2015 National Disability Award winners

Speech at the National Disability Awards, 25 November 2015 – The Hon Alan Tudge MP, Assistant Minister for Social Services.

Video transcript

Lesley Hall Award for Lifetime Achievement in Disability


Keran Howe


Preventing violence against women with disability is a key focus of Keran Howe’s advocacy. She has been a dedicated disability rights campaigner for more than 40 years and is the founding Executive Director of Women with Disabilities Victoria. Keran has developed strategic alliances across the disability and health sectors to ensure greater inclusion of women with disability. Keran’s own physical challenges, the result of a car accident at the age of 19, give her a unique perspective on disability issues.

Joint Ministers’ Award in Inclusive Development


Alexandra Kay, Scope Global Pty Ltd


Alexandra Kay strengthens opportunities for people with disability to deliver Australia’s aid program through her work as the Disability Development Officer from Scope Global (Scope). Scope is one of the partners of the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program, an Australian Government initiative. Alexandra has worked with Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) to help more people with disability to work as volunteers overseas through the AVID program.

Emerging Leader in Disability Awareness


Connor McLeod


Connor McLeod has been an advocate for the blind community since primary school. In 2013, aged 12, he successfully petitioned the Reserve Bank to introduce tactile banknotes so vision impaired and blind people could tell the value of notes. Connor began this campaign after he received money for Christmas and was unable to tell how much money he had received because he is blind.

More recently he has campaigned for improvements to bank card technology so that vision impaired and blind people know how much money is being removed from their accounts by eftpos machines.


Kate Swaffer


Chair and co-founder of Dementia Alliance International, Kate Swaffer advocates for the human rights of people with dementia in Australia and around the world. Since her own diagnosis with younger onset dementia at the age of 49, Kate has worked hard to address the stigma and discrimination that she and other people with dementia experience. As well as her work with a range of national and international committees, projects and public speaking engagements, Kate also completed two tertiary degrees and a Master of Science in Dementia Care after her diagnosis. She has also written a book, soon to be published titled, “What the hell happened to my brain?: Living beyond Dementia.”

Excellence in Choice and Control in Service Delivery


Mind Recovery College


At the Mind Recovery College people whose lives are affected by mental distress engage in learning that helps them manage their recovery. Participants come together in College courses and workshops to share what works for them and to listen to what other people with similar experiences have found useful. The College brings together people with a range of personal, carer and professional experience of mental distress.  They use their knowledge, expertise and first-hand experience to contribute to the College including the design and deliver courses and other learning opportunities. This approach is the first of its kind in Australia.

Excellence in Advocacy


Julie Phillips


For more than 20 years, Julie Phillips has been a tireless advocate for fair treatment and equal opportunity for students with disability. She has relentlessly challenged the education and legal systems to ensure students with mobility issues, language disorders, learning disabilities, deafness and autism get the assistance they need.  Her expertise has helped people to successfully take on government and organisations with large legal teams and many resources at their disposal.  Julie dedicates a significant portion of her time to volunteer pro-bono work in the field.


Karen Williams, Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House


Barrister Karen Williams has driven the development of a new style of student advocacy and legal clinic which brings together lawyers, medicos and social workers. The clinic recognises that people with chronic illness and disability often have complex legal problems and aims to uphold their medical and legal rights. The clinic also helps people with disability to develop Advance Care Plans. It was established under the umbrella of the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House and is also supported by St Vincent’s Hospital.  Karen also undertakes a range of pro-bono work in addition to her work at the medico-legal clinic.

Excellence in Accessible Technology


Peter Ford


Peter Ford has given people with quadriplegia and loss of speech the power to communicate through his invention, the NeuroSwitch. The technology uses electromyography signals inside a muscle, even if that muscle is dysfunctional. Users are able to write text, generate computerised speech, surf the web, send and receive emails and text messages, run programs, play music, movies and videogames. It gives people with severe disability the capacity to communicate with family, friends and the outside world, dramatically improving their dignity and quality of life.


Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children


The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children’s Renwick Centre has pioneered the world’s first eLearning Braille course, UEB Online. Created by a small design team headed by Dr Frances Gentle, the course is designed to allow sighted people to learn Braille so they can teach people who are blind or vision impaired. It means parents and teachers can help children with literacy, numeracy and other essential learning.  This is particularly valuable for people in regional areas where specialist disability services are more difficult to access.  UEB Online is already being used in 55 countries.

Excellence in Community Accessibility


Jessica May, Enabled Employment


Jessica May is the founder and CEO of Enabled Employment, a unique and innovative recruitment company empowering people with disability.  It sources productive and well-paid job opportunities for people with disability who are highly skilled and capable. It is a for-profit online labour hire service, funded by fees from employers.  Jessica founded the start-up company after the birth of her first child, when her anxiety became unmanageable and she struggled to find employment that suited her needs and skill set.


Kidney Health Australia Big Red Kidney Bus Holiday Dialysis Project


The Kidney Health Australia Big Red Kidney Bus (BRKB) is a world first holiday dialysis bus, allowing dialysis patients to take holidays while still having access to their life-saving treatment.

The bus is located in holiday parks at popular Victorian holiday destinations for six weeks at a time, right throughout the year. There are three dialysis chairs for twelve people each week and bookings are open to all Australians on haemodialysis. It is staffed by an experienced Monash Health dialysis nurse and renal technician.

Kidney Health Australia is now aiming to get buses operating across Australia through its Big Red Kidney Bus National Expansion Program.


MJD Foundation Ltd


The MJD Foundation provides unique and vital support for Indigenous Australians and their families in Northern Australia who are living with Machado Joseph Disease (MJD), a disabling genetic disorder. Indigenous Australians living in the Northern Territory experience MJD at a much higher rate than the international average.

Lead by its co-founders Nadia Lindop (CEO) and Libby Massey, the Foundation ensures those living with MJD have access to appropriate equipment, improved transport options, clinicians educated in MJD, as well as social interaction and other improved services.


My Choice Matters


My Choice Matters (MCM) is making sure people with disability are ready for the changes to the disability support system. They have a particular focus on accessibility, ensuring every member of the community can access important information. Examples of this can be seen in their extensive Easy English work and partnerships with organisations such as the Deaf Society, which enable information to be presented in Auslan as well as written and spoken English.

MCM has also developed a first of its kind e-learning tool to help people understand and plan for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). My Learning Matters gives people with disability access to more than 60 resources across 16 topics in a choose-your-own-adventure format. People are able to explore and decide what’s important to them before going into an NDIS planning meeting.


Parks Victoria


Parks Victoria is enabling people with disability to explore iconic Victorian national parks that they previously would not have been able to access. Its initiatives include a Sherpa volunteer program in the Grampians and the provision of a stair climber to allow people with disability to see the spectacular Fairy Cave at Buchan Caves Reserve. Certain parks also provide a range of special all-terrain wheelchairs to people with disability free of charge.

Since winning a National Disability Award in 2011, Parks Victoria has expanded significantly, with the caving service, expanded accommodation, extensive equipment on offer, and a partnership with Blind Sports Victoria to enable visitors who are blind or vision impaired to get out in nature with the support of trained volunteers.