Remarks at UNSW’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan Launch

Thank you, Eileen. I too acknowledge the Bedegal people on whose land we meet.

I would also like to welcome Mr Alastair McEwin, Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner, to UNSW. Your presence here is a tremendous endorsement of the Plan we launch today.

We are here because we believe in equal opportunity for all. As Professor Megan Davis and Gemma McKinnon reminded us on Sorry Day recently, good intentions must go hand-in-hand with action.

I am very proud to say that UNSW is backing up its good intentions with actions—some we have already taken, others we present to you today.

The Disability Inclusion Action Plan has been many years in the making. It has involved a great deal of research, consultation and simple hard work so I’d like to begin by congratulating everyone who has contributed to its development over the past three years, including:
• the Disability Inclusion Action Plan Working Group;
• Professor Andrew Lynch, Diversity Champion for disability, who I will come back to in a few minutes;
• and the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Board, chaired by Eileen

From the very start of our consultations for the 2025 Strategy, it was clear that a commitment to diversity and opportunity would be a strong theme. Three years on and I’m proud of our progress.
• When the Strategy started in 2015 we had no female Deans—last year we appointed our third.
• In Professor Baldry, we have Australia’s first Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Inclusion and Diversity, and we have our first ever Pro Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous, Professor Megan Davis.
• We now have five diversity champions—for disability, of course, as well as gender, culture, LGBTIQ, and flexible work and leave.
• Unconscious bias training has been rolled out to more than 300 senior leadership staff.
• Our promotions policy now includes principle of performance relative to opportunity.
• We have a new $11.3 million Disability Innovation Institute, which brings together STEMM researchers with researchers from the humanities and social sciences.
• And we have made a $56 million investment in innovative digital technologies for teaching and learning, making more learning opportunities accessible to more students—the biggest single investment of its kind in Australian higher education history.

Today’s launch brings us closer to our goal of achieving full and effective participation for UNSW people no matter their background or circumstance.

It is also an acknowledgement that diversity and inclusion are equally important.

Bringing in people with a diverse set of skills and experiences is one thing, but it’s quite another to create the environment where those people are welcome and supported to excel.

Australian disability activist and writer, the late Stella Young, once wrote that living with disability is nothing when compared to living with exclusion.

The Disability Inclusion Action Plan we launch today will make changes that may seem small, but in practice will have an enormous impact on helping our students and colleagues to both be, and feel, included.
• Ensuring that UNSW’s spaces and events are always accessible
• Providing students and staff with disability tailored IT support
• and ensuring people know where to go to receive support for their mental wellbeing….
….are just some of the practical actions this Plan sets out. The Plan says to current and future staff and students with lived experience of disability: ‘We want you to thrive here.’

That is a powerful commitment to make and one which the UNSW community is determined to embrace.

I now have the pleasure of introducing Professor Andrew Lynch. Professor Lynch is currently Head of School and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law. Between 2008 and 2013, Andrew was the Director of the Gilbert and Tobin Centre of Public Law at UNSW and he is now a Co-Director of the Centre’s Judiciary Project.

Two years ago, Andrew was appointed a UNSW Diversity Champion with responsibility for staff and students with disability.

He has brought to this role a wealth of experience in advocacy, both as an academic liaison officer and a student ombudsman.

Professor Lynch has published legal research on the operation of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, and his current research focus is on the value of diversity. Please join me in welcoming, Professor Andrew Lynch.

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