Jane Wardlaw has an incredibly interesting life story to tell and a message to all women as we celebrate International Women’s Day.
Jane is passionate about people with disability having their right to self-determination being respected.
Right now, she’s conducting research for a Master’s qualification based on that very issue and how that could play out in NDIS policy and practice.
But how did she get to this point in her life?
Well, in her early working life, another passion, for working in remote areas, led Jane to jobs as a governess in western Queensland.
“I’d always wanted to work on the cattle stations. Because I had muscular dystrophy, I knew that the prognosis wouldn’t allow me to be riding horses and doing those sorts of things long term, but I loved teaching.”
(Above: Jane’s travels took her to Queensland, right, and Western Australia).
After her outback adventures, family drew Jane back to Tasmania and into community development work, again addressing challenges faced by people living in remote parts of the country.
‘All roads have let to where I am now.
‘All that community development work, the focus on goal setting and self-determination, that’s all relevant to where we sit as people with disability and how that should be part of policy – for example in the NDIS,’ Jane said.
(Above: Jane working in community development in WA in 2002, and at Parliament House, Canberra, to meet the Minister responsible for the NDIS in 2014).
Now on disability advisory committees and a board of management for a large service provider (as well as running her own business as a Disability Advocate and Consultant), Jane wants to help bridge the gap in equality, and bring everyone on that journey.
“I don’t want to focus on the problems though. Rather what are the opportunities for people with disability, how can we make things better and what are the tools we need to get there.”
In terms of women with disability in the workforce, Jane believes there’s plenty of opportunity to demonstrate equal human rights.
“Cultural change does take time, but we need to promote the good news about successful job placements. Employers can engage people with a disability by embracing flexible work arrangements and using technology to its best advantage.
“Everybody has a strength to offer, and employers need to learn how to tap into that and turn it into something positive.”
So, what’s the message Jane would like to share this International Women’s Day?
“It’s a wonderful time to celebrate the achievements of women. I’ve been so privileged to work for and with so many incredible females.
“It’s important for women who aspire, who have wonderful strengths and abilities to get yourself a great mentor – surround yourself with people who support you, who you can trust, who you can bounce ideas off and work around your strengths – you all have capacity.”
Plenty to be optimistic about.