MS TIERNEY (Minister for Training and Skills) — Last week many Western Victoria Region constituents received Victorian Disability Awards. The emerging leader award went to Warrnambool’s Bryce Pace, a year 12 Brauer College student. His outstanding effort in advocating for young people with autism makes Bryce, at 18, the youngest award winner. Bryce uses personal experience to speak out, aiming to change the language around and attitudes towards difference. He encourages young people on the autism spectrum to embrace their abilities as well as promoting community inclusion for all people with disability.
Rebecca Paton was nominated for her work in driving the building of the Victoria Park inclusive play space in Ballarat, which opened last year. Working in a volunteer capacity, Bec was highly commended for excellence in creating inclusive communities, from design input to promotion and community fundraising, spreading awareness of how isolating disability can be for children.
Geelong’s Elizabeth Spurdle won the volunteer award, working from 2002 with two groups that merged to form the City of Greater Geelong disability access and inclusion reference group to actively promote universal access. Liz remains driven by a desire to help others despite extended stays in hospital over the past year.
Geelong’s MatchWorks were highly commended for their collaboration with Melbourne City Football Club to deliver four employment programs, one of which was City Pathways. City Pathways has focused on providing a holistic approach to finding employment for 17 jobseekers with a disability or mental health condition; eight found jobs, two are engaged in study and three are continuing to look for work.
I congratulate these leading disability advocates championing equality for all Victorians. They have made a fantastic difference in the lives of people with disabilities and their supporters.