5 Apr 2015

Twenty years of Disability Services

From One In Five, 7:06 pm on 5 April 2015

Lucy Croft Can Do President Robyn Hunt Disability Rights Specialist and Erikka Helliwell Can Do Vice President
Lucy Croft (2014 Can Do President), Robyn Hunt (Disability Rights Specialist) and Erikka Helliwell (2014 Can Do Vice President).

It was a time when there was increasing political activism amongst disabled students, particularly out of Vic, but it spread throughout the rest of the country as well…  - Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson.

Disability Services was set up in 1994, in part due to a human rights complaint taken against Victoria, when it moved its School of Social Work and Sociology from the most accessible part of campus to the least accessible.

Unusually for the time, the approach was to go into mediation with Victoria, to see if there was a long-term solution to the discrimination, applying more systemic solutions to the problem, for example transport around the Campus, the introduction of a study area for disabled students, training of staff in disability responsiveness, and the adoption of policies and procedures across the University.

According to former Victoria student president, and current Disability Rights Commissioner, Paul Gibson, the rising tide of student activism around access to tertiary education, plus the goodwill demonstrated by senior management at Victoria, led to the Government setting aside 9.9 million dollars to assist tertiary institutions to be more inclusive of disabled students.

Mike talks with current Disability Services Manager, Rachel Anderson-Smith, who outlines the functions and purpose of the Services; founding and first full-time manager, Ava Gibson, outlines the early humps and hurdles needed to be overcome in order to get consistent funding, policies and procedures in place; and veteran disability rights activists and disability community representatives, Wendi Wicks and Robyn Hunt, reminisce about the original complaint and its aftermath.

Ava Gibson and Mike Gourley
Ava Gibson (Orb Solutions, Former Disability Services Manager) and Mike Gourley

Paul Gibson (Disability Rights Commissioner, Human Rights Commission). Joe Boon with Rachel Anderson-Smith.

Left: Paul Gibson (Disability Rights Commissioner, Human Rights Commission). Right: Joe Boon (Alumnus, Victoria University) with Rachel Anderson-Smith (Manager, Disability Services, Victoria University).

Disability Services Victoria University current team
Disability Services, Victoria University current team