Meet the 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassadors

Ambassadors support and strengthen the Don’t DIS my ABILITY campaign by serving as its voice. Ambassadors share their personal stories and campaign messages, ultimately raising awareness of the abilities and achievements of people with disability.

The 2014 ambassadors are a diverse group of people from across NSW who represent a range of backgrounds, ages and disabilities. 

Watch interviews with ten of our ambassadors.  

Brett Whiteley

Brett acquired his disability just a year ago after a serious motorcycle accident resulting in the loss of one of his arms and a leg. At the time Brett was working for a mining company in Cessnock and was studying to be an auto electrician both of which were put on hold until recently. Since his accident Brett has taken up sailing with Sailors with disABILITIES and is currently training to participate in the 2014 Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Boxing Day. Watch Brett's interview video.

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Brett Whiteley

Graeme Innes AM

Graeme is a cricket tragic, sailor and high profile human rights advocate. He is the former Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner and former Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner. Graeme played a key role in the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, and Australia’s ratification of the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Optional Protocol on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He is currently Chair of the Attitude Foundation which aims to change attitudes about people with disability through storytelling. Graeme lives in Lindfield with his wife Maureen, and has two children Leon and Rachael. Watch Graeme's interview video.

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Graeme Innes

Donna Purcell 

Donna is a Human Resources professional with over 20 years experience in both the not-for-profit and corporate sectors. She is a Diversity Manager at the Commonwealth Bank and is a person who is blind, Donna has a passion for creating an inclusive society for people with disability. In her spare time, Donna loves collecting antiques and vintage clothes, bushwalking, cooking, camping and tandem bike rides. Donna was the face of last year’s Don’t DIS my ABILITY campaign and lives in Sydney with husband Ric and guide dog Hettie. Watch Donna's interview video.

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Donna Purcell

Cormac Ryan

Cormac is this year’s youngest ambassador. He is seven years old and lives with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Cormac attends a mainstream primary school and loves sport. Cormac likes to meet new people, participate in wheelchair sports and never misses an opportunity to show off his wheelchair skills to his classmates. He has an infectious personality and is someone that everyone wants to be around. Cormac is a regular participant in the Balmoral Burn and raced in his first City 2 Surf in August 2014. Cormac lives with his parents Matt and Rosie and two sisters in Concord. Watch Cormac's interview video.

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Cormac Ryan

Laurie Lawira

Laurie was born in Indonesia with only one finger on his right hand and moved to Australia when he was two years old. Laurie grew up playing able-bodied sports and also learned to play the guitar. Laurie loves rugby league and has been a referee for the past 10 years. More recently he has become a champion for inclusive modified games such as wheelchair rugby league. Laurie is a journalist and currently is a reporter/producer for SBS World News. He lives in Balgowlah. Watch Laurie's interview video.

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Laurie Lawira

Irene McMinn

When Irene is not in the pool swimming, she is visiting family, knitting dolls or reading books which she does using Braille. Irene is deafblind. She has no sight and little hearing. Irene is a board member of the World Federation of Deafblind and is a board member of People with Disability Australia. Irene takes an active interest in disability issues and volunteers in the office of the DeafBlind Association. She lives in Cherrybrook.

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Irene McMinn

Christopher Bunton

Christopher lives by his personal mottos: don’t give up, just have a go and reach your personal best. In 2010 Chris, who has Down Syndrome, achieved great results in the Higher School Certificate and has gone on to complete a Certificate III in Sports and Recreation. Twenty one year old Chris gives it his all and has represented Australia in the Special Olympics in gymnastics. He also loves to perform with Accessible Arts. Chris lives in St Clair with his family.
Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Christopher Bunton

Jo Berry

Jo is a 28 year old social worker from Forestville who lives with Severe Connective Tissue Dysplasia. Jo works for Fighting Chance Australia an organisation that pioneers new ways of offering employment, training, and social opportunities to people who have significant physical disabilities. Jo is the coordinator of LifeX which arranges social activities and excursions for people with disability. She is an award winning public speaker and she wants people to recognise that every person with disability is unique and has something to offer. Watch Jo's interview video.

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Jo Berry

Darien Brown

Darien first discovered comedy when he was eight and has embraced it ever since. Darien is now an established stand-up comedian who has performed at events including the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and even snuck in a gig on a recent holiday to Las Vegas. Darien cites Buster Keaton, Monty Python and Spike Milligan among his comedic influences. He is also an accomplished singer, dancer, musician and impressionist. Darien credits autism for creating his unique voice, perspective, outgoing personality and ability to focus. He is 23 years old and lives in Round Corner. Watch Darien's interview video.

