A number of community members influential in the disability sector were recognised at this year’s Order of Australia Australia Day awards, among them disability activist Professor Rhonda Galbally who was awarded the highest honour.
This year’s awards were the largest to date with the governor-general and chancellor of the Order of Australia, Sir Peter Cosgrove handing out 1,400 awards.
Professor Rhonda Galbally received the Companion in the Order of Australia for her achievements as a disability activist, working alongside the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Currently a board member of the National Disability Insurance Agency, she also founded the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and the Australian International Health Institute, now known as the Nossal Institute.
Among many other achievements, Professor Galbally made a number of contributions to Australians with disability including the Chair of the National People with Disabilities and Carer Council, member of the former NDIS Advisory Group and member of the Independent Panel appointed to advise the Productivity Commission and Government during the Inquiry into long-term care and support for Australians with disability.
This is not the first time Professor Galbally has been recognised, receiving an Order of Australia in 1990, the Centenary Medal in 2003 and Prime Minister’s Outstanding Achievement Award in the 2012 National Disability Awards.
Professor Galbally says the award is about honouring the thousands of people with disabilities, families, friends and people in the community who have forged a path for disability rights and inclusion.
“I don’t see of it as my award,” she says.
“I’m really interested in how we can ensure that being disabled in Australia is genuinely about being in the world, participating alongside everyone else as playmates, schoolmates and workmates and no longer segregated and shut away.”
Professor Galbally says the segregation of people with disability in their community remains a huge battle in Australia, especially with the commencement of the school year for hundreds of children with disability.
“It’s heartbreaking to think these children are knocking on the door of mainstream schooling and are being rejected and told they’re better off in the segregated setting.”
“I’ll be working alongside many others on these issues on genuine inclusion of people with disabilities around Australia.”
Co-Director of Disability Service Consulting (DSC) Roland Naufel describes Professor Galbally’s work as “phenomenal” and is thrilled for her upon receiving another Order of Australia recognition.
“The award recognises her work as one of the most active and influential people in Australian public life,” he says.
“Rhonda is very well known to us in the community services sector as outspoken, passionate, smart and someone who gets serious stuff done.”
“Her leadership has changed the way we view philanthropy, health and disability in Australia.”
“Australia is a better place because of Rhonda’s work and we are very grateful for it,” he says.
Other disability and social development sector figures recognised this year included:
Cancer Council Australia CEO Dr Sanchia Aranda
Commissioner Graeme Head
Flourish Australia CEO Mark Orr
Former UnitingCare Australia chair Peter Bicknell NDIS Quality and Safeguards
Guide Dogs Victoria CEO Karen Hayes
Intellectual Disability Rights Service executive officer Janene Cootes;
NAIDOC Committee Co-Chair Anne Martin
Oxfam Australia chair Dennis Goldner
OzHarvest founder and CEO Ronni Kahn
Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia deputy chair Michael Reid
St Vincent’s Curran Foundation chair Richard Haddock AM
Women’s Legal Service Queensland CEO Angela Lynch
With the highest number of awards since its establishment in 1975, almost 46 per cent of this year’s awards were for outstanding service or achievement in the community and 37.4 per cent of award recipients were female, the highest percentage ever.
You can listen to Professor Galbally on DSC’s podcast series Disability Done Different: Candid Conversations below.