Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Disability Champions Celebrated in National Awards

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Julia Gillard MP, Prime Minister of Australia
  • The Hon Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and, Minister for Disability Reform

Thirteen outstanding individuals and organisations were tonight honoured for their work to improve the lives of people with disability at the annual National Disability Awards.

The Awards, now in their sixth year, celebrate the remarkable contributions of people with disability and those who support them to create a more inclusive and diverse society.

The Prime Minister congratulated the award winners, and commended all nominees for making a difference to the lives of people with disability.

The calibre of the finalists and award recipients highlights the work Australians are doing to raise awareness and support for people with disability.

The award winners’ achievements include strengthening community accessibility for people with disability, supporting education and employment opportunities, advocating for disability reform and improving access to cultural events.

The winners were chosen from more than 200 nominations from across the country.

This year’s Awards come at an exciting time for people with disability, their families and carers, as the Gillard Government works towards the launch of a National Disability Insurance Scheme from the middle of next year.

The Government is investing $1 billion for the first stage of the scheme, which will provide more than 20,000 people with disability individualised care and support in five locations across the country – in the Barwon region in Victoria, the Hunter in New South Wales and across South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

Legislation for the National Disability Insurance Scheme will be introduced to Parliament tomorrow.

A special award was awarded to Dr Rhonda Galbally AO in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the disability sector.

Dr Galbally has been a tireless campaigner for more than 30 years for disability rights, women’s rights, health reform, more resilient communities and innovation in philanthropy. She played a key role in bringing together people with disability, carers and providers of disability services to campaign for change. She also spearheaded the establishment of the National Disability and Carer Alliance, and with the Alliance has been a driving force behind the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The National Disability Awards form part of the Australian Government’s celebration of International Day of People with Disability, which occurs annually on 3 December, and which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary.

2012 National Disability Awards recipients

Prime Minister’s Outstanding Achievement Award – Dr Rhonda Galbally, of Richmond, Victoria

Dr Galbally has been a tireless campaigner for more than 30 years for disability rights, women’s rights, health reform, more resilient communities and innovation in philanthropy.

Rhonda played a key role in bringing together people with disability, carers and providers of disability services to campaign for change. She spearheaded the establishment of the National Disability and Carer Alliance, and with the Alliance has been a driving force behind the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Rhonda is the Chair of the National People with Disabilities and Carer Council and the Deputy Chair of the Advisory Council for the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Minister’s Award for Excellence in Disability Reform – Michael Small, Sandy Bay, Tasmania and Samantha Jenkinson, Karrinyup, Western Australia

Throughout his lengthy career, Michael has dedicated himself to advocating for the rights of people with disability, particularly through the development of government policy and accessibility standards. Michael was closely involved in developing standards for accessible public transport and banking services, led negotiations to improve cinema and television captioning, and now runs an access consultancy that focuses on making practical changes to improve the rights of people with disability and their families.

Samantha has dedicated her professional life to fighting for disability reform in Western Australia and across the country. Samantha’s many achievements include her work on a number of projects to increase the choice and control of people with disability, participation on a number of ministerial advisory committees, and her contribution to the state’s Count Me In: Disability Future Directions strategy.

Emerging Leaders Award – Gerard O’Dwyer, Guildford, New South Wales

As an actor with Down Syndrome, Gerard is using his profile to challenge entrenched stereotypes, particularly of people with an intellectual disability. His work includes dramatic performances in film and television, including his role in the film Be My Brother, for which he won Best Male Actor at the 2009 Sydney Tropfest Film Festival. Gerard is currently an ambassador for Karelle Life Enrichment Service, a provider of services to people with intellectual disability.

Excellence in Improving Social Participation Award – The Captioning Studio, Adelaide, South Australia and Australian Communication Exchange, Stones Corner, Queensland.

From the Sydney Opera House to the Arts Centre in Melbourne, The Captioning Studio’s innovative, accessible technologies and services are helping people with hearing impairment to better access performing arts. An example of the studio’s innovations is the world-first technology GoTheatrical, which enables people who are deaf or hearing impaired to enjoy live theatre by accessing live captions on their mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets.

Australian Communication Exchange is considered Australia’s leading service provider for the deaf, hearing and speech-impaired communities. Examples of its range of technologically advanced services include silent tweets—a smart phone app that allows users to post and receive important public announcements—and its new web captioned telephony service, which provides live captioning for telephone calls that can be accessed from a computer or smart phone over the internet.

Excellence in Improving Employment Opportunities Award – Telstra Corporation

Telstra Corporation is expanding its successful Supported Workforce Program, which currently partners with 13 Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) nationwide to provide meaningful and ongoing employment for more than 200 people with disability. With a demonstrated commitment to delivering accessible services to Australians with disability for many years, Telstra was the first major Australian corporation to develop a Disability Action Plan in 1996.

Excellence in Accessible Communities Award – Safe Futures Foundation, Eastern Region, Victoria

Safe Futures Foundation delivers early intervention, emergency and crisis support, as well as accommodation for women and children with disability who are experiencing family violence. The organisation fills a vital gap in the area of family violence and safety, and acts across the domestic violence and disability sectors to raise awareness of the risks faced by women with disability.

Excellence in Improving Personal and Community Support Award – Mary D’Elia, Hobart, Tasmania

In her role as State Operations Manager, Family and Community Services, for Baptcare, Mary D’Elia has played a pivotal role in policy reforms to improve the lives of Tasmanians living with disability. She has worked extensively with the Tasmanian Government to help develop and deliver the state’s Gateway Services – a single entry point for consumers to family and disability services in Tasmania.

Excellence in Advocacy and Rights Promotion Award – Communication Rights Australia – Moorabbin, Victoria

Communication Rights Australia is an advocacy and information service for people who face challenges communicating. For more than 30 years, it has advocated for people with communication difficulties to ensure that their rights and interests are respected and realised. In addition to working with individual clients, Communication Rights Australia provides a range of outreach services, including presentations and seminars at public forums.

Excellence in Improving Health Outcomes Award – Family Planning Queensland, Fortitude Valley

Family Planning Queensland in Fortitude Valley were awarded for their commitment to ensuring people with disability have access to the information and resources they need to make informed choices about their sexuality and reproductive health. The organisation also delivers positive messages to people with disability about their sexuality, sexual development and safe sex.

Excellence in Improving Education Outcomes Award – Geoffrey Warren, Clifton Hill

As the Principal of Clifton Hill Primary School for the past 23 years, Geoffrey’s extraordinary leadership has ensured inclusive educational practices have been embedded across every aspect of school life. A culture of respect and the expectation of achievement is a striking characteristic of the entire school community, and the judges were impressed by Geoffrey’s dedication to creating a collaborative culture. The school consults regularly with families and allied health professionals so that it can benefit from the extensive knowledge and expertise of all parties.

Yooralla Media Award of Distinction – The Project, Network Ten, Victoria

The Project has received this year’s Yooralla Media Award of Distinction for its unparalleled commitment air a range of issues across the disability sector, and to follow up stories to enhance the viewers’ understanding of these issues and their consequences. One of its stories, Finding Hope, was named the winner in the Television – Best TV News, Feature or Documentary (less than five minutes) category at the 2012 Yooralla Media Awards.