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PDA continues to be a recognised and strong voice for Australians living with physical disability

Sharon Boyce is a hardworking disability advocate and PDA Board Member, who has been appointed to the NDIS Independent Advisory Council (IAC).

PDA President Liz Reid will continue to provide representation for those living with physical disability, having been reappointed to her role with the IAC.

Formed to represent the voice of NDIS participants, the IAC advises the Board of the National Disability Insurance Agency on the most important issues affecting participants, carers and families. 

Comprised of 13 members the IAC represents a wide range of disability and advocacy sectors, bringing their own lived experience or expertise of disability.

Congratulations Ladies.

We can all be assured that your involvement within the IAC will ensure that PDA, its Members and all Australians living with physical disability (and all other disabilities) will continue to have a strong, informed and true voice.

For more information on the IAC go to https://www.ndis-iac.com.au

But, I don’t see you as disabled.

Written by Elle Steele – PDA Director (VIC)

I was a little unsure of what to write for this piece, I haven’t been working in the disability industry consistently for a long time. I’ve had the odd job and written some Disability Action Plans in my day, and of course, I have a physical disability so there’s that.

But yesterday, as I’m still grappling with the topic to write about, something really interesting happened on my personal Facebook page. For some context, I work as a business coach for mainly people identifying as women (it’s just turned out that way) in the spiritual and wellness industry. Yesterday (June 21) was a New Moon, which is the first moon of a new moon cycle and in the space that I mainly live my life in. This is when you set your intentions and goals for the month.

So, I posted this on my Facebook profile; ‘Maybe one of your new moon intentions could be to diversify your feed, the people you work with, your podcast guests, your friends’ list to include people with disabilities too?’ 

The post spent the day being shared and liked by various friends and people that work in my industry until about 6pm when I received this comment, “I never saw you with a disability. Never thought of you as different. You were just Elle. And Elle was you. It feels weird for you to use that word about yourself. Also, I miss working with you, however briefly it was❤️

Now, this is a genuine comment, this person is lovely and doesn’t see anything wrong with what has been written here and, in the past, I would have glossed over it and got on with my day. But, as I’ve grown more into myself and learnt to embrace all parts of me, I now realise how this way of looking at disability can be a problem and why we as a cohort continue in many ways to live a life of invisibility. 

Is it that people think that by ignoring the disability or the thing that makes them uncomfortable that they won’t have to acknowledge it? I for one want you to see it, get to know it and research disability, because I’m not your teacher, but you can be my ally. 

Our difference is what makes us unique and beautiful. It also gives us our power, teaching from a place of personal awareness and self-acceptance. 

The Importance of Disability Awareness Training across all sectors and all areas of our Society

written by Sharon Boyce – PDA Director (QLD)

My name is Sharon Boyce and I am on the Board of Physical Disability Australia. I am also an author, educator and disability advocate – wearing many different hats and performing many different roles that I never imagined I would be a part of. I am the Advisor to the Queensland Disability Minister and Chair of the Queensland Disability Advisory Council. I am also a part time education academic at University of Southern Queensland (USQ) completing my PhD and a consultant in disability awareness.

I was diagnosed with Juvenile Chronic Arthritis at 11 and have used an electric wheelchair since I was 21. When I was diagnosed I never imagined the impact and change this would bring to my life. I went from a child who never stayed still and who was on every sporting team possible to a very different world. Limited in some ways and expanded in others, but as a person living a very changed life. I had no idea about disability and did not want to acknowledge or be part of anything that was different.

That has certainly changed over time. Through my journey I have explored and discovered many areas. I have become more involved within the disability community, working across many areas to promote a true understanding of disability and diversity. I explored my hobbies of art and music and these became new passions for me, giving me a creative outlet that I had not realised was possible. I have had the chance to exhibit, sell my paintings and also just paint for fun. Music and singing has also been central to my world. I have always felt very lucky that my mum had encouraged this – taking me to music lessons and putting up with my practice since I was four years old. These skills have proved useful in my life especially my work in radio, where I got to  interview singers and review movies for over ten years.

I am committed to creating a world where real lived inclusion is possible. I believe that through real hands-on education and experience, and through sharing my story and the stories of others, that barriers can be broken down and real understanding can be achieved. This is real disability awareness.

As time progressed I felt there needed to be more information and understanding about what disability is and how it impacts on individuals in our community. I developed a “Discovering Disability and Diversity” hands-on, experiential awareness programme which enables students, teachers, carers, doctors, health workers and the general public to experience and explore a wide range of disabilities. You can read more about this at www.discoveringdisability.com.au.

