Catia Malaquias – National Disability Award for Community Excellence 2017

The winners of the 2017 National Disability Awards were announced last night at an International Day of People With Disability event held at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.  The Awards are a major part of the Australian Government’s celebration of International Day of People with Disability, a United Nations sanctioned day marked on 3 December each year. This year is the 25th anniversary of International Day of People with Disability.

Starting With Julius founder, Catia Malaquias, who is a lawyer and the mother of three children including Julius, was among the 5 award recipients, winning the award for Community Excellence.  Catia dedicates her time on a pro bono basis to a range of community endeavours to advance equality, human rights and inclusion of Australians with disability and has also co founded All Means All – The Australian Alliance for Inclusive Education, the School Inclusion Parent Network (SIPN) and the Global Alliance for Disability in Media and Entertainment.  She also sits on the boards of the Attitude Foundation and Down Syndrome Australia.

The other 2017 National Disability Award winners are:

  • Compass Group, QLD – Employer of the Year Award
  • AbilityMate, NSW – Excellence in Innovation Award
  • University of Sydney—Centre of Disability Studies – Excellence in Education and Training Award
  • Sue Salthouse, ACT – Lesley Hall Leadership Award

Catia gave the following acceptance speech at the Awards:

Thank you very much, I am deeply honoured to receive this award and I’d like to acknowledge all the amazing finalists and the Assistant Minister for Disability Services, the Honourable Jane Prentice MP for sponsoring these awards.

I would also like to thank my family and the support network that I have around me – in particular my husband Sam and my 3 children, Julius, Drea and my eldest, 10 year old Laura who is here with me.  Laura who earlier this year wrote to the Prime Minister to ask him to speak on International Day of People With Disability about inclusive education.  The work that I do represents the combined effort and commitment of my family to the rights of people with disability.

I would also like to thank Mr Guy Russo, the CEO of Wesfarmers Department stores Kmart and Target for believing that inclusive advertising matters.

Finally, I would like to thank the disability community for the immense privilege of allowing me stand with you for disability rights – your guidance, knowledge and generosity in sharing your perspectives have been critical to me as a parent and as an advocate for my son’s rights.

The disability rights movement is the newest but potentially the most transformative movement in human history.  It calls for a paradigm shift that will benefit ALL of us as we strive to re-design environments and educational, employment and living processes for ALL of us, rather than for some of us – so that they are truly universal and embrace diversity as inherently valuable and important.

Since I am in Canberra I can’t leave without a message to politicians.  The overwhelming support for marriage equality both at a community level and within our national Parliament is testament to the fact that discrimination that was once hidden in plain sight can become visible in a relatively short space of time and that attitudes can change.

Today on International Day of People with Disability I ask you to make the same commitment – to supporting equality and ending discrimination against people with disability, which is still hidden but in plain sight – to recognise the inherent discrimination in systems and policies that not only facilitate,  but still promote segregation and exclusion of disabled people in education, employment or other settings – and to commit to providing real equality of opportunity and genuine inclusion at every level.

Like my daughter Laura asked of the Prime Minister – we must magnify on days like today – and demonstrate everyday our respect for equality and inclusion for Australians with disability.

Thank you and have a wonderful evening.

You can also read the Media Release by Minister Prentice here. You can read about all the Finalists here.

[Cover photo © Australian Government]

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