Inclusive Directions

Speech to Inclusive Directions ‘Towards Tomorrow;unlocking the potential within’
November 15, 2016

It’s a pleasure to be with you this morning.  In a moment, I will introduce you to Chris Ulmer, but before I do so, being a politician, I hope you will allow me to say a few words.

I want to reflect on the progress that we are making as a community.

Since I was elected to parliament, six and a half years ago, there have been many positive changes in the disability community, and of course the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is the biggest change, and despite many hiccups and loads of teething trouble, we are definitely on our way.

Today, disability is something we come across in the media most days.  People with disabilities are “out” more, we are breaking down barriers and dispelling myths.

But all too often, people with disabilities still have to fight to get the access to the community and services that others take for granted.  I have come into politics to get action on issues of unfairness and inequality.

And I know I am needed in this role, because some of the things that are still happening in our community indicate that we fall so far behind the way that people with disabilities are living in other parts of Australia – and the world – that it is nothing short of shocking.

So, of course, I will keep fighting for a fair future for all of us, until we can all be treated with fairness and respect wherever we go and whatever we do.

Diversity and inclusion have become big buzz words.  People are busy ticking the boxes to ensure they have more diversity and inclusion on boards, committees and so on.  Look, it’s better than nothing, but I certainly don’t want to settle for second best, and as long as we accept this tokenistic box-ticking, without real understanding, then we are not getting our message through.

You know, in 2016, even with the best will in the world, many people –  even in the education and disability sectors – do not respect the rights of people with disabilities.  And, for me, the key is to nurture and encourage respect.

Respect means so much because, – it doesn’t matter whether or not you can help someone, showing them respect means we can all hold our heads high.

As people who “get it” and people who do have that respect, I know that you are in for a great event here today, and I congratulate the organisers – Inclusive Directions – in attracting such a wonderful group of people together to present and participate in this conference.   I hope today challenges and inspires you in your work.

Every child needs at least one adult who is absolutely crazy about them.  And with today’s conference comes a strong acknowledgement, too, that it takes a village to raise a child.

It’s not too much to dream, then, is it, of a world where every child can have more than one adult who is absolutely crazy about them – perhaps a whole village who all see and recognise this person for who they are?  That’s the kind of village I want to live in.

So, now you are about to find out all about the man known simply as “Mr Chris”.

Chris Ulmer is the Founder of Special Books by Special Kids (or S-B-S-K).

And from his perspective as a classroom teacher, Chris wanted to share what he saw, and what he knew about his students.  Chris set about giving voice to his students with disabilities as a way of letting others find out about their unique talents.

Mr Chris recognised the often painful isolation the neuro-diverse community, and he began Special Books by Special Kids as an advocacy campaign for and by children with special needs.

This man knows how to give compliments, and how to affirm other people for who they are; sometimes the simple things count for so much in life.

I am sure you will find out that he is a great communicator, a fine story teller, a musician and an engaging speaker – it is my great pleasure now to welcome Mr Chris!