Disability peak body, Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) have welcomed their new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mary Sayers, following the resignation of previous CEO, Stephanie Gotlib in April.
Ms Sayers, who was most recently the Deputy CEO of the Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS), has extensive experience in policy, research and service delivery in children and youth services, education and the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
She is “enormously excited” about her new role.
“In Australia we have a fantastic opportunity to get things right for children and young people,” Ms Sayers says.
“I am really looking forward to advocating for children and young people with disability to thrive and be fully included in early childhood education, in school and in higher education, in their communities and to be able to gain meaningful work.
“Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go. People with disability in Australia still face systemic discrimination and there is still the scourge of low community expectations.”
She says this discrimination is not because of their disability, but rather factors across physical, attitudinal, communication and social environments.
Ms Sayers wants to ensure children and young people with disability, their families and caregivers have a voice, which will deeply inform her work as CEO of CYDA.
“By getting the foundations right for children and young people we can ensure they live good lives without discrimination and have a right to be fully participate on an equal basis with others,” explained Ms Sayers..”
"While at VCOSS I also learned about the importance of joining the social policy dots.
“When developing policy you need to consider all the intersections with disability including health, housing, education, justice, employment and income security.”
She says deep collaboration with CYDA members and other advocacy organisations will drive her work under her new role.
“We are stronger when we all advocate together.”
With her sights set on making the NDIS work for children and young people with disability, Ms Sayers aims to support people with disability as they access the Scheme and help address bureaucratic and implementation issues.
“The upcoming Royal Commission Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability provides an opportunity for CYDA to make recommendations to the Commission to right the wrongs of the past and ensure children and young people are safe in the future,” Ms Sayers adds.
“We will be listening to the voices of our members to inform our engagement with the Commission.”
She believes the review of the National Disability Strategy (NDS) will also be a key priority for CYDA.
Ms Gotlib leaves CYDA after 11 years of service and played a critical role in the development, growth and success of the organisation.