Disability leaders recognised with awards on IDPwD

Posted 3 years ago by Emily Erickson
El Gibbs received the Lesley Hall Award for Lifetime Achievement Award on IDPwD. [Source: Disability Leadership Institute]
El Gibbs received the Lesley Hall Award for Lifetime Achievement Award on IDPwD. [Source: Disability Leadership Institute]

The work of 14 disability leaders and advocates were recognised in the National Awards for Disability Leadership announced on International Day of People With Disability on 3rd December.

Led by the Disability Leadership Institute and Disabled People’s Organisations Australia, the awards recognise outstanding achievements by individuals, or organisations run by or for people with disability, who have significantly contributed to advancing the status and wellbeing of people with disability.

“These leaders have stepped up and shown us the way,” Disability Leadership Institute Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Christina Ryan says. 

The recipients illustrate the broad diversity of people with disability including Indigenous peoples, people from culturally diverse backgrounds, and from LGBTIQ communities.

This year, the awards focused on work done to support the Australian disability community through several challenging events including the pandemic, bushfires, and other natural disasters. 

A large number of quality nominations were received across all seven award categories, showcasing the work of outstanding disability leaders in a wide range of fields.

The 2020 recipients are:

The Arts:

Brenden Borellini

Unable to travel during the pandemic, Brenden has provided leadership and advocacy for inclusion and access in Mackay and beyond, and has influenced other arts organisations, council and businesses to adopt initiatives that will ensure the whole community can benefit.

Dan Graham

Dan was instrumental in helping organisations, like the MEAA, become more accessible to the disability community during the pandemic and adopt ongoing practices which address disability rights.

Change Making:

Julie Loblinzk

Julie is part of a research team at UNSW Sydney. During 2020 this research work has contributed to a greater understanding of the pandemic on disabled people and has also been used by the Disability Royal Commission.

Social Impact:

Akii Ngo

During the pandemic Akii has used social media to successfully raise awareness of those living with chronic pain and invisible disabilities.

James Griffiths

James was motivated to share his story at the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit’s Disability and Disaster Resilience forum. Although the storytelling was difficult and personal, his wanted to help people to understand the challenges faced by people with disabilities, particularly for those who are Blind/VI.

Lauren Watson

During this difficult year Lauren was honest and open on her social media about her struggles and how isolation may offer a degree of understanding to non-disabled people of what it feels like to live with a disability.

Ricky Buchanan

During Covid19 able bodied people have needed to access medical services and have experienced isolation new to them. Due to her ongoing life experiences and years of advocacy, Ricky Buchanan has been an expert navigating 2020. She has been able to use multiple forms of media to talk about the issues and advocate for keeping accessible services once able-bodied people don’t need them anymore.

Tim Chan

Tim is an Autism Advocate, and a young Chinese Australian, diagnosed with autism at 3 years old, and has been non- speaking after 14 months of age. Tim has become pivotal to the self-advocacy movement to drive autism to a new level of relevance and inclusion, and has provided personal case studies of being locked down in public housing in Melbourne.


Find A Bed

@findabedAU popped up during the catastrophic 2019-20 bushfires and worked extraordinarily quickly and hard to find accommodation, generators, specific toys, disability aids and more, to meet the needs of individuals and families in crisis.

Jeff Shaw

Jeff has built two programs for the disability community this year:

Connecting Couches: virtual, accessible activities offered free to Australians of all abilities via Zoom. Sessions run daily and see an average of 10-20 participants.

Because We Care: deliveries of food packs to people with a disability in our community facing financial hardship due to COVID-19.

Rights Activism:

Mark Oakley

Although the storytelling was difficult and personal, Mark’s motivation for sharing his story was to help people to understand the challenges faced by people with disabilities during and after bushfires.


Jody Barney

Jody has been preparing and delivering meals to elders, while still working to raise awareness about Indigenous people with disability, particularly from the deafness community. Her short videos on social media sharing sign language tips have been shared widely.

Ramas McRae

Ramas demonstrates a ‘can do attitude’ in disseminating key messages across multiple social media platforms. Particularly during a time of COVID where social media platforms have played a pivotal part in increasing awareness around sign language and deaf Aboriginal minorities.

Lesley Hall Award for Lifetime Achievement:

El Gibbs

El was a media spokesperson for our community during 2020’s crises. She led her team of workers with disability to be the COVID disability response she says the government wasn’t providing. 

During this difficult year El has also given evidence to the Australian Parliament and developed the live tweeting model that ensures Disability Royal Commission hearings are shared widely so that disabled people know what is happening. El’s work has been consistently focussed on the needs of the disability community, and her energy has often been given when her reserves were low. 

She has been described as a “true giant” in the disability rights movement.

The National Awards for Disability Leadership have run since 2018, with the 2020 awards sponsored by Physical Disability Australia. Learn more about the Disability Leadership Institute here.