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Darien Brown

William Le

William is a filmmaker with more than 10 years experience in film, television, literature and media. William, who is deaf, and his partner Michael have co-founded interCulture Casting and Management (iCCAM), a performing arts agency that caters for artists who are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. This includes people with disability and members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual Intersex Queer (LGBTIQ) community. William prides himself on being different. He says his resilience and fortitude have enabled him to overcome all the obstacles he has faced. William and Michael live in Wentworth Point. Watch William's interview video.

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador William Le

Julie Charlton

Julie Charlton is mad about sport. She is NSW State Champion across several wheelchair racing events, and was crowned Australian Champion for both seated discus and shot put. Julie is 15 years old and has big plans for the future. She wants to study law, participate in the Paralympics and continue to advocate for all people with different abilities. Julie was born with spina bifida, hydrocephalus and wears ankle foot orthotics. Julie lives in Dural and was an ambassador in last year’s Don’t DIS my ABILITY campaign. Watch Julie's interview video.

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Julie Charlton

Victor Tombs

Victor has an intellectual disability and after 40 years of working for the Windgap Foundation he is now enjoying retirement through participating in the Transition to Retirement program. Victor enjoys singing and is a member of a choir. He is also an accomplished painter and has received several awards for his work which have been shown at art exhibitions across the Eastern Suburbs. Victor spends his weekends with his partner Michelle and supporting his beloved South Sydney Rabbitohs.  

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Victor Tombs

Jess Cronje

‘It’s not that I can’t do it, I just do things differently’. That’s the way 16-year-old Jess who has cerebral palsy views disability and the role it plays in the pursuit of her goals. Jess is an elite sportsperson and as a dual athlete in athletic throwing events and wheelchair basketball she has participated in representative sports events across Australia. Jess is currently finishing her School Certificate with a goal of completing her Higher School Certiciate. Jess lives on farmland in Camden with her family. Watch Jess's interview video.

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Jess Cronje

Lima Peni

Lima is a rapper and music producer who goes by the stage name LISTIC which stands for Life Is Short Time Is Constant. Lima, who is legally blind, believes in the potential of people no matter their background or perceived ability is. He uses his knowledge as a music producer, MC and hip hop artist to work alongside disadvantaged youth to help them express themselves through lyric development and music production. He also has a keen interest in car mechanics. Lima was born in Samoa, grew up in Redfern-Waterloo and now lives in Campbelltown with his partner Rachael. 

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Lima Peni

Yvette Smith

Yvette was a 2013 Don’t DIS my ABILITY ambassador who has rediscovered her love for television presenting and the performing arts. Yvette recently appeared on camera for a disability television program. Yvette acquired her disability as a result of a fall eight years ago.  Yvette is a regular participant in the Youngcare Budgie Bolt race which raises money for young people living in residential aged care. Yvette rejects the phrase ‘disability’ and would like to help direct people’s focus on a person’s ability. She lives independently in a modified home in Miranda with her dog Russ. 

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Yvette Smith

Matthew Hennig

Matthew was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was three months old and now, at age 34, he has established himself as a disability advocate. Matthew is from the Central Coast and runs his own travel agency Flying Wheelies which specialises in travel for wheelchair users. Matthew has diplomas in tourism and travel, event management, and a certificate in access appraisal. He has been training Busways staff on how to transport people in wheelchairs and has produced two television commercials about the transportation of people with disabilities. 

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Matthew Hennig

Katelyn Gales

Katelyn is a born and bred country girl from Young. In the past 18 months Katelyn has participated in the Transition to Work program, a two year post-school program to help people with disability prepare for employment. Katelyn has an intellectual disability and works two days a week cleaning offices. She volunteers with Meals on Wheels and has just obtained her provisional driver’s license. Katelyn cares for her mother who also has an intellectual disability. She enjoys hanging out with her boyfriend Charlie and her dog Pedro. 

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Katelyn Gales

Paul Stone

Paul has a passion for community and volunteer work and is involved with St John Ambulance and the NSW Rural Fire Service. During the 1990s he was a youth worker in Kings Cross. Paul has studied martial arts for more than 20 years and is passionate about educating the community about disability and reducing negative stereotypes. Paul is 43 years old, is from the Indigenous community, has cerebral palsy and only 15% vision. Paul feels that it is important to educate younger generations about disability in order to improve community attitudes in the future. Paul lives with his partner Anne-maree in Winmalee and has a step-daughter Sarah who is eight years old. 

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Paul Stone

Bodene Davies

Bodene is 21 years old and likes to express herself and her view of the world through photography. Never shy of a challenge, Bodene is currently completing her Duke of Edinburgh Award and has her eyes firmly set on obtaining her full driver’s license - which will allow her to be more independent. Bodene lives with muscular dystrophy and uses a motorised wheelchair to get around. Outspoken about disability, Bodene presents disability awareness talks to local schools and at community support worker inductions. She love to knit and lives in Port Stephens.  

Image of 2014 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassador Bodene Davies

Presented by Family & Community Services
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