My road to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disability policy and research has certainly not been a straight line. I spent my early career in health, education and operations. I have always been at the fringes of research though and describe myself as a self-styled “para-demic” (para-academic). Of Aboriginal heritage identifying with the Worimi people, I’m now working with the First Peoples disability network, based in Redfern.
I get to ply my trade as policy and research director, dealing with a cross-section of issues that people with disability face. The diversity in my experience has been a good grounding as disability impacts on so many policy areas. Much of this work is about awareness raising, but we always try to keep a practical “what can be done about this” approach with our work.
Away from the office, my wife Alison and I spend a lot of time watching sport and especially enjoy those which our two girls participate in. I also do a bit of ocean swimming, which gives me my spiritual cleansing and a nice excuse to visit somewhere I haven’t been before.
Disability is something of an untold story when it comes to the services that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to. As someone who has a hearing impairment (I wear a cochlear implant), I’ll try and inject a personal angle on these issues.
There are also a few reports being released this week, including one from the United Nations committee against torture. We will be reviewing these to see how Australian government policies are faring when it comes to ensuring the rights of those in Australia whose welfare is at greatest risk.
I have lots of “little heroes” I come across on a regular basis who keep me inspired. These are the people who do the little things to give people a leg up, out of a genuine concern for others. They go about their work without looking for fanfare.
I become agitated when I see injustice, particularly when it’s based on prejudice or ignorance. I see a moral imperative not just to do something personally, but to encourage others to learn more about what is going on and to share that message.
When unnecessary suffering is caused by people being denied the health care they desperately need, or when people are wrongly placed in institutions or prisons when they just shouldn’t be there – that makes me passionate too.