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Alumni Disability Advisory Group celebrates successes, marking one year since inception

Posted: 28 November 2022

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Alumni, Disability, Inclusion,

To mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities this year, Australia Awards – South Asia & Mongolia is putting a spotlight on its Alumni Disability Advisory Group which has made great strides since its inception this time last year.

Each year on 3 December, International Day of Persons with Disabilities is celebrated by the Australia Awards program to promote a greater understanding of people with disability – particularly alumni and scholars – and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

With the aim to support and improve disability inclusion practices across the Australia Awards program, the Alumni Disability Advisory Group was established last year and comprises seven alumni from Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In addition to supporting the delivery of the program, the Group also provides an effective platform for discussions surrounding key issues of disability inclusion in their countries. Through collaborating on common challenges, the Group identifies opportunities, builds on synergies and seeks innovative solutions to eliminate barriers to inclusion.

This year’s global theme for International Day of Persons with Disabilities is fitting, with the overarching theme highlighting innovation and transformative solutions for inclusive development.

“Innovation can be a vital key in overcoming barriers for inclusive development,” affirms Group member Rajuna Singh from Nepal.

During this past year, a focus of the Group has been to identify and map barriers for people with disability from applying for, and undertaking, Australia Awards opportunities. Related activities included the development of a brief from each member mapping out their own Australia Awards Scholarship experience over the years. These briefs – as well as information on disability support available from Australia Awards –were then used in the development of a podcast aimed to inspire alumni, scholars and potential applicants. Recommendations were also documented and shared regarding further opportunities for the program to support scholars with disability.

“On International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we are reminded that providing adequate support for people with disability requires understanding of the issues they face,” said Fathimath Shadhin Rasheed, Group member from Maldives. “The Alumni Disability Advisory Group continues to focus on acquiring this understanding through our work. In 2021 we conducted rapid reviews to identify barriers faced by people with disability in applying for Australia Awards opportunities. In the Maldives, we found that these barriers existed at various levels, ultimately contributing to the limited number of people with disability qualifying for higher education. Understanding this issue is the first step. The next step is to continue to advocate for innovative ways and good practices to ensure that more Maldivians with disability can access an Australia Awards Scholarship”.

Australia Awards alumna Fathimath Shadhin Rasheed from Maldives

Further successes of the Group over the past year included the development of a comprehensive directory of Disabled People’s Organisations across the respective countries of members. This multi-country directory can be used for a variety of program needs in each country, including identifying potential partners to promote Australia Awards opportunities and events. Other initiatives from the Group have included the provision of voluntary support for Australia Awards Pre-Departure Briefings, including speaking opportunities, to help prepare new scholars with disability for life and study in Australia.

Prior to the end of 2022, the Group will review the accessibility of English language testing in each program country. Next year, the Group will be undertaking activities related to alumni engagement; Scholarship promotions, including a webinar on how people with disability can overcome barriers when applying for Australia Awards opportunities; and short-term activities, including supporting proposals for a Short Course or an Australian Professional Opportunity for people with disability. Group members will also seek to raise the profile of this work by connecting to alumni associations and reaching out to alumni in similar fields.

Alumni Disability Advisory Group meetings are co-chaired by Anu Mundkur (Gender equality, disability and social inclusion [GEDSI] Advisor, Australia Awards – South Asia & Mongolia) and Ben Clare (Advisor, MAVEN) and coordinated by Alex Kay (Manager, MAVEN) and Kushmin Perera, (GEDSI Coordinator, Australia Awards – South Asia & Mongolia). To learn more about Australia Awards – South Asia & Mongolia’s Alumni Disability Advisory Group and its members, visit the landing page, here.