Passing on the Baton

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead. Used with permission)

Before leaving my position as Disability Discrimination Commissioner, I wanted to make an ongoing contribution to leadership in the disability sector in Australia. Planning for succession is one of the most important things we all have to do if we want a sector or movement to be sustainable.

I wanted to enhance the skills of young people with disabilities so that they would be better leaders in the future.

The Commonwealth Government has, for a number of years, provided a fund which the Australian Human Rights Commission administers, to enhance skills and knowledge in the disability sector by sending organisational representatives to international conferences relating to the Disability Convention or other similar activities. Normally we have received applications (usually from organisations in the sector sending their senior representatives) and determined which ones to support. Last year we significantly funded the NGO representatives at Australia’s appearance before the Disability Convention Expert Committee to assess Australia’s progress on compliance with the Convention.

This year, we decided to support a delegation of young Australians with disabilities to attend the Conference of States Parties, which is the annual UN meeting at which progress to implement the Convention is discussed. We contributed close to $50’000 from the Commonwealth fund to send six delegates with disabilities under the age of thirty. We also sent two mentors-
Rosemary Kayess and Therese Sands- who last year led the Australian NGO delegation during Australia’s appearance before the expert committee.

Further funds were contributed by the Melbourne Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and the Ian Potter Foundation, as well as other disability organisations including My Place (WA) Pty Ltd, National Council on Intellectual Disability and Women With Disabilities Australia.

We conducted a preparatory workshop for the delegates at which we had senior leaders from the disability field participate. These included Professor Ron McCallum, the outgoing chair of the committee for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Maryanne Diamond, the Immediate Past President of the World Blind Union and the upcoming Chair of the International Disability Alliance, Colin Allen, President, World Federation of the Deaf and Samantha French Advocacy Projects Manager, People with Disability Australia.

Here are the delegates at that workshop, telling their stories, and what they hoped to learn.

The results were amazing. Here are their daily reports and other social media contributions.

This delegation was a glowing confirmation of the strength of our future leadership, and the importance of enhancing its development. I’m very pleased that the Commission did this.

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