The ACT Chief Minister’s Inclusion Awards is one to make us proud of the extent and excellence of the inclusion of people with disabilities across a wide spectrum of areas in this city. In its 12th year this gala event held again at The Great Hall of Parliament House has changed attitudes, created a buzz in so many areas of inclusion and is a showcase for those who live with disabilities and get on with life. The wheelchairs whizz around, those with walkers, walking sticks and crutches make this space their own as they catch up with friends, family and those in the ‘industries’ that provide for them. And bringing it altogether in his inimitable self deprecating way was Tim Ferguson who claims one ‘sclerosis’ wasn’t enough so he chose the multiple variety. He worked the room during breaks and kept the night light hearted and fun, and we want him back next year.
It was an anniversary for Chief Minister Andrew Barr as last year he’d just been made Chief Minster and 12 months on his enthusiasm to aim now for Canberra to be a world leader in disability inclusion with the implementation of the National Disability Strategy, and since July this year the National Disability Insurance Scheme that has been many years in the creating, but will in the future provide for the disabled from birth to 65, is such a positive attitude and approach from a leader.
The Inclusion Awards have always had surprises in the ‘entertainment’ arena and this year the honest and uplifting story recorded by Canberran Jeanette Purkis, made us all stop and marvel at the difficulties she faced, overcame and then found her true vocation as a writer. Her book Finding a New Kind of Normal: Misadventures with Asperger Syndrome is a resounding success and consequently had her using her impressive knowledge and voice in a range of areas to speak to the issues of mental health and autism as well as hosting her own internet radio show, a TEDx talk and working with support groups.
The awards cover many categories of excellence including innovation, volunteer support, championing human rights, employment in the public and private sector and education and training but the big winner was Project Independence a new housing model for those with a mild intellectual disability to own their home. Project director is Glenn Keys of Aspen Medical who was inspired to develop the idea by his son Ehren, who has a mild disability, and the biggest smile on stage for the presentation.
Small Change, Big Difference – the Inclusion motto well demonstrated on this awards night.