Margherita’s United Nations adventure

Margherita describes herself as a young woman, migrant and queer, with physical disability. She’s also a student, currently studying law at the Australian National University.

Margherita is certainly busy, with disability advocacy, intersectionality advocacy and gender equality work leading her to some pretty interesting places.

In fact, her work as a Board Director for Children and Young People with Disability Australia and her work with Women with Disabilities Australia led her all the way to New York. There, she attended this year’s 16th session of the Conference of States Parties (COSP16) to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in June, as part of the Civil Society Delegation.

“It’s for a week, it’s tiring and it’s a lot of work,” Margherita says.

“The most important thing to come out of it, I feel, is yes you meet people internationally and, yes, you understand the scope of these issues internationally.

“Even more so, the important thing is bringing back information from these international events into Australia and to young people specifically.

“To help them understand what new ideas and new concepts are being brought forward, and new human rights tools they can use in their advocacy and in their work.”

Margherita herself learnt a new human rights concept this year and last year at COSP, which she says is almost becoming mainstream.

“This year and last year, de-institutionalisation is something that has come up,” Margherita says.

“There’s quite a few amazing Australian organisations that were doing a lot of work at COSP for de-institutionalisation.

“It’s one of those concepts that I don’t feel like we have heard a lot in Australia until recently.

“I would say that this year de-institutionalisation is one of the biggest things that I brought back in terms of the language that we can use to further our advocacy.

There are organisations that are doing that sort of advocacy, we can look towards for guidance in Australia.”

De-institutionalisation – for which the United Nations has come out with some guidelines – is about people with disability and institutionalisation.

“It recognises that it’s important for people with disability to be in places where they can make their own decisions about their lives,” Margherita says.

“I think there’s been a focus on mental health recently, which I also think is just as important.”

Margherita speaks passionately about her time and learnings at COSP16, and about advocacy work. She hopes at the end of her law degree she can continue to do both advocacy and law.

“I do love law and I do hope to work in it in the future,” Margherita says.

“I guess my biggest hope would be to combine all the advocacy efforts and the law work, and be able to do something similar, that works together, but also works for the community.

“As I’ve got into the community, I have met other law students with disability and I have met other lawyers with disability.

“In general, the minimum I would like to do is be able to advocate for a more inclusive legal practice.

“One that supports lawyers to be open and honest about their disabilities; and also any accommodations or adjustments they need without feeling like they’re any less a lawyer.”

When Margherita’s not jet setting to United Nations events or advocating or studying, she enjoys watching TV and movies and spends lots of time with her friends and family.

“I also love to try and pick up a new hobby every now and then,” Margherita says.