By Marusha Pride
Wednesday, 23rd November, was the launch of CPActive’s Blaze the Trail campaign. A world first
campaign that was design by an incredible group of young people to build better pathways from
school to work. Fourteen CPActive champions- Sophie Geeves, Eric Barrett, Nicholas Lapsley, Eirean
Wood, Meret Hassanen, Declan Lee (who, unfortunately, could not be there in person), Jack
Calderan, Jack McCutcheon, Nicole Kozeji, Aaryan Shah, Tahlia Blanshard, Joseph Issa, Sasha
Dansereau, and me, Marusha Pride, launched this campaign at Barangaroo. We were joined by the
Shadow Minister for Disability, Kate Washington.
Our presentation covered three main areas: Provisions for exams at school and University,
pathways for teachers with disabilities to enter the teaching workforce, and a statewide initiative to
help develop professional pathway for students with disability. Our presenters shared their
experiences in each of these areas. Tahlia kicked off the launch with an introduction and her
experiences with provision in university. We had Nicole and Sophie speak about exam provisions in
both school and university. Next up, Aaryan and Eireann talked about having more teachers with
disabilities in the teaching field. Then Jack C and Meret shared their experiences with pathways into
larger workplaces and businesses. We were honoured to receive positive feedback from the Shadow
We had the opportunity to chat with our guests and make connections while the interviews
with the remaining champions were being conducted. Then we went to the pub to celebrate our
launch with Teigan Butchers. All in all, it was a great day!
Over September 1st and 2nd, 140 representatives from business, unions, industry and government came together in Canberra for the Jobs and Skills Summit.
Disability rights campaigner and proud friend of CPActive Elly Desmarchelier addressed the summit, putting businesses on notice that they need to do more to employ people with disability while holding the government to account to rebuild all systems that discriminate against PwD including in the workplace.
‘I’m not here to ask you to give people with disability a chance, I’m demanding you give people with disability a chance.
“What I’m here to give you are the solutions. These are the solutions that people with disability identified at the NDIS Jobs and Skills Summit.
“Number one, we want all organisations, business, government agencies whose principal function is to work with disabled people, to employ at least 15 per cent of their workforce to be disabled people.
“Not only will that create jobs for people with disabilities but that will mean the programs, the products, the services that are given to us are actually going to be informed by our lived experience,” Elly said.
Earlier, the summit heard from Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott, who recently co-hosted a CPActive virtual Town Hall with Elly.
Dylan used his address to the summit to also call on employers to hire more people with disabilities, saying only half of the 4.5 million people in Australia with a disability are enrolled in the workforce.
He also told the summit that PwD should be offered pathways to becoming leaders, because not only do we want jobs and careers but we want a leadership position.
Sign up to CPActive to hear about opportunities to get involved in leadership and advocacy, and make your voice part of the conversation.
Our second Youth Lab on 24th August was all about empowering ourselves and others to know what our rights are and how we can exercise them effectively.
NextGen ambassador Sophie Geeves joined Teigan Butchers on the panel to speak about some of her own experiences in advocating for herself.
“This is about knowing what you’re worth and don’t be afraid to fight for it, allowing yourself to think outside of the boxes that are sometimes enforced on us”, Sophie said.
In breakout groups, young people were able to share their experiences and together, create their own top three tips on exercising your rights.
The Exercising Your Rights at School group shared hot tips including being assertive about what you need and when you need it, and being your own voice by not allowing others to speak for you.
The Employment/at Work group shared hot tips like ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ in networking and identifying any discrimination early.
“I am currently advocating for a ramp to be built in my workplace so I can more easily access it!”, Eleanor said.
And the Funding Systems group advised that people should know what they want before going into a meeting as well as doing research like reading the legislation.
“We are all free agents, and we are capable of making our own change”, Declan explained.
Our third and final Youth Lab is coming up on 14th September where we will go deeper into the topic of networking and how to get the keys to success – keep an eye out for an invite in your inbox!
The NDIS Jobs and Skills Forum was held on Wednesday 17th August 2022. It was called by The Honourable Bill Shorten, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), and brought together people with disability, service providers, unions, peak representative bodies and more to talk about the future of disability employment, the NDIS, and the disability workforce. This article has been written by five young people from CPActive and Children and Young People With Disability Australia.
When we all came together two weeks ago, a group of passionate young advocates, we had no idea what to expect from the NDIS Jobs and Skills Forum. Disability rights campaigner Elly Demarchelier flagged from the start that we were about to experience something that might be ‘messy,’ but also very
important work – and that’s exactly what we got at the Forum. With a surprise visit from Prime Minister
Anthony Albanese, a strong presence from Minister Bill Shorten throughout the day, and collaboration
between different groups and sectors, the Forum left us feeling hopeful for the future of disability employment, leadership, and the NDIS.