PhD Research into dyslexia and educational inclusion and running lectures at USQ have also given me the opportunity to enable others to explore and understand a little more about physical and hidden disabilities, dyslexia and creating inclusive curriculum, pedagogy and workplace support. Through educating others to understand that not all disabilities are immediately obvious, I believe that society will be discouraged from making assumptions and drawing inaccurate conclusions.

I have written a number of books, recently launching “Discovering Dyslexia” with the Queensland Disability and Education ministers. I have also designed an educational resource kit called “Another Day in the life of Sharon Boyce”,written a children’s book called “Discovery at Paradise Island” which is now part of the NSW School Syllabus.

These experiences and opportunities have brought a richness to my life. I am committed to creating a world where real lived inclusion is possible. I believe that through real hands-on education, experience and through telling my story and the stories of others, barriers can be broken down and real understanding can be achieved. Enabling better understanding and empathy that initiates conversation about disability access and inclusion, ultimately working to breakdown barriers.

Born with no disability, I never would have believed this would be my life now and that creating an understanding of disability and sharing my story would be central to who I am. My own acceptance and acknowledgement was key to this.

I believe that together we can create inclusive communities through enabling us all to live our best lives. 

Liz Reid, PDA’s President, has been awarded recognition with a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) Medal for her service to people with disability, to youth and to social inclusion.

Congratulations to Liz Reid for her deserved recognition, having been awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) Medal today.

Liz’s outstanding commitment and contribution as an advocate for those with a limited voice (or often those without a voice), has been shown in her work to ensure that that all Australians are afforded the same rights and freedoms – regardless of ability, circumstance or challenge.

Her contribution includes, but is not limited to, her involvement as PDA President, Chairperson of AFDO (Australian Federation of Disability Organisations), Executive Officer of YouthWorx NT, Northern Territory representative on the NDIA Independent Advisory Council, Community Representative for the City of Darwin, Access and Inclusion Advisory Council and Board Member of the Industry Skills Advisory Council NT.

So proud of our Liz and her incredible contributions.

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PDA Launches Online Social Catch-Ups

Did you know that PDA currently runs 2 online social catch-ups to give its Members the opportunity to meet up, get to know each other, chat and have fun?

Monday Social Hours
Each and every Monday

6pm Brisbane/Sydney/Canberra/Melbourne/Hobart
5:30pm Adelaide/Darwin
4pm Perth
  It’s a fun hour. Pour yourself a wine or beer, make yourself a cup of tea or bring along some pre-dinner snacks if you want.
We’d love you to join us, get to meet fellow PDA Members, socialise, chat and escape COVID-19 isolation.

To register go to:
https://us02web.zoom.us/…/tZMvdeCvqT0iGNIHANOwSpCJDs6Yg_iN8…
Then you’ll receive an email with the link to click to join us at the scheduled Social Hour time.

We hope to see you there.


PDA Youth Alliance Link-Up
Each and every Wednesday for PDA Members aged 18 to 30 years

5pm Brisbane/Sydney/Canberra/Melbourne/Hobart
4:30pm Adelaide/Darwin
3pm Perth  
Want to get to know other young PDA Members, make friends and have a fun hour?
PDA’s Youth Alliance runs a weekly Link-Up session on Wednesdays and they’d love you to join them.

It’s a lot of fun. 
Pre-register at https://us02web.zoom.us/…/tZUlf-CtqTgvH9ZUNgRn5ZBIVjVSpUDAs….

The gang looks forward to seeing you there.

Damien Thomlinson

This year as part of our ANZAC Day tribute, we share the story of Damien Thomlinson – an Australian Defence Force Veteran and double amputee and PDA’s 2020 Face of ANZAC.

PDA gratefully acknowledges Damien for allowing us to share his story with you.

Damien Thomlinson may be a familiar face with a familiar story.


A proud Australian, husband, father, motivational speaker, brand Ambassador, accomplished sportsman, the first amputee contestant on popular TV show Survivor, best-selling author and Hollywood actor.


However, much of this page in his history book stems back to his time as a Commando in the Australian army.


Having served for a number of years on a number of deployments, it was whilst serving in Afghanistan that his life changed forever.


On a late-night patrol in April 2009, Damien’s unit drove over an improvised explosive device, planted by the Taliban. The force of the explosion resulted in catastrophic injuries that left him with facial injuries, both of his arms severely fractured and both legs being amputated. There were many times during the immediate treatment of his injuries, that his medical team were unsure as to whether or not he would survive. The fact that he wasn’t killed in the explosion or whilst hospitalised is still seen as something of a miracle.


The chapters which followed showed the true strength and determination of a man, who refused to give up, who refused to allow what had happened to lead him down a path of depression, despair or defeat.


Giving up was not an option for Damien. It is not in his nature.


Instead, he decided that the loss of his legs was simply another challenge for him to overcome.


