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interview Liesl Tesch at a floorball competition in NSW. “I’ve had issues with the physical prepared to trust me as a community barriers, the structure within the representative, but they were Parliament; with heritage architects doubtful about whether I’d be able to telling me the building is the oldest hack it. Whether I’d be physically up Parliament in Australia therefore you for it. That still applies,” she said. can’t change it. “But there shouldn’t be any “I’ve been a CEO for 20 years but there’s still a suspicion that you are reason why I can’t be the politician not quite competent, that something like everyone else who can wave their will go wrong, and you find yourself arms and march around and not be being bypassed by people who are put in a one metre box because I’ve not as competent. got a wheelchair underneath me. As “The analogy is similar to gender the government, we must get this equality. We’ve seen competent right for the rest of society.” women who are highly qualified C being bypassed by men who are Christina Ryan, disability advocate just a bit more comfortable for the hristina Ryan established people around the position. And we the Disability Leadership definitely see that in disability. Institute to develop, support and promote leaders with disabilities. Canberra-based Ms Ryan has “In some ways we’re one of the last diversity groups to really get an opportunity to participate as equals, lobbied for more than 20 years for as people who have a high degree of greater representation of people competence and a lot to contribute. with disability. “I think in those 20 years some “It’s going to take some time to tackle these misconceptions and it things have shifted, but overall, is why I set up the Disability there’s a still a huge shift to be Leadership Institute.” made,” she said. “I’d say attitude is 90 per cent Christina Ryan, above, and Liesl Tesch campaigning, below. Through the Institute, Ms Ryan is focussing on connecting leaders “The expectation is disability of the problem. We (people with and emerging leaders with disability leaders will emerge fully formed from disability) are not trusted or thought with their peers, and providing somewhere, and that is what we have of as people who work in the support through mentoring and to change. We must develop true leadership space. leadership coaching. pathways so that we have an ongoing “I regularly come across people A survey conducted by the pipeline of talent. (without disability) who just cannot Institute of leaders with disability to consider that a person with disability ascertain their experiences, barriers supporting people to become could be as competent, intelligent, and aspirations, illustrated a lack of leaders, to stay leaders, and to be or experienced as they are.” any systematic approach to disability well-rounded leaders. Ms Ryan was the first woman who uses a wheelchair to run for any leadership development. “Our survey found most leaders “The Institute is all about “We need leaders with disability because it will change the public Australian Parliament (the Australian are working in isolation, having to perception of people with disabilities Capital Territory Assembly) in 2001. use their own financial resources, as being engaged citizens. Society and were mentoring others without will benefit enormously.” “One of the things I found when I ran for Parliament was people were linkonline.com.au anyone else to talk to,” she said. www.disabilityleaders.com.au interview 27