The five of us each facilitated a stream of discussion at the Forum, including about ‘pathways to employment’, ‘models of employment’, ‘workforce supply’, and ‘workforce quality’. It was a valuable day full of discussion, collaboration, networking, and problem solving. Here are just some of the experiences we had on the day:
I am a Juris Doctor (law student), legal intern and board member, with previous project experience in tertiary education. I am a part of CPActive NextGen, a youth advocacy movement run by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. I have helped facilitate a couple events for them and they asked me to represent the Cerebral Palsy Alliance along with Meret Hassanen at the NDIS Jobs and Skills Forum.
My breakout group discussed Workforce Quality to ensure that the NDIS and other sectors should deliver a diverse and inclusive ecosystem of supports that are responsive and evidenced-based to ensure that capable and prepared individuals can feel confident accessing the right support at the right
time. My group also identified that there is no clear solution as this issue is complex and requires a multi- faceted approach to making change.
The experience I gained from facilitating the breakout session was invaluable and took me completely out of my comfort zone as I had never done something of this magnitude before. I’m confident that given more opportunities like this, I will only get better and more confident in my abilities as an advocate and speaker/facilitator. Whilst this event as a whole was quite daunting, I really enjoyed meeting people from various different sectors that in other circumstances would rarely cross paths. This event really felt
like a ‘call to action’.
My hope is that we continue to have the ‘messy’, thought provoking discussions with industry leaders and that people with lived experience of disability are invited to the table and are treated with the respect, dignity and equality that we deserve and that our voices matter.
I’m a filmmaker with cerebral palsy and I am part of CPActive NextGen, a youth movement run by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. I have helped facilitate a couple events for them and they asked me to represent the Cerebral Palsy Alliance along with Declan Lee at the NDIS Jobs and Skills Forum.
Our breakout group discussed Workforce Supply to ensure that the NDIS has enough employees to meet the needs of people with disability as well as a larger percentage of employees with disability. Our group’s 10 year vision was to see people with disability make up 15% of the NDIS workforce (agency
employees, allied health professionals and support workers) by 2032.
My experience of facilitating with Kay was fantastic. Our group had rigorous discussion about needing to distinguish between different sections of the NDIS (e.g. support worker and allied health professional) to accurately determine workforce supply requirements.
The best thing about the forum was having people from so many different backgrounds in the one room
discussing the best way forward for the NDIS. I hope that future discussions take a similar form as I believe it’s the best way to improve the sector.
Kay, Children and Young People with Disability Australia
As a young, queer and autistic person with a lived experience of physical disability and chronic illness, I
have first hand knowledge of the difficulties people with disability face in gaining meaningful employment and I am passionate about improving employment outcomes for young people. Currently I
work at Children and Young People with Disability Australia as the Youth Connection and Opportunity
Officer and as an Equity Projects Officer (Disability) at Edith Cowan University in Boorloo on Whadjuk
Noongar land. Having previously been involved in employment advocacy with CYDA as a co-chair of the
Youth Disability Employment Services Reform Working group, I was keen to expand the ideas and change-making conversations in this space with other passionate young advocates, people with disability, peak bodies and service providers to improve employment outcomes for people with disability.
I was fortunate to be involved with this powerhouse team of young advocates who each bring a wealth of knowledge and passion into this space, especially Meret who co-facilitated our group on ‘Workforce Supply’. Workforce supply is a key issue in the NDIS space affecting the ability for the workforce to support and engage people with disability. Our group was predominantly composed of service providers and peak body representatives who discussed their experience with the red tape and outdated processes that prevent the development of a stable workforce. A career in the NDIS needs to be professionalised, it needs to be respected, paid fairly and have opportunities for career progression. People with disability need to be involved in every step of the process through employment in the NDIS, training new graduates on how to best meet our needs and through rigorous co-design of safeguards to ensure that the NDIS provides quality and meaningful opportunity for people with disability.
My hope for the future of the NDIS is that we continue to have these conversations in good faith in a solutions oriented way. Bringing together the many facets of the sector regularly to have open dialogue
about how we can be doing better is key to creating better outcomes for people with disability and providing space for advocates to get involved.