Damien’s positive attitude and refusal to quit spurred him on, bringing many opportunities that have allowed him to inspire, motivate and resonate with many people.


He has since married, become a father, written a best-selling autobiography, become one of Australia’s most successful motivational speakers and been a cast member of the Academy Award winning movie Hacksaw Ridge.


Despite all these responsibilities, he is actively involved in many important causes that support other brave and selfless defence force members, now facing their own personal challenges.


Damien’s incredible journey upholds the belief that challenges can be overcome with determination and drive.


He is testimony that the ANZAC spirit is truly alive and well.

Lest we forget!

How my Life has Changed in the COVID 19 Pandemic

by Nina Crumpton – PDA Associate Director (NSW)

As someone living with Primary Progressive MS and Bronchiectasis, (lung disease), I am someone who could very well be classified as High Risk were I to contract this infection. This fact has caused me to consider what that could really mean for me over the course of the weeks and months to come.

I could die. That is the harsh reality, my reality. That thought alone could be enough to induce fear and paralyzing anxiety in me. I have read media reports that if it came down to a choice between my life and that of an able bodied person in ICU, I may draw the short straw and lose the lottery of life which is a terrifying prospect.

Knowing this, I have chosen to regulate my emotions and remain calm and rational and to employ logic not fear. I have chosen to plan and prepare as best I can for any eventuality that may arise. I have also chosen to only control the things I can and to let the rest go.

As the saying goes, “Stay Calm and Carry On!!

I am indeed fortunate in many ways. I have secure employment in a job I love and I am able to now work from home. I have a secure home and a good support system. I  have no personal/household debt which is very comforting in these challenging times.

The NDIS has allowed me to have the supports I need to live an ordinary life and I wouldn’t be who I am without that framework around me. It has given me the ability to work, study, access the community and travel. My life has opened up in so many amazing ways so when the pandemic hit, I made a conscious decision not to reduce supports but to modify the delivery of the supports in a way that would still support my mental and physical health.

I am now only leaving the house to exercise and for essential medical appointments really. I choose to minimise my risk of infection in this way and to be honest, I am really enjoying the quieter pace of life. I am reading books, taking my dogs on leisurely walks and napping every day. I have no hurry to rejoin the rat race of life and I am actively questioning if that is even necessary at all.

Is this a fundamental shift in the way we live or a temporary pause before we once again are infected with the disease of busyness?

Stay safe, wash your hands and be kind xx

Escaping but then living

Written by Kathryn Lyons, PDA Associate Director


Throughout our lives we all experience highs and lows. We can feel trapped in our minds, bodies and spaces. Sometimes we choose an alternate reality to escape from what is happening in the world around us. Having personally experienced this, let me share a part of my journey.

I was born with a progressive and degenerative disability that impacted on my life in multiple ways. Initially, I was able to walk and physically capable of many things, as puberty hit my body changed so drastically; I ended up in a wheelchair. Learning to live with the complexities caused by the physical side of my disability became a new challenge.

This was a major life changing moment for me. For example, 12 years ago I could figure skate. Two years later, my body deteriorated to a level where I became bedbound, unable to transfer or care for myself independently.

I couldn’t understand WHY this was happening to me. Why, I had such intense pain. I was confused. I quickly went from a happy teen who would smile and talk to people into someone who felt trapped. Not only within my body, but isolated within the four walls of my room.

My confidence had decreased. I didn’t know who to turn to. Feeling like my whole world had crumbled around me, I started developing depression and I needed to find a way to distract myself quickly.

So, I got a computer and started living in virtual worlds, by joining alternate universes. I would game with them from across the globe on mass multi-player online games, instead of physically being around people. This online existence meant I could do anything, and it opened doors within my mind. It started to simulate the feelings of walking, dancing, and even figure-skating again. I had no restrictions and it was amazing! I could travel anywhere and in any time. I was losing my sense of reality.

For 7 years, I lived in these new worlds thinking I was happy, only really emerging when it was necessary. Over a period of time I started to realise that this was not healthy. I had to come to terms with the way my body had changed. Needing to grow mentally, this altered my perspective and reshaped my attitude around disability. My first steps were to accept myself and the freedom I could gain from my wheelchair. To achieve this, I had to leave my virtual life behind, by coming out of the shadows I opened my arms and embraced everything, rediscovering the amazing world that I was so afraid of.

Over the past 3 years, as I have built up my confidence, I have also been learning how to be a disability advocate supporting diversity and inclusion. Developing communication skills around public speaking and networking, I have strengthened my connections and now I’m building my businesses.

Through my networks, I was introduced to a representative of Physical Disabilities Australia (PDA). Joining PDA, gave me opportunities to meet with other members, where I learnt about their stories.

