5 February 2016
PWDA is deeply saddened at the death yesterday of one of our founders, Faye Druett. PWDA President, Craig Wallace pays tribute to Faye in this statement.
Faye was a pioneer of the disability rights movement in Australia, fighting in both her personal and professional life to ensure that people with disability could take their rightful place in the community.
Faye worked her entire life to improve life for people with a disability, particularly those who were most marginalised and disadvantaged. Faye often said that we needed to have the people without a voice in front of us all the time.
She fought against institutions, big and small, where people with disability were locked away and locked out of the community. Faye had been sent to a ‘special school’, so as a teenager she decided to never again be so segregated from the mainstream, and that no one else should be either.
In her personal life, she successfully fought for many years for a close friend to be free of institutions and to be able to live in the community.
She was recognised for her work in 2010 with an Order of Australia Medal for her ‘service to the community, particularly through executive and advocacy roles with organisations assisting people with a disability’.
Faye was part of the first disability rights team at the Australian Human Rights Commission, working on the launch and implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. She managed the Women’s Unit at the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) making longstanding connections between ACON, people living with HIV, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer community and PWDA.
Faye was a valued member of the PWDA Board and Executive for many years, a past CEO of PWDA and an early champion for our organisation when we were the Handicapped Persons Alliance and then Disabled Peoples International (NSW). She was indomitable, unwavering and the stalwart of our movement. When she spoke it mattered. She pushed us to do governance well and reminded us when we didn’t.
While she was CEO in the late 1990s she was at the front of the legal fight for the closure of institutions in NSW which was the catalyst for the closure of a number of large residential institutions.
On behalf of PWDA, Faye actively participated on the working groups for the 1994 World Assembly of Disabled Peoples International (DPI) that was held in Sydney that year. She also co-led the PWDA delegation to the 2007 DPI World Assembly held in Korea.
Faye believed passionately in organisations run by people with disability, for people with disability. She worked to support the development of the Aboriginal Disability Network NSW and remained a highly valued Associate Member. She also participated in the Pacific Disability Forum to assist other disabled peoples organisations throughout the region.
Even in her retirement, Faye was still working to improve access in her local community, serving on the Byron Shire Council Access Advisory Committee.
Faye lived the mantra the ‘personal is political’ and she supported and mentored many people with disability, including current members, board members and employees of PWDA to become strong advocates in their own lives. She held numerous meetings and events in her own home on many evenings and weekends on actions and campaigns for the rights of people with disability. Many people with disability will have their own stories of how Faye influenced their lives.
Faye was there at the beginning of PWDA in the 1980s, saying on our 30th anniversary that:
“If you want to work hard with committed people, who are working towards ensuring the rights of and inclusion of all people with disability in an equitable community come and join us. I wouldn’t have done anything else in the last thirty years but work, in various capacities, for People with Disability Australia.”
PWDA extends our sincere condolences to Faye’s friends and family. A memorial for Faye, to honour her leadership and the immense contribution she made to disability rights and freedoms, will be announced shortly.