Margherita, Children and Young People with Disability Australia
I’m first and foremost a queer, young migrant young person with a disability who day to day dips my fingers in a whole heap of advocacy, study and work pots. I’m a law student living on Ngunnawal and Ngambri land, as well as primarily working for Women With Disabilities Australia as well as a series of other disability advocacy organisations in diversity and inclusion. I’ve been strongly connected with
Children and Young People with Disability (CYDA) who contacted me to with the opportunity to facilitate part of the NDIS forum. I couldn’t wait to meet my fellow facilitators but furthermore the people I’ve been doing work with at CYDA for the last year. In facilitating my room “Models of Employment” I used my own lived experience while drawing out that of others, as well as the work experience that was present in the room.
I had a whole heap of disabled people in my room and I was incredibly excited to hear from them, as well as have the service providers present listen to what they had to say & their first thought processes. I had two amazing supporters Kristen and Jean who helped visualise our thoughts – another way to be more accessible and creative in our discussions.
I want to see more meaningful involvement of people with disabilities in all areas – not just a one off forum with a select group of people but continuous consultation, including with young people. The future is not needing to ask for a space at the table because it already exists!
Ebe, Children and Young People with Disability Australia
In my day job, I work to prepare and support tertiary education equity and inclusion strategy: when Children and Young People with Disability Australia contacted me with the opportunity to facilitate at the NDIS Jobs and Skills Forum, I was extremely keen to put my lived and professional experience to good use. I am a young person with lived experience of disability, and I also have a strong passion for promoting education access for all people with disability – in discussing my session’s topic, ‘pathways to
employment’, education, training, cross-sectoral collaboration, and employment service reform were all
concepts that we covered.
I really enjoyed working with such a diverse range of people – it’s not often that you can get a room full of disability representative organisations, disability advocates, service providers, and employment services to come to a consensus on things! It was a great opportunity to meet new people from inside and outside of the sector, including incredible leaders like Elly Demarchelier, Christina Ryan, and Dougie Herd.
In the future, I really want to see a concerted effort from the Government to transition away from
segregated employment: we need a national plan to create mainstream, open employment opportunities
that are inclusive and supportive of people with disability. Universities have a huge part to play in this,
both to support the skills development of people with disability, but also to educate employers to
engage a more diverse workforce and to provide the research base and theory to help mainstream
employers build their capacity to support this.
We are looking forward to collaborating in the future and seeing how the recommendations we proposed to Minister Shorten influence his contribution to the Jobs and Skills Summit in September. We are committed to holding our representatives accountable, and to focussing on collaboration as a pathway to change.
Representatives from Cerebral Palsy Alliance were honoured to attend the first NDIS Jobs and Skills Forum, organised by the Federal Government, in Canberra last week.
NDIS participants, their families, providers, disability organisations and the wider disability sector came together to talk about employment and disability, including representatives from CPA’s advocacy community, CPActive!
Two incredible young CPActive Champions, Meret Hassanen and Declan Lee, joined Minister for the NDIS Bill Shorten MP, Chair of the NDIS Joint Standing Committee, Libby Coker MP and Every Australian Counts organiser Elly Desmarchelier at the summit.
Meret and Declan held critical roles in driving discussion in face-to-face breakout groups and were front and centre stage. In fact, they even met the Prime Minister at a special summit dinner on Wednesday night, discussing the current systems and advising the Government on the best ways to support people with disability into work.
“Coming together with participants, providers and people from the NDIS and government, provided a great forum to discuss current challenges in the sector and new ways forward. It was great to be able to contribute experience ideas through being part of the panel discussion and co-facilitating a breakout session. I look forward to more of its kind,” said Meret.
“I’m proud to say that I’m beginning to feel more comfortable in my own skin as an advocate with multiple disabilities. I look forward to seeing what Bill Shorten and the Labor Government take from this forum (with cautious optimism!) to improve the employment prospects and the NDIS. Never have I been so proud and so humbled to be a member of the disability community,” Declan said.
The forum was a promising step forward in developing a co-designed, inclusive approach to increasing employment opportunities for people with disability and ensuring the NDIS is truly meeting the needs of our disability community.
We’re kicking off our next ‘Youth Lab’ virtual event on exercising your rights when it comes to funding, education and the workforce.
Be a part of CPActive’s NextGen in paving the way towards inclusivity in these areas; as well as connect with other young people with Cerebral Palsy and similar disabilities, share your experiences, and be part of co-designing a pilot advocacy and leadership program for 2023.
If you’re a young person (under 30) living with cerebral palsy or a similar disability – please fill out the registration form and we’ll be in touch with the event Zoom link.
Written by Hannah Diviney, author, activist and client of CPA.
This month I’m using my column to celebrate. What exactly am I celebrating, I hear you ask? Well, July (most well-known for wintery Christmas celebrations, at least here in Australia) also happens to be Disability Pride Month!!!
