Australia has globally recognised leaders with disabilities who sit on boards, lead teams, run organisations, and represent our communities locally, nationally and internationally. Yet any mention of diversity rarely includes disability and doesn’t acknowledge the incredible wealth of experience and expertise that people with disabilities can contribute.
People with disabilities have almost no presence in politics, high levels of business or government, or as members of boards or advisory groups. Often it is assumed that there are simply no people with disabilities qualified to operate at these levels, or that people with disabilities can only be experts in disability related areas. So, leaders with disabilities are rarely in the room and remain invisible. Few disability leaders are known; even fewer are appointed or recognised.
Despite this Australia has never had a cohesive ongoing program to support and develop leaders and emerging leaders with disabilities.
The Disability Leadership Institute has been established to address this diversity imbalance. The Institute offers coaching, mentoring, training and connection to opportunities, including communities of practice, leadership development, and a range of resources. Both existing and emerging leaders with disabilities will be supported to connect to leadership positions and opportunities, while being provided with targeted support and training.
For the first time a National Register of Disability Leaders will offer a single portal for companies or agencies wishing to engage C suite expertise, find a new board member, engage a conference speaker, or locate a media expert. The register is open to all people with disabilities, and open to all companies and agencies wishing to improve their diversity.
The Disability Leadership Institute has been established by leaders with disabilities for leaders with disabilities. It is time to change the way leadership is understood.
Meet the gardener of leaders. Christina Ryan is the CEO and Founder of the Disability Leadership Institute.
She has been an active leader in the Australian disability community for over 20 years, working at an international, national and local level to change the diversity agenda, while mentoring and supporting numerous people with disabilities to their own leadership success.
Christina pioneered the use of mainstream forums by women with disabilities at the United Nations, and now mentors and teaches effective use of the UN for rights activists globally, while working as a leadership coach for people with disabilities.
After 20 years working in community sector management, Christina realised that the levels of violence and marginalisation experienced by people with disabilities were the direct outcome of inequality, and that to address this we need a growth in disability leadership right across the public domain.
So, Christina established the Disability Leadership Institute in 2016 as a professional hub for leaders with disabilities to build & support our disability leaders. It is the first organisation of its kind globally, run by and for disability leaders. The DLI aims to grow the presence and recognition of disability leaders across all sections of our community. Christina is also a regular keynote speaker and commentator.