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Head of News and Media
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The Media Team Charles Gent
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Many paths lead to disability reform
CRICOS Provider No. 00114A
Social worker, lecturer, researcher and
disability advocate Dr Lorna Hallahan
believes disabled Australians may offer a
solution to the country's skills shortages.
"I think there's a national discussion to
have around employment and
disability," Dr Hallahan said.
"There are a lot of people -- tens of
thousands -- who are currently
languishing on disability support
pensions who, with the right services,
supports and opportunities, could
re-enter the workforce," she said.
It is one of a number of discussions Dr
Hallahan is leading or contributing to --
at local, national and international levels
-- wearing many different hats.
Recently appointed to the South
Australian Social Inclusion Board to
develop a strategic policy blueprint for
reform across the disability sector, Dr
Hallahan is also Chair of the SA
Minister's Disability Advisory Council
and Deputy Chair of the National People
with Disability and Carers Council.
Her advocacy for a shift from "a
predominately welfare model of
engagement with citizens with disability
to a rights based framework" is being
noticed: she has won the Best Abstract
Award for a paper on disability reform
that she will deliver in Hong Kong at next
month's World Conference on Social
Work and Social Development.
"We won't make a significant difference
to the fate of people with disability and
their families until we begin to see this as
a shared human fate," Dr Hallahan said.
"We're all in this together, we cannot
construct something that is separate
called 'the disability service system' that
responds to the needs and the lives of
these people. We need to see that any
change that happens throws it back on
all of us to take responsibility for their
support and care and growth."
Dr Hallahan is also finding other unique
ways to develop the idea that the
disabled and able-bodied have "a shared
Her essay On being odd (see excerpt
below) eloquently explores how we can
transform "the staring moments" --
those encounters with strangers who
are somehow different from ourselves.
It was this month named joint winner of
the fourth Calibre Prize for Outstanding
Essay by the Australian Book Review and
Copyright Agency Limited.
On being odd
"I wear the collar of obvious deformity. Perhaps I too cannot govern the smallest of
events and, believing that I can only govern myself, I am tempted to retreat to my
family, my home and my books. The real challenge is to take the power and use it
well for serious purpose. In these ways I can satisfy my quest for public and private
In this I must face the impression that the more I explore deformity -- others' and my
own -- the less I understand myself. Years of being stared at have taught me that the
moment of uncertainty -- of grasping for civil straws that fail us, of trying to
remember what our grandmother told us to do when faced with unsettling things
-- is not a moment for self-abnegation or for vengeful fantasy. It is at best an
opportunity for kindness. When I gawk at my oddness in a shop window or the
mirror, I need to be kind, for I face my own oddness and fragility. When I see that
same gawking in a stranger, I need to be kind, because they too face fragility and
loss. This is not a moment of distance but of groping for understanding, of solidarity
and of unity. Surely this is what it means to be wonderful. Surely this is a description
of mutual wonderment."
Flinders art out and about
Artworks spanning six centuries
are on show at the Flinders City
Gallery until June 27. Divinity,
Death and Nature features artists
ranging from Dürer and Goya to
local luminary Barbara Hanrahan
Gallery M at the Marion Culture
Centre, 287 Diagonal Road,
Oaklands Park is showing works
from the Art Museum's
Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Collection. Buffalo, Bird
and Bandicoot runs until June 6.
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