2017 National Disability Award finalists

The below individuals, organisations, services and initiatives have been selected as the 2017 finalists for the 11th National Disability Awards.


AbilityMate is a social enterprise that combines the power of 3D printing with human-centred design to co-create assistive technology with Australians with disability. In recent years, AbilityMate has undertaken a number of initiatives that focus on improving accessibility and innovating new assistive products.

AbilityMate collaborates with people with disability, their families, healthcare providers and mission-driven organisations to ensure its products are human-centred, clinically-safe and fulfil the needs of the community. AbilityMate is focused on ensuring that custom-made assistive products can be accessed affordably by all.


ANZ’s strong progress in its goal to build an accessible and inclusive bank and be known as an employer of choice for people with disability is the result of a number of different inclusion initiatives.

Some of these initiatives include: a formal Accessibility & Inclusion Plan that sets out commitments in the key areas of customer, community and employment; an active ‘Abilities Network’ made up of staff who are passionate about making a difference for people with disability; ‘Disability Confident Recruiter Training’ for talent acquisition specialists; and implementation of annual targets for the hiring of employees with disabilities.

In the past year, ANZ has improved accessibility for its customers and employees and exceeded its recruitment target for people with disability. ANZ has grown the number of employees sharing information about disability, from 1.6% in 2014 to 7.3% in 2016.

Catia Malaquias

Catia is an advocate working to ensure people with disability have equal access to educational opportunities, as well as representation in the media. She is a leading voice in Australia and internationally advocating for the inclusion of people with disability in mainstream advertising and media and has been involved in the inclusive advertising efforts of Kmart and Target in the last 18 months.

In addition to being a mother of three children (including Julius who has Down syndrome) and a lawyer, Catia dedicates her time on a pro bono basis to several community endeavours to advance equality, human rights and inclusion of Australians with disability. She is the founder and director of Starting With Julius, co-founder of All Means All – The Australian Alliance for Inclusive Education and co-founder and National Convenor of the School Inclusion Parent Network. Catia has also co-founded the Global Alliance for Disability in Media which she helped launch in 2016 at the United Nations in Geneva. She also sits on the boards of Down Syndrome Australia and the Attitude Foundation. Catia was a finalist in the 2016 Australian Human Rights Awards and in the 2017 Western Australian of the Year Awards in recognition of her community and advocacy work and its impact.

Compass Group

Compass Group is Australia’s leading food services company, employing over 10,000 people at over 480 locations across Australia.

Compass Group Australia is committed to giving people living with disability the opportunity to compete equitably for employment and enjoy satisfying careers. Through consultation with disability support agencies, Compass Group has developed a comprehensive program to support the successful transition of new employees with disability into employment including a workplace adjustment policy that ensures accessible work environments and training programs; disability awareness/ confidence training for our people; and indirectly by encouraging our suppliers, subcontractors, and clients to also embrace employing people with disability.

Cricket Australia’s National Inclusion Championships

The ground-breaking National Cricket Inclusion Championships (NCIC) featured three divisions: blind and vision impaired, deaf and hard of hearing and cricketers with an intellectual disability. The inaugural competition, held in Geelong last January, marked the first time in Australian sporting history that these three divisions competed under the umbrella of a single national championships. With the help of more than 100 volunteers, the NCIC saw over 200 players, from 15 teams, representing 6 states, take part in a week-long competition that saw over 1000 runs made and 3 teams taking home silverware. The event set a new standard for sport; providing the final link in the pathway between community participation and international competition – giving the 23,000-plus cricketers with a disability nationally the opportunity to continually strive for improvement to be the best they can be. All three grand final matches were live-streamed on Cricket Australia’s website to a viewing audience of 50,000 people.

Deborah Pearce

Deborah is known for conducting a work placement-based administrative training and development program to support employment opportunities for those with disability, injury, health conditions or long-term unemployment. With the support of Deborah’s employer, South Australia Police, a partnership was formed in 1999 with CRS Australia to get the program up and running, and since 2015 the partnership has run in conjunction with Multiple Solutions. Since 1999, Deborah has trained over 150 people living with disability to gain new skills, knowledge and experience to support future job seeking opportunities. The majority of these people have been successful in gaining employment in both the public and private sectors, most notably with South Australia Police.

Deborah was responsible for conceiving the program and developing it in South Australia Police and has direct responsibility for the selection of participants, logistics, coaching and mentoring. The entire administration team are actively involved in the training and development of participants to ensure the program’s continuity into the future.

Family Chips

Job Centre Australia has been working with Family Chips who owns and operates 7 McDonald’s restaurants on the NSW Central Coast. Family Chips has worked to improve accessibility for its 1,200 employees, 12% of whom have a disability, by modifying its work environment. Family Chips has created a supportive and encouraging workplace, in which people are treated equally and are able to succeed and grow in the workplace.

