Griffith University: Our alumni advocating for those living with disability

A Griffith University alumnus has a unique opportunity to shape the future of disability policy and services with a new role at the Disability Royal Commission, where he will work with vulnerable members of society to help share their lived experiences.

“People with disabilities are more likely to experience violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation than other individual’s in society,” Harry Rodgers explained.

“My role is to plan and coordinate the private sessions for participants across Australia to share their lived experiences with the Commissioner.

“We make sure everything is accessible, that they can access what’s needed and provide access to any support that might be needed to make sure they’re comfortable to do the session.

“This is an important occasion in the participant’s lives, as historically people with disabilities have not been listened to or allowed to be involved in decision making, so creating a comfortable and welcoming environment for people to share their traumatic experiences is important and something I feel honoured to be part of.

“Their lived experiences contribute to the final report to Government and hopefully ensure a more inclusive, fair society and one which better protects people with disabilities from violence, abuse, neglect and trauma in the future.”

As a Bachelor of Business student, Harry had the chance to work on the 2018 Commonwealth Games through Griffith’s partnership with the global event, and it led to a range of other overseas roles at major sporting events, including the Cricket World Cup, the Glasgow 2018 European Championships, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, World Men’s Curling Championships and European Swimming Championships.

He returned to finish his degree and start his Honours dissertation, looking at community sport opportunities for those with a disability.

Experiencing a disability himself, Harry says the opportunities for people like him are limited and he sees much potential for change.

He agrees that events like the Paralympics are great for raising awareness of what’s possible at an elite level, but concedes it’s opportunities in the local community which really drive him.

“My passion for inclusion in sport is community based, I’m interested in making sport accessible for people like myself who may not currently have that opportunity,” he said.

“I’m interested in getting equal access to sport for everyone at a grassroots level. Sport participation has many benefits such as improving physical health, building confidence, developing social skills and provides a sense of belonging for individuals in the community.”

“There are many tangible and intangible barriers that people with disabilities face when accessing community sport and I want to contribute to removing them.

“My honors dissertation is about how COVID has impacted people with disabilities to access sport on the Gold Coast.

“The research will allow people with disabilities to have their experiences heard and hopefully contribute to the future of disability sport on the Gold Coast.”

Griffith medicine graduate, 2021 Outstanding Young Alumnus, senior lecturer and Biospine researcher Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM is also contributing to the valuable work of the Disability Commission, appointed as the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Senior Adviser.

Recently he added another string to his bow, announced as an Australian Human Rights Commission IncludeAbility Ambassador.

“I think that this is an incredibly important initiative,” Dr Palipana explained.

“I faced so many challenges in employment after graduating from medical school. I began to understood that people are often seen at face value, rather than their merit or ability.

“IncludeAbility is an opportunity to change this narrative. Hopefully, we will see a society that sees people for their ability rather than anything else.”

Dinesh says that he will work together with his fellow IncludeAbility ambassadors to have an impact.

“We have the opportunity to tell a story and, to engage with employers through the Human Rights Commission,” he said.

“It is critical for employees to see the value in a diverse workforce, which has more than been proven to benefit an organisation in a multitude of ways.”