Develop, support, promote disability leaders

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MC – Alistair Baldwin:

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, and advocates for inclusivity, I stand before you with great pleasure and anticipation as we embark on a momentous occasion—the inaugural Disability Leadership Oration. Today, we gather not only to celebrate progress but to catalyze change, to usher in a new era where disability leadership takes centre stage and steers the course towards a more inclusive and equitable society.

Before get underway, I would like to acknowledge that today’s oration takes place on the unceded lands of the Boonwurrung & Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nation – and I would like to extend my respects to elders past and present, as well as to all Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander’s people here today or tuning in.

In our collective journey toward equality, it is imperative that we recognize and address the pervasive oversight that has lingered for far too long—the oversight of leadership within the disability space. The Disability Leadership Oration is not just an event; it is a clarion call, a resounding invitation to challenge the status quo and redefine the narrative surrounding disability.

Why is this event so crucial? Because, despite the strides we have made in advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities, true progress remains elusive unless leadership within this community is accorded the attention and prominence it deserves. Leadership, in its many forms, has the power to transform rhetoric into action, policies into tangible change, and aspirations into reality.

Too often, the discussion on disability has been confined to the narrow parameters of accessibility and accommodation. While these are undeniably critical facets, they only scratch the surface of what is achievable. The profound impact of disability leadership extends far beyond ramps and adaptive technologies; it encompasses the power to influence societal perceptions, challenge systemic barriers, and amplify the voices that have too long been marginalized.

The oversight of disability leadership is a systemic blind spot that has hindered progress in numerous spheres—employment, education, healthcare, and beyond. By bringing together thought leaders, advocates, and trailblazers in the disability community, the Disability Leadership Oration seeks to shine a spotlight on the transformative potential of leadership, creating a ripple effect that permeates every corner of society.

As we navigate the uncharted territory of redefining disability leadership, let us remember that our actions today will resonate far into the future. This event is not merely a platform for discourse; it is a catalyst for tangible change, a commitment to dismantling barriers, and an affirmation that true equality is only possible when every individual, regardless of ability, is empowered to lead.

In the spirit of inclusivity, let us forge ahead, inspired by the belief that leadership knows no bounds and that, united, we can construct a society where the capabilities of every individual are not just acknowledged but celebrated. Welcome to the Disability Leadership Oration, where we set the stage for a transformative dialogue that will shape the national agenda and propel us towards a more equitable and inclusive future.

It is now my great pleasure to introduce the CEO of the Disability Leadership Institute, Christina Ryan, who spearheaded this event. When Christina founded the Disability Leadership Institute seven years ago, many were confronted by the very idea of the words ‘disability’ and ‘leadership’ being put together in a sentence. Now disability leadership is a recognised field of study, policy development and – as we’ll hear today – a quality that this year’s orator embodies in everything they do.

Please welcome to the stage, Christina Ryan.

Welcome speech – Christina Ryan DLI CEO

MC – Alistair Baldwin:

Thank you, Christina.

It is both an honor and a privilege to introduce our distinguished Orator for this groundbreaking occasion, Natalie Wade.

Hailing from the vibrant city of Adelaide, South Australia, Natalie is a thought leader and changemaker in the field of disability rights law and advocacy. As the Founder and Principal of Equality Lawyers, a disability-led, rights-focused law firm, Natalie has dedicated her career to championing the legal rights of the disability community with unwavering dedication and passion.

Not only a legal practitioner, Natalie Wade is a transformative force, shaping the landscape of disability rights. Her commitment to designing law reform, shaping public policy, and spearheading community campaigns is not driven solely by professional expertise but is deeply rooted in lived experiences. Natalie understands, firsthand, the intricacies and challenges faced by the disability community, and it is this authentic connection that fuels her advocacy.

In 2021, Natalie penned “Disability Rights in Real Life,” a practical handbook that transcends legal jargon, offering invaluable insights for disabled individuals, their families, and allies. This publication stands as a testament to Natalie’s commitment to demystifying legal complexities and empowering individuals to navigate the intricate terrain of disability rights.

Beyond her legal practice and literary contributions, Natalie Wade holds several senior advisory roles, further solidifying her position as a thought leader and change agent. Her presence on the Australian Disability Strategy Advisory Council and the Premier’s Council for Women underscores her influence in shaping policies that transcend boundaries, fostering inclusivity and equality for all.

As we welcome Natalie Wade to the stage, let us acknowledge not only her professional achievements but also the profound impact she has had on the lives of countless individuals. Today, she shares her insights, her wisdom, and her vision for a future where disability rights are not just protected by law but ingrained in the fabric of our society. It is my distinct honor to present to you our Orator, Natalie Wade, a trailblazer, an authentic leader, and a driving force for positive change in the realm of disability rights. Please join me in extending a warm welcome to Natalie Wade.

Inaugural Disability Leadership Oration – Natalie Wade