David Abello – President
David Abello was born in Sydney’s inner-west and lives in Camperdown. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences (Honours) (1999) and was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy by the University of Technology, Sydney in 2017.
Before his doctoral studies, he worked at the Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales (1999 to 2011). His research related to: socio-economic disadvantage; community and family strength; the social security system; and unemployment, employment services and disability employment services. He made a significant contribution to methods for evaluating innovative mental health services and integrated mental health, accommodation and disability support initiatives.
David’s previous career was in the Commonwealth Department of Employment, Education and Training (1984 to 1995). He was an Employment Counsellor providing a visiting service to Commonwealth Employment Service offices in Western Sydney, the best job he says he ever had. He moved into a state disability co-ordination role in 1990, which involved support of specialist staff and disability employment strategies and liaison with the disability sector.
David has a lived experience of lifelong mental illness and physical impairments. Over the last eight years he has cared for someone with dementia. He has been a member of PWD and an active member of the disability movement for over thirty years. He has been involved in protest and direct action and giving governance and leadership to membership-based organisations. Some of them are:
- Active Job Services, in Western Sydney, 1985 to 2006
- the NSW Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association, 1997 to 2011
- Access Plus Spanning Identities, 1998 to 2010
- PWD NSW, 2001 to 2002, and
- Metro Housing Co-op, in Newtown, since 2008.
David has also been involved in the mental health and MAD PRIDE movements where he is noted for his stand-up comedy. In earlier decades he had a role in introducing the concept of ‘psychiatric disability’ – the social and historical processes and structures that disable those with a lived experience of mental illness. With others he developed new types of training and employment services that placed and supported people in open employment. As an activist, David contributed to the diversity of the cross-disability movement.
He has been active in lesbian and gay movements since the early 1970s. He is a 78er, involved in the first Mardi Gras in 1978 and was recently made a Life Member of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Along with Access Plus Spanning Identities members, he has been a queer activist in the disability movement and a disability activist within gay, lesbian and transgender communities.
David is concerned that over several decades we have participated in waves of reform that have left us, each time, with less. The political obsession with privatisation and market forces has turned disability and aged care services into poorly regulated and complex market places where the interests of service users are easily lost. We live in times, where government lacks stability and policy is based more on politics than on evidence. It is a critical time for the disability advocacy sector.
Paige Burton – Vice President
Paige is an NGO messaging and campaigning consultant. Paige was most recently the 2017 Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations. She previously served as the National Education Director and Chair of the Board for United Nations Youth Australia. Paige helped develop the UN Youth Australia’s national curriculum, founded the first national advocacy-oriented public speaking competition (Voice), and facilitated educational tours of Timor L’este, and the Middle East for high school students.
Until 2016, Paige was the Events & Operations Manager at the Centre for Australian Progress, a non-profit organisation committed to building the advocacy capacity of Australian civil society. In 2015, and 2016, Paige was recognised for her work by Pro Bono Australia as the youngest ever recipient of the ‘Impact 25: The 25 Most Influential People in the Social Sector’ award. In 2017, Paige was named as a finalist for New South Wales Young Woman of the Year and the Do-Gooder of the Year at the FWD and Organise Conference for campaign practitioners. Paige serves on the advisory board for the University of Melbourne’s Social Equity Institute and writes about her experiences of chronic pain.
Kristy Trajcevski – Secretary
Kristy Trajcevski lives in NSW and is 37. Kristy’s has worked as graduate lawyer for a firm in Newcastle and has previously worked on a short contract for PWDA as an Advocate Witness in the NDIS Scorecard project in 2014.
Kristy believes PWDA has a reputation for fighting against injustices and helping to drive social change and that PWDA should continue to remind governments that the rights of disabled people are important. At the local Newcastle level, Kristy was involved in the establishment of an organisation called Community Disability Alliance Hunter (CDAH).
Kristy also believes PWDA needs to continue to press all sides of government on NDIS issues to ensure sure that the gaps in the NDIS system is addressed and we continue to advocate strongly on these issues in order to make the NDIS fairer, more responsive to individual needs and integral enough to Australian Society to last for generations.
Jaci Armstrong – Board Director
Jaci Armstrong is committed to applying her significant advocacy and policy experience to achieving equitable access, inclusion and genuine choice across all facets of life for people with disability.
Being vision impaired since birth and a Guide Dog handler for over 20 years as well as having a twin sister who lives with Cerebral Palsy, Jaci has substantial lived experience of barriers to inclusion.
Jaci is currently the National Policy Advisor for Guide Dogs Australia where she leads strategy and engagement with Government. She is also very involved with blindness peaks including Vision2020 Australia, the Australian Blindness Forum and Blind Citizens Australia and is currently also one of four Australian delegates to the World Blind Union.
