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International Day of People With Disabilities opening remarks: Day 2 of Melbourne hearing - 3 December 2019

Commissioner Alastair McEwin
Commissioner Alastair McEwin

As the Chair has noted, today is International Day of People with Disability. The theme for this year's day is 'promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership'.

International Day of People with Disability is a day of global celebration and reflection. Our disabled brothers and sisters around the world are marking this day with us. This is a day to be proud. To acknowledge our achievements as a community and as individual leaders in all spheres of life.

As disabled people, we are the experts in our lives. We are the ones who have experienced segregation. We are the ones who have experienced social barriers. And we are the ones who continue to experience violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in Australia. As experts in our lives, we will lead the change to ensure an inclusive society.

Disabled leaders are everywhere. Disabled people lead community organisations, academic pursuits, businesses, artistic endeavours and scientific innovation. Sadly however, disabled leaders are often not recognised nor given the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers to achieve their full potential. And they are significantly underrepresented at the highest levels of public office and organisations, and in private enterprise.

An inclusive society is one where disabled people are represented at all levels of leadership. It is important that our younger members of the disability community have a wide range of disabled role models to learn from as they develop and emerge as leaders themselves; as empowered leaders with a strong sense of autonomy, independence and commitment to equality.

Disabled people must be able to participate in environments that are universally designed, inclusive and fully embrace their disability. These aspects are outlined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The importance of leadership by and participation of disabled people in all aspects of our society cannot be emphasised enough. It is imperative for true inclusion.

In closing, I pay tribute to all those disabled people who have gone before me, who through their determined and committed leadership have paved the path towards realising our human rights. I thank them for their tireless efforts and I say to them that I will do all I can to build on their achievements into the future.

My congratulations to all the finalists for the National Awards for Disability Leadership and I wish all involved in the awards the very best.

Happy International Day of People with Disability!

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