Over 90% of Family Chips’ employees with disability are adults, and many of these employees have never been given the opportunity to pursue paid employment. Family Chips offers staff the opportunity to progress in the workplace through accredited training and promotions opening the door to long-term employment. Providing employees with these opportunities has led employees to long and successful careers in hospitality and the service industry.

Julia Farr Youth

Julia Farr Youth (JFY) is a youth policy and initiatives committee in SA established in 2008 comprised of passionate young people living with disability from diverse backgrounds of lived experience, interests, educational and occupational expertise. JFY and its user-led initiatives are hosted by JFA Purple Orange; however the group is given the freedom to determine their direction and resources to undertake work towards to achieve their vision. JFY provides advice to organisations about the interests and needs of young people living with disability. The consultancy services offered by JFY have raised community awareness of disability and have influenced policy and practice that affects young people living with disability.

JFY has undertaken a number of successful projects and initiatives, including a peer support network steered by peer leaders that enables young people living with disability to be more connected to each other and their community, as well as gain useful skills and knowledge. JFY has also hosted their own national conference, ‘Having a Voice’, that attracted delegates from every state and territory and regional areas including Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, and included speakers with lived experience of disability around themes identified as important to young people living with disability . JFY is a platform for emerging young leaders in the disability community to gather, reflect on their life experiences, and use their collective wisdom to take collaborative action for the benefit of all Australians living with disability, and a stepping stone to further opportunities for its members who have progressed to become board directors, politicians, academics, and elite athletes.


Northcott is a not-for-profit disability service provider that works with customers to realise their potential. Northcott provides services to over 13,000 people with disability, their families and carers across NSW and the ACT.

Through its work with its customers, Northcott learned that many people with disability encounter obstacles when attempting to develop, relationships, explore and express sexuality and accessing relevant information and services. Customers want to learn about sex and sexuality, health and wellbeing, intimacy and relationships.

In response to this Northcott created the ‘Feel the Vibe’ sexuality and disability model, based around a forum and expo where customers can ask questions, discuss concerns and lift the lid on disability and sexuality in a safe, sociable, friendly and supportive environment.

Feel the Vibe has been held in seven locations across NSW and includes professional speakers who are experts in sexuality and disability. More than 400 people have attended these expos.

There are many myths surrounding sex and disability, including that people with disability are asexual or accessing more information will just create confusion. Feel the Vibe ensures that people with disability access current, relevant, evidence-based local information.

Sue Salthouse

Sue is a leading advocate for change. The realisation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people with disabilities are on her agenda. She has extensive experience in advocacy and leadership roles in promoting equality for women and the full inclusion of people with disabilities in society.

Sue has had many opportunities through her various positions including Chair of Women with Disabilities ACT, ACT Official Visitor for Disability and Co-chair of the ACT Disability Expert Panel advising the ACT Government on the implementation of the National Disability Strategy and the National Disability Insurance Scheme to partner with like-minded colleagues in furthering this work.

Sue was ACT Senior Woman of the Year in 2014 and was the 2015 Citizen of the Year.

University of Melbourne

A team of researchers at the University of Melbourne has collaborated to develop a prototype to make online group singing possible for people with disability especially those with quadriplegia.

Respiratory dysfunction is a major cause of illness and death following quadriplegia. Previous music therapy research has shown that group singing helps people with quadriplegia to breathe better, speak louder, and develop social connections. Singing with others provides many motivational and emotional benefits that cannot be achieved when singing in isolation.

Singing together online can help people overcome the barriers of distance, transport and disability. Group singing online using video and web conferencing systems can be difficult due to time delays and latency issues. The team has worked to overcome this by ensuring its prototype can enable synchronous singing. In addition, the prototype includes a virtual reality component that creates an opportunity for people to ‘leave their home’ and sing around a simulated campfire.

University of Sydney – Centre of Disability Studies

uni 2 beyond, formally known as the Inclusive Education Program, is a two-year initiative that supports people with intellectual disability to experience university life at the University of Sydney. Students attend lectures and tutorials of their choice as audit students, and participate in university social life through engagement with mentors and other peers.

In addition to attending classes and social events with mentors, uni 2 beyond students participate in person-centered processes such as Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (PATH). PATH has been a successful process for identifying the resources and steps required to achieve students’ individualised goals.

In recent years, the uni 2 beyond initiative has expanded to offer service-learning projects and employment internships to students. uni 2 beyond works with students to enable them to reach their potential, increase their capability to make a contribution to society and gain independence. It is one of only two inclusive education initiatives that operate within Australian universities and is the only one to offer internship opportunities.