focus of Australia’s Disability Strategy on the rights of children and young people with disability is welcome, with a strong focus on participation in early childhood education and ensuring inclusive education for students with disability in their local school,” she says.
"Cross Government action to ensure children and young people with disability are included from the start will have positive lifelong benefits."
The $250 million in funding announced with the Strategy will be split across initiatives, including:
$76.8 million for Targeted Action Plans ranging from employment, safety and community attitudes to deliver initiatives over a one to three year period
$40 million to extend the National Disability Data Asset to facilitate more comprehensive measurement and assessment of the impact of services and programs accessed by people with disability, with necessary and appropriate safeguards
$12.5 million to fully establish a National Disability Research Partnership to translate research into policy and implement a national disability research agenda
$81.2 million for the Disability Gateway to improve its functionality and ensure people with disability, their families and carers can continue to navigate and find the services they need
$19.5 million for better reporting and measurement including developing an Australia’s Disability Strategy Survey
$9.9 million to improve individual advocacy services, including:
A new pilot program to provide individual disability advocacy as part of the Disability Gateway phone and internet resources
A Program Management Centre established to improve access to, and quality of, individual advocacy services, including by introducing best practice service delivery models
$10.1 million to ensure people with disability continue to be involved in the Strategy’s implementation, including through the new Advisory Council