If you didn’t know that, by the way, it’s OK. I didn’t know it existed until a couple of years ago and I’ve been disabled for over two decades now. You’re not living under a rock. Disability Pride Month is barely recognised at all on the global stage, and only really exists within disabled communities that have gathered online in spaces like Twitter and Instagram. They might occasionally spill onto the streets of towns and cities, hosting small events for people with disabilities and their allies but that’s about it.
I reckon most people would stare at me with a blank face if I asked them what they were doing to recognise, celebrate or support Disability Pride Month. In fact, when I told my Mum it was Disability Pride Month, her immediate response was; “Why do we have a separate Pride Month for disabled people?” When I looked at her confused, she clarified; “Shouldn’t Pride Month (celebrated in June) embrace all members of the LGBTQIA+ community including those who also identify as disabled?”
I laughed. To me, Mum’s question unintentionally highlighted just how far we have to go. For the record, in case anyone else had similar thoughts to my Mum, Pride Month is about celebrating the diversity of and finding pride in your sexuality and gender identity, irrespective of what other marginalised communities you exist in, while Disability Pride Month is about celebrating the diversity of and finding pride in your life as a disabled person, no matter what your body or your brain has been through.
For a lot of people both within and outside the disabled community, the idea of celebrating your disability and being proud of it is impossible to comprehend. Not so long ago, I was one of those people. How could I celebrate something that made my life so difficult? That robbed me of so many things people my age experience with an ease my body and brain can only dream of? Why would I celebrate something that the world said made me less?
It’s only in the last couple of years, since becoming a proper advocate and being welcomed into those spaces, that I’m learning to feel proud of my disability, a process I imagine would have been infinitely easier if there were other disabled people I could see living the life I wanted to. The road to disability pride is one many of us travel without a map, because we’ve never seen it before.
We have to teach ourselves how to replace pity, shame and anger with joy, wonder and curiosity. Breaking out of the grip of internalised ableism that tells me I am worth less, less capable, not deserving of love or other good things – and an avalanche of other insidious thoughts – will take me a lifetime. It hasn’t and won’t be easy or linear in any way. But it’s happening. Slowly.
My disability has complicated my life tenfold and taken a lot from me, but it’s also given me a hell of a lot. The chance to be everything I never saw and to see my childhood dreams come true. To build a platform made from words, which you all know I see as my superpower. It’s brought people I’ve spent a lifetime searching for, into my world, people I now couldn’t imagine my life without. So, while I’m definitely not all the way there, my pride in who I am is growing. And yours will too – you just have to stop trying to break yourself to fit in a box that wasn’t meant for you. Hang in there.
Happy Disability Pride Month!
Love, Hannah x
We’re about to kick off a series of ‘Youth Lab’ virtual events where young people with cerebral palsy and similar disabilities will have the chance to co-design a set of recommendations that makes school, university, and the transition into the workforce more inclusive.
At this first Youth Lab on Wednesday July 27, we’ll be asking for your help to design what an inclusive education looks like. What do we need to change in the classroom? And what about outside of class?
The Youth Lab events will also be an opportunity for young people with cerebral palsy to share their experience, connect with each other, and be part of co-designing a pilot advocacy and leadership program for 2023.
If you’re a young person (under 30) living with cerebral palsy or a similar disability – please fill out the registration form and we’ll be in touch with the event Zoom link.
On 21st June, we held a Town Hall event with Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott and hosted by Elly Desmarchelier.
Our panel of CPActivists spoke about their lived experiences of social inclusion at school, how they have had to advocate for themselves and the power of networking to get into the workforce. Watch the highlights video now:
We’d love to see you at our next event.
The future of the NDIS is a hot topic, but what does this mean for young people with disability and have we heard enough of these voices throughout this Federal election campaign?
So how do we turn this attention from a ‘moment’ into longer-lasting momentum for the change we need to see to create a better future for young people living with disabilities?
Are you a person with a disability aged 16-24 and have ideas you want to share?
Register now for CPActive’s Youth Future Forum from 7pm on Monday 9 May.
The Forum is your chance to join other like-minded young people for a discussion about what the future could look like.
It could be something local like making a local sporting oval more accessible. Or discuss your experience in areas like education and employment. Or the lack of media representation of young people with a physical disability.
Or it could be something else entirely … it’s up to you and others in this small group chat.
This is your opportunity to be part of something new and co-design and grow a movement from the very beginning.
Register now for this free online event from 7pm on Monday.
Captions and Auslan interpretation will be provided.
The future is unwritten – we’d love you to be part of this.
Yours in action,
PS. If you can’t make it on Monday night but would like to be part of this new movement, email Teigan at firstname.lastname@example.org