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Thank you Paul House for your moving Welcome to Country tonight. I start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders – past, present and emerging.
Tonight is a very special evening and it is my pleasure to be here with you all. I would especially like to acknowledge and thank:
- my parliamentary colleagues who are here tonight
- Dylan Alcott OAM, this year’s Patron for International Day of People with Disability
- the judging panel for this year’s awards
- all of the finalists, who have made extraordinary contributions to be recognised tonight
- disability-led performance troupe RUCKUS, and singer Rachael Leahcar for providing entertainment for us tonight
- our spectacular host Jonathon, who has joined us again for the Awards.
The National Disability Awards are the Australian Government’s celebration of International Day of People with Disability, which is a United Nations sanctioned day celebrated on the 3rd of December. This year is the 25th anniversary of the day, which is a great milestone. The Australian Government has commemorated the day since its inception in 1992, which was the same year the Federal Disability Discrimination Act was legislated – and I acknowledge Disability Discrimination Commissioner Alastair McEwin, who is with us tonight.
The Government is committed to improving the lives of People with Disability. Today, the International Day of People with Disability, we celebrate your achievements and commit to continuing to work towards a more inclusive community.
My colleague, the Minister for Transport the Hon. Darren Chester, wanted to join us tonight but unfortunately has another commitment. He has been working with the disability sector to develop a new Guide called The Whole Journey: A guide for thinking beyond compliance to create accessible public transport journeys, which has just been released. The Guide will become a valuable tool for all levels of Government and the broader community when planning the future public transport models. I encourage you to read it.
I am also pleased to advise that the Government is supporting the nomination of Ms Rosemary Kayess for the 2018 election of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Rosemary is a passionate human rights lawyer with extensive experience in disability-inclusive development.
Another initiative I have been working on is AccessAbility Day, which is running in selected metropolitan and regional locations this coming week, from 4-8 December. Often the skills and talents of people with disability are overlooked due to unconscious biases and misconceptions, or simply a lack of understanding of disability. AccessAbility Day brings together employers and people with disability for a day to try and break this stereotype. It helps people with disability to learn more about a particular type of work or a particular workplace; and for an employer to learn a bit more about what a person with disability can do, and what it is like to have a person with disability in their workplace – to give it a go for a day.
One of our champions for AccessAbility Day is the NRL Team the West Tigers, who are doing innovative work in this space. They have developed a short video about what their club is doing to be inclusive and accessible. And they have offered to share the program with other clubs to do similar projects. In this job I am blessed to have witnessed life-enriching programs and projects across Australia, including ones like the differing abilities program that West Tigers have developed.
I have had the pleasure of meeting many inspiring individuals within the disability sector, some of whom I see in this room tonight. I know from my travels around Australia all about the great work being done, and I am very glad so many of you have been able to join us this evening.
Tonight we are here to celebrate some truly incredible individuals and organisations across the five Award categories.
I can honestly say all the finalists here tonight have inspired me. From companies using technology in innovative ways, to employers seeking to improve the opportunities of staff with disability, to individuals advocating for the rights of people with disability, you all have done some incredible work to make Australia a more inclusive and integrated country.
I hope you all have a wonderful evening and good luck to all the finalists.