Prior to commencing with Guide Dogs Australia, Jaci worked with State and Federal Members of Parliament and at KPMG in Sydney. In addition she has held numerous voluntary positions including Chair of the Board of Riding for the Disabled Association (NSW) and peer support and consumer advisory roles with Vision Australia and Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children.
Hannah Solomons – Board Director
Hannah has a long standing passion for disability rights. She has her own neurological and psychosocial disabilities, as well as worsening refractory epilepsy. She also grew up with a parent who pioneered employment and independent living for people with his disabilities.
One year ago Hannah secured the prestigious Quentin Bryce Scholarship to do her PhD in the rights of people with disabilities (or lack thereof) in Australian public law. She has been a very active member of People with Disabilities Australia for several years, and donated many hours of her time to the organisation and associated political campaigns. She also founded her own grassroots social group for people with epilepsy. Her active passion for disability rights goes at least back to when she served on the student union as the Officer for Students with Disabilities as a 19 year old fresh out of high school.
Hannah also has a strong background in human rights and international law, and prior to studying law she was a teacher for adults from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, which gives her vital insights into a broad range of issues important to people with disabilities. .
She is particularly interested in the rights of women with disabilities, and parents with disabilities, and the lack of accountability for severe abuse (including restrictive practices, neglect and violence). She believes strongly in the everyday empowering work of People with Disabilities Australia and hopes to continue to support and strengthen it.
Samantha Connor – Board Director
Samantha Connor (pronouns she/her) is a disabled woman living on Ballardong country in Western Australia. She has a strong track record as a disability and human rights advocate. Her past history includes former Vice President of PWDA, member of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Disability in WA and board member of Physical Disability Australia. Samantha is a current board member of Autism Self Advocacy Network AUNZ – she is autistic, has ADHD and muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair for mobility.
Samantha is a campaigner and has been actively involved in many campaigns, including the successful campaign for a disability Royal Commission. She has also been heavily involved in actively working for a better NDIS – as a founder and administrator of the online group NDIS Grassroots Discussion, she supports 48,500 people with disability and their families to navigate a scheme that is not working well.
Part of Samantha’s commitment as a leader in the disability sector is to mentor younger disabled people to assist them to find and develop their voice – she is a youth group leader and has mentored many younger people, including those who hold roles in prominent positions in government and business. Samantha works only in roles that will benefit disabled people and currently lectures part time at two universities in human rights, activism and disability discrimination in Human Resources.
She believes that disabled people have the right to be unapologetic in taking up space in the world and in the disability rights mantra ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’. You can talk to her at @criprights on Twitter.
Kelly Cox – Board Director
Kelly lives in the Northern Rivers of NSW with her husband and son as well as her dog, Bear and her cat, Felix.
Kelly works with other disabled people to affect change around disability and human rights issues. That has included better provision of service within the NDIS, lobbying for a Royal Commission and a wide range of other local, national and international issues. As a disabled woman Kelly has first-hand understanding and lived experience of issues affecting disabled people. She has been actively involved in representing the rights of disabled women in disability rights spaces and is a contributing member of the disability rights movement in Australia.
Kelly spent many years working for an Aboriginal Land Council and has a developed understanding of the barriers disabled Aboriginal people encounter while trying to access services and supports. She is passionate about working to uphold the rights of all disabled people to ensure they are able to live the life they want and holds specific interest in violence prevention and intersectional issues and the way these further marginalise and disadvantage people with disability.
Most recently Kelly travelled to Geneva as part of the Civil Society delegation for the periodic review of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability. During this time she worked with other representatives to raise key issues affecting the disability community in Australia.
Kelly believes that we should make sure all disabled people have a voice, including people who come from exceptionally marginalised backgrounds.
Joana d’Orey Novo – Board Director
Joana d’Orey Novo has been a member of PWDA since 2001. She is vision impaired and a cane user who was was born in Angola and migrated to Australia at the age of 11.
Joana worked as an individual advocate at PWDA from 2001 to 2005 and has been employed at the Australian Human Rights Commission since then.
She feels very passionate about a wide range of issues affecting people with disability in Australia. These include:
- Appropriate and dignified income support and accommodation for all people with disability
- Regulation and guidance on assistance animals to ensure people with disability have access to the benefits of having an assistance animal without being excluded from the community
- Full inclusion of people with disability in the community, including education, employment, transport and access to information and entertainment/media
- Promoting networks of people with disability that provide peer support and mentoring and increase people’s capacity to participate in the community and advocate for their own rights