ANU: A super hero of a different kind

I remember saying to mum that you would have thought being born with an extra chromosome in each cell would give you super powers, rather than the other way around.

Having an extra chromosome in each cell sounded like the genetic makeup of a super hero to a young Mark Mulligan.

The thought occurred to the then 13-year-old in 1980, when his brother Dan was born.

The family doctor told Mark that his baby brother had Down syndrome, and explained why he looked a little different and that he might not develop and behave like other kids.

“I remember saying to mum that you would have thought being born with an extra chromosome in each cell would give you super powers, rather than the other way around,” Mark says.

“Growing up in a small country town like Bathurst there was not a lot of exposure to people with disabilities.”

But Mark discovered that his brother actually has super powers of a kind.

“He always makes people smile and after you have finished spending time with him you always feel better about yourself,” Mark says.

“Dan will also tell you that he is one of, if not the best, karaoke singers of all time – he doesn’t lack for confidence on that front.”

International Day of People with Disability is this Friday, which has given Mark pause to reflect on his involvement in the ANU Disability Action Plan. Mark is the Chair of the University’s Disability Access and Inclusion Working Group, in addition to being the Associate Director of the Work Environment Group at ANU.

“As my career moved into the human resources and work, health and safety space when I was in my 30s, I had more and more interactions with co-workers living with disability, and I got a sense of some of the barriers and challenges they faced with access and inclusion,” Mark says.

“This, in turn, made me reflect on Dan’s journey – in particular, the people, policy and processes that were a positive and negative contributor towards him becoming a valuable member of the Bathurst community.”

Dan has had many people support his life journey, advocating for him when he found it hard to speak for himself, Mark says.

“I quickly realised that not everyone living with disability has the support network that my brother is fortunate to have and that for some, that void, is never filled,” he says.

“I want to ensure members in our ANU community living with disability feel supported in tangible ways and that other members of the community are better informed about disability issues and can help contribute to a more inclusive future for all of us.”

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