Ambassadors

Meet the 2015 Don't DIS my ABILITY ambassadors

Our ambassadors are the voice of the Don’t DIS my ABILITY campaign. Each year, our ambassadors share their powerful personal stories to raise awareness of the abilities and achievements of people with disability. They also support the campaign by engaging the wider community to think and act inclusively, in all aspects of life.

The 2015 ambassadors are a diverse group of talented and passionate people from across NSW who are living life to the fullest, including participating in workplaces, schools, communities and at home.

Graeme Innes AM

Graeme Innes AM

Graeme is a major force in disability advocacy and is now on the cusp of adding another string to his bow, published author. His distinguished career includes his former role as Disability Discrimination Commissioner and the key part he played in Australia’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability. At the Attitude Foundation where he is Chair the organisation uses storytelling as a vehicle to challenge perceptions of disability in the community. Graeme who is blind will be sharing stories from his own life in Finding a Way to be published next July. The book aims to promote greater understanding in the community of disability and the barriers he has broken through and that he and other people with disability continue to experience. He lives in Lindfield with his wife Maureen, and has two children.

Tracy Barrell OAM

Tracy Barrell OAM

Tracy’s motto and email sign off ‘one arm, one skateboard, one me’ sums up her positive, gutsy, can-do outlook on life and firmly celebrates her individuality. As a triple congenital amputee Tracy has always stood out from the crowd not only physically (she was born without legs and an arm) but also for her attitude and achievements. She is a Paralympic gold medallist in swimming, an Order of Australia recipient and a compelling motivational speaker. Always ready to challenge others as well as herself this year Tracy will be making her debut in stand up comedy performing at Don’t DIS my ABILITY’s Comedy Cabaret Show. Tracy lives in the Northern Rivers region of NSW with her two sons.

Simon Darcy

Simon Darcy

Simon enjoys pushing boundaries both professionally and recreationally that has included hot air ballooning, deep sea fishing, sailing, helicopter flights and a V8 supercar experience. He also happens to be a power wheelchair user with a high-level spinal cord injury for the last 32 years. Professionally Simon is a Professor at the UTS Business School’s Management Discipline Group where he specialises in developing inclusive organisational approaches for diversity groups. His work has been internationally recognised for its innovation and impact across the built environment, transport, volunteer management, sport and tourism sectors. In his spare time he and his wife Fiona like to go to the theatre, explore Sydney Harbour, and are big rugby fans. If Simon has a message it is to challenge those barriers to citizenship every day, week, month and year that you are living and breathing.

William Le

William Le

William prides himself on being different. He draws on it not only in relation to his own disability but it drives him professionally. Born profoundly deaf and of Vietnamese heritage, William is a writer and filmmaker who's committed to promoting greater diversity through the arts and media. He and his Croatian fiancé Michael founded the company "interCulture Casting and Management" (iCCAM), a performing arts agency that caters for artists who are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, those with disability and identify as LGBTIQ. William is a great believer that everyone can embrace their imperfections and learn to appreciate them. Recently he was fitted with Nucleus 6, the latest in cochlear implant technology and couldn't be more overjoyed to pick up on so many sounds that he hadn't heard before – including noises he thinks he was better better off never having heard! William and Michael live in Western Sydney.

Donna Purcell

Donna Purcell

Donna is passionate about creating an inclusive society particularly in the workplace. A Human Resources professional with extensive experience Donna has worked in both the public and not-for-profit sectors focused on promoting greater diversity. Donna is blind and has experienced firsthand the difficulty people with disability face in competing for places in education as well as in the job market. Donna is currently on secondment at the Australian Human Rights Commission as part of the ‘Willing to Work’ enquiry team from her role as Diversity Manager at the Commonwealth Bank. Outside of work Donna loves antique and vintage clothes hunting, bushwalking, cooking and camping. She lives in Mount Kuringai in Sydney’s North with husband Ric and has two step-daughters.

Cormac Ryan

Cormac Ryan

Cormac can be tough to keep up with especially in his wheelchair. Born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus (swelling of the brain), it’s not stopped him from racing in the City to Surf or tackling the killer hills in the annual Balmoral Burn. Cormac loves training in wheelchair racing and playing basketball and tennis. At eight years old Cormac is Don’t DIS my ABILITY’s youngest ambassador in this year’s campaign proving himself as an engaging public speaker and disability advocate. Inclusion in his schooling, in his community and inclusion through the support of many great wheelchair mentors has encouraged him to try new things and push as hard as he can in every aspect of his life - including Minecraft! Cormac enjoys meeting new people and firmly believes everyone should be included. He lives with his parents and two sisters in Concord in Sydney’s Inner West.

Gerard O'Dwyer

Gerard O'Dwyer

Gerard is an experienced actor and feels at home in front of the camera and treading the boards on theatre stages. He loves entertaining audiences through his roles, simultaneously challenging stereotypes about Down Syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. His list of credits include the Tropfest short film, Be My Brother, which won him the best actor award in 2009 among other dramatic and comedic performances in TV, film and theatre. Currently he's been working in his first feature length film and he will be making his first foray into opera in the production of Menotti-The Medium Opera Prometheus in 2016. Gerard says if he could give advice to both his younger self and people living with disability he would say: “Just go for it. Keep doing what you love and you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it.” He lives in Guildford in Western Sydney.

Carleeta Manser

Carleeta Manser

Carleeta is a born communicator and has dedicated her life to building bridges between the community and people with disability. She is deafblind as a result of Usher’s Syndrome Type 1, a genetic condition which causes hearing loss from birth followed by the loss of sight in later years due to the degeneration of the retina. Twenty-five years ago she began educating other deaf people about the different ways in which to communicate with her and other deafblind people. Carleeta has worked in the public service and has been treasurer of the Rotaract Club, a global organisation sponsored by Rotary International that empowers young people to create positive change in their communities. Carleeta is also involved in self-advocacy for people who are deafblind to break down the barriers they face participating in social activities and living in the community. Carleeta lives in Quakers Hill in Sydney’s West.

Abdul-Karim Bouchafaa

Abdul-Karim Bouchafaa

Karim’s message to the community is that disability shouldn't stand in the way of anyone achieving their goals. Karim has cerebral palsy and enjoys martial arts and dancing. He has been managing his individualised funding since leaving high school in 2009 and is now busy setting up a micro business presenting disability awareness workshops. His experience enables him to share the benefits of self-directed funding with others as it will be more widely available under the NDIS. Karim loves travelling and visiting friends in northern NSW. He lives with his extended family in Chifley, South East of Sydney.


Presented by Family & Community Services
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