Kymberly Martin

Disability Leadership award winners

The winners of the Disability Leadership Institute’s National Awards for Disability Leadership were announced on December 3, the International Day for People with Disability, via Global Live Webcast.


The awards program was first held in 2018 after the Federal Government’s abandonment of the National Disability Awards. The awards are now owned and run solely by people with disability, as are all nominees and those associated with the awards.

“The awards recognise and celebrate the extraordinary contribution and leadership shown by people with disability and our organisations in Australia today,” Disability Leadership Institute CEO Christina Ryan said. “These recipients are an incredibly impressive and diverse group of disability leaders working in a wide range of fields. They are working to advance the status of people with disability by making change, focussing on their rights, and developing inclusive programs to ensure their lives continue to improve and become more included in the mainstream community.”

Recipients were awarded across seven categories:

  • The Arts – Gaelle Mellis
  • Change Making – Dinesh Palipana
  • Rights Activism – Uncle Paul Calcott
  • Innovation – Simon Green
  • Social Impact – Elise Muller
  • Inclusion (of the diversity of disabled people) – Cameron Bloomfield
  • Lesley Hall Award for Lifetime Achievement – Roslyn Sackley.

To make the awards as accessible as possible, the ceremony was held via a large, national video conference with finalists and presenters in multiple locations across Australia. “This is accessibility at another level,” Ryan said. “It means all of our community can participate wherever they are.”

Elise Muller, pictured, won the Social Impact award and has created her own social enterprise, Active Support, and is currently playing for Essendon Football Club in the VWFL.

Simon Green, pictured, co-creator of the Emerging Young Leaders Program at the Youth Disability Elise Advocacy Service and a campaigner for cystic fibrosis, won the Innovation award. To learn more go to: Disability Leadership Institute

Roslyn Sackley, was a guest at the IDEAS AGM in Sydney when the awards were announced and her response to F2L was one of total surprise. “I cannot believe it and I don’t know what I have done to receive this award compared to others that were nominated. Disability is a part of my life but I don’t want to be defined by it,” she said.

In 2015, Sackley, who has been blind since childhood, started her own business, AccessAble Braille Enterprises that offers a range of services, such as transcriptions and interpreting for people who are hearing or vision impaired. She will also undertake audio transcription projects and produces a monthly magazine for readers of literary Braille. The business took on a large project for the NSW Government this year.

For more information go to: [email protected]

Speaking at the IDEAS AGM, chair Martin Heng described the last 12 months as a challenging environment for the disability services organisation. “The new, market-based model for service providers and a largely project-based grant system does not fit well with IDEAS core function and multiplatform information services delivery model.”

He said the government recognised the need for a National Digital Information Gateway for people with disability because a truly independent information service is critical to leading ordinary, meaningful lives. “While the philosophy of the scheme is to allow participants to exercise choice, this is meaningless unless it is an informed choice.”

Also speaking at the AGM was executive officer, Diana Palmer who said total connections for the organisation has grown by over 100 per cent to 1.48 million. Locations also increased from four to seven, including remote workers in NSW. A new website was launched in April and a 54-page guide on disability, possABLELiving, was published by The Land newspaper in July, with a minimum reach of 125,000 readers, supported by a new service, possible Advocacy.

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