Good Morning everyone,
My name is Brendan Pearce and I am from Lismore on the North Coast of NSW.
Today we are talking to you about our experiences of Diversity and Inclusion. To me these are and have always been incredibly big words which often make me shudder. Why? Because Diversity and Inclusion are words which can offer, incredibly different experiences for all involved.
Now if I can I want to get everyone to do a quick little activity with me that in my eyes exactly demonstrates what Diversity and Inclusion is and how they work together.
- Everyone clench your fist and extend it out in front of you
- When I say go slowly release your fist in front of you.
To me the act of clenching or fists together symbolises the diverse groups that make up our society, whether it be here in the city or in the regional and rural areas where I hail from. The act of releasing our hands one by one symbolises the gradual application of measures aimed at inclusion.
As I move on I will talk more of those measures.
For me I grew up as a Hard of Hearing individual with what most children considered to be ‘funny things’ coming out of my ear [pull aids out]. I was often in a situation where I was the only child with a hearing loss and this was something I had to get used to. At that point in time I was in an educational setting with teachers who understood little about how to teach according to the requirements of my hearing loss. At one stage this even resulted in a decision by staff to halt the teaching of my mathematics (a decision thankfully rectified by my mother). Because of my loss, I also endured like many students with disability, long term bullying due to the unusual nature of my hearing loss. Combined with the little things like ‘Oh you don’t wear hearing aids’ or ‘but you speak so well’, these unintentional attitudes and blissful ignorance ultimately played a role in ensuring there were times wear I didn’t feel welcome in society at all.
As I was introduced today it was mentioned that I had been fortunate enough to participate in the UN Conference on Disability at United Nations headquarters in New York as an NGO observer. I want to describe to you for a moment one of the most vivid experiences I had while attending this conference. On day one we walked into the main conference room, packed as usual, it didn’t strike me until I returned after a break that here we were, 500 people from various places around the world, various disabilities, various languages including in Sign and yet we were united by one thing. Our quest to learn from each other, and help build a more inclusive world for those with a Disability.
Now if I can focus on Inclusion for a moment. As most of you well know my town of Lismore was impacted hard by Ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie exactly a week ago. This event resulted in our town experiencing a flood the size of which hadn’t been experienced in more than 30 years. By extension towns such as Murwillumbah, Chindera and Tumbulgum all experienced flooding the size of which hadn’t been experienced in more than a generation. Many people are currently experiencing heart breaking devastation either through their businesses or personally. One of the most revealing parts of the last week has been the efforts people have gone too, to ensure that were possible, everyone affected by the flooding feels included. From free BBQ’s, home cooked meals to donations of everyday living supplies and labour to simply handing bottles of water to those of us cleaning up. What ordinarily may seem insignificant is the very definition of measures of inclusion and support to those who need it.
So as you go about today I want you to remember that simple idea I showed you earlier of the clenched/ released fist and remember these three things:
- Inclusion is not always about the big flashy things often consideration of the small things like ensuring someone can access a ramp or hear someone properly can stop the constant feelings of exclusion from society.
- We are all different but when diversity and inclusion work together, the considerations are the same. They are for our human rights and every time we integrate human rights into our plans, another one of those fists, release themselves
- Probably the most important thing to aide what I have mentioned above is to have an open attitude to learning.
My thanks to the organisers for today and I look forward to sticking around today and participating.