With PDA, I’ve realized I’m not alone. Discovering I could still do so many things, like race, dance, shop, socialize, work and travel. I was preventing myself from having an incredible life. Now with the roll-out of the NDIS, I aim to expand this and live to the fullest.

Every person has their own unique story and although we go through different journeys, we have something in common.

If you want to read more blogs like this one or find out what PDA does, please check out this website, follow them on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Start to connect, as you will never know what you will find.

We need a new policy called the “NDIS” on Disability Inclusion

Written by Jonathan Shar, PDA Director

While the National Disability Insurance Scheme takes account of our care and support requirements, in my view the policy doesn’t go far enough to tackle the marginalisation and discrimination that people with disabilities face.

If cases like *Quaden Bayles has taught us nothing, Australia has a problem with our attitudes and perceptions of people with disabilities. In my life, I walk with an unusual and stare provoking gait. I have a speech impairment. Despite that I run my own business and sit on a board but the general public don’t see that side of me.

I share this not for your pity or condolences but for context. Like you I’ve faced adversity in my life. For me I can’t hide my disability, instead I celebrate my distinctive abilities. It is not the fact that I can’t run that is my disability but the taxi driver that refuses my fare because I am “unaccompanied”

There has been calls to integrate disability awareness into the school curriculum but we need to go much further because I don’t want to be trapped in a dichotomy between a welfare recipient and Paralympic champion, I want the tools to live an ordinary life without the social judgement of people who has no idea about disabilities.

For me, a ramp is a small part of what it means to be an accessible society. An accessible society would be one where I could say “This is me, disability is my identity”, it would be a society where children would be educated to ask first, stare never.

For this we need a shift in policy, we need to treat disability discrimination as something to be prevented by education not having to be referred to a complaint authority. Disability awareness in my view should be a component of study in high school PDHPE courses. Making disabilities part of normal life should be instilled from people from a young age.

On top of this we need campaigns focusing on everyday people with disabilities not just those with a public profile or cute kids who can illicit the most donations, a campaign not of inspiration porn but people that we can aspire to. We need more people like Nas Campanella being the public face which makes disability normal.

A good attitude may not erase a disability but it can make disability more included in our society.

* https://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2020-02-24/quaden-bayles-not-alone-disability-royal-commission-finds/11994872?pfmredir=sm

International Wheelchair Day

Written by Talia Spooner-Stewart, PDA Director

On this International Wheelchair Day, it provides us all an opportunity to celebrate the positive impact wheelchairs have on our lives.  A day not only for wheelchair users but also a day to recognise the millions who either provide accessibility to wheelchairs and for those who support and or care for wheelchair users themselves.

Did you know that only between 5-15% of people whose mobility depends on the use of wheelchairs has access to a suitable wheelchair? Not every wheelchair is the same and those with mobility limitations all have different reasons for their requirements. I never really gathered the impact of what that means until my new custom fit wheelchair was delivered.

I have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis for over 20 years now, the progression of this disease has become more apparent over the last 10 years with my mobility the biggest affected. Once, I could mobilise with a walking stick and crutches and now, whenever I venture out of the house I use my wheelchair. As my mobility worsened my required specifications for my wheelchair increased.  From using an old stationary transfer wheel chair, to independently moving around in a manual wheelchair to now having a custom wheelchair to fit me with a smart drive attached for ease has been an incredible improvement to my life. It has provided so many opportunities I previously would not have had.

Previously I would have been limited or even excluded all together from activities either due to restricted or no accessibility at all.  Being able to use my wheelchair and the opportunity to use other specialised wheelchairs has provided me many opportunities that previously were not available. It has influenced my independence, choice, a sense of community and an increase in my self-confidence. These opportunities and choices have allowed me to undertake and enjoy tasks that previously I would have NEVER have done or seen. Provided an opportunity to do some amazing and life changing things.

These are photos of some amazing things that I have been able to do due to the access to suitable and specialised wheelchairs. From swimming in the ocean on a beach wheelchair, to getting up close and personal in Uluru with an off road wheelchair to volunteering at the Invictus games. None of these things unique experiences would be possible without a wheelchair, the people who support  me in a wheelchair or the accessibility implemented for wheelchairs.

Happy International Wheelchair Day.

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New help for vulnerable people living in Perth during COVID-19

Andrew Fairbairn, PDA Director/Vice Chair, featured in a Channel 7 news story

Cahoots Connect is a new service provider, that supplies Perth’s most vulnerable and at risk residents with necessary supplies.

Check out Andrew by clicking on the link below:

New help for vulnerable Perth people stuck at home. MORE INFO: Cahootswww.7NEWS.com.au#7NEWS

Posted by 7NEWS Perth on Monday, 20 April 2020