Media Release by The Hon Bill Shorten MP

Disability Awards recognise six high achievers

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

Six outstanding individuals have received recognition for their selfless contributions to the disability sector at the 2009 National Disability Awards ceremony in Canberra.

The awards formally recognise achievements made by people with disability, as well as those who have contributed to the disability sector.

The award winners, along with all of the nominees, have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of people with disability, and those who are making a real difference in the lives of others.

Two new award categories were added this year – Local Government and Social Inclusion awards – to the Australian Government’s priority to work with all levels of government and communities to build a more inclusive society.

The calibre of the 240 nominations this year shows how hard many Australians are working to improve the lives of people with disability.

This year two people have received the Minister’s Lifelong Achievement Award, recognising the strength, resilience and determination of the joint winners Sue Gordon and Robert Strike in their work to improve and reshape the lives of people with disability.

The Australian Government joins the rest of the nation in celebrating the achievements of these remarkable individuals and all the quiet achievers who are helping to improve the lives of people with disability.

Every year these awards encourage more people in our communities to dedicate themselves to breaking down the barriers of access, discrimination and exclusion faced by more than one million Australians with disability every day.

2009 Award Recipients

Minister’s Lifelong Achievement Award – Sue Gordon and Robert Strike

Among Sue Gordon’s achievements is her work in instigating Australia’s only dedicated criminal law service for defendants with disability. Sue co-pioneered the Disability Law Project, which investigates the impact of the mental illness, intellectual disability and/or acquired brain injury, and its relationship to the behaviour which led to a particular individual’s criminal charge. She also established the Disability Action Group Force, a community organisation that lobbies for people with disability across education, employment, transport, housing and accommodation sectors.

Robert Strike spent most of his early years in an institution, and this has driven his passion for empowering people with intellectual disability. Robert is one of the founders of the self-advocacy movement in Australia and has spent the past 20 years lobbying for systemic change to ensure people with disability are treated with equality. Co-founder and current president of Self Advocacy Sydney, Robert has educated police, judges and the wider community about the rights of and the discrimination often faced by people with disability in the justice system.

Disability Right’s Young Leader Award – Dudley Afford

Dudley is a 21 year old with a commitment to change stronger than many people twice his age. He received this award for his work in improving the lives of people with disability in his school and across his home city, Adelaide. Dudley has acted as the catalyst for change, making his school wheelchair friendly, accelerating the installation of audio-tactile pedestrian crossings, improving signage and access onto trains.

Business Award – Tina Zeleznik

Tina founded Disability Works Australia Ltd to provide a single point of access for employees to recruit people with disabilities. For more than 20 years Tina promoted the benefits of hiring people with disability to large corporate employers and Federal, State and Local Government agencies. She has helped more than 8,000 people with disability to get a job.

Local Government Award – Michael Taggart

Michael received the award for his work in successfully advocating for disability accessibility in local government. He led the development of the first City of Salisbury Council Disability Action Plan (1999-2003), National Disability Strategy 2008 and Disability Access Guidelines for the South Australian Department of Transport. Michael also contributed to the development of a Local Government Disability Awareness Training Package with five major councils in South Australia.

Social Inclusion Award – Melissa Noonan

Melissa founded Limbs 4 Life, an organisation which provides information, knowledge, and access to resources and support to thousands of amputees across Australia. She also set up an online forum, called AMP-Link, on the Limbs 4 Life website which has helped reduce social isolation for amputees in rural and regional communities. The web forum provides amputees across Australia with a way to connect with each other and discuss specific issues unique to them.