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The Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) is part of Disability Sport & Recreation (DSR)'s ongoing commitment and mission to have community-led co-design, intersectionality and diverse representation from our disability community.
The DAC has been created to provide consultation and feedback on DSR projects, programs, and initiatives. Their expertise and own various lived experience of disability are invaluable to DSR's vision of a more inclusive sport and recreation sector. The input from the committee will guide the work DSR does, so it stays relevant, accessible, innovative, collaborative and sustainable. All members are paid for their involvement and expert lived experience.
For more information about the DAC, click here.
The following are the biographies of the nine members of our new DAC:
Ash Hem (they/them)
Ash is a 22-year-old, neurodivergent, disabled, queer, Asian and is a passionate advocate for the centering of lived experience. They work to ensure spaces are made for people who are often dismissed because of their backgrounds and identities by sharing their lived experiences, amplifying the lived experiences of others, and supporting others to share their experiences.
Ash is a Peer Practitioner at Drummond Street Services and Online Peer Support Moderator at eHeadSpace. At Drummond Street Services, Ash is a Practitioner for the LGBTIQA+ Disability Project, delivering activities focused on social isolation and connection for those in the LGBTIQA+ and disability community.
Ash has also supported those affected by the Disability Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. At Headspace, Ash works online to facilitate and moderate peer-led group chats centering LGBTQIA+ experiences, general coping and navigating relationships for young Australians, aged 12-25.
Ash is a recent graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Gender Studies from the University of Melbourne.
François Jacobs (he/him)
Hi, I’m François and I’m blind. I have been from birth. I attended a segregated school for blind [and vision impaired] children in South Africa where I’m originally from. I obtained a Bachelor degree in English and Political Science from Stellenbosch University, and after starting out as a telephonist, I upskilled at a financial services company to progress from a call centre role into business analysis.
In 2015, I emigrated and settled here in Melbourne where I worked a number of volunteer and casual jobs. Currently, I am a sessional academic teacher in the Disability and Inclusion pathway at Deakin University where I completed the Graduate Certificate in Disability and Inclusion in 2021.
I also consult on digital accessibility and am currently a Board member of Dog Guide Handlers Australia, Blind Citizens Australia and Description Victoria where I contribute towards making arts experiences more accessible to blind and low vision audiences.
In my younger days, I used to do triathlons up to full Ironman's and ultra-marathons, but nowadays I mostly do much more relaxed recreational running with Achilles Melbourne. I also love reading books that make me think, inclusive theatre and movies. If you want to know more, you’re most welcome to quiz me over a glass of red wine 😊
James Parr (he/him)
James is a 25-year-old proud Indigenous man who lives in Wiradjuri and works on Yorta Yorta land. James is also a part of the LGBTIQA+ community, an amputee and a triathlete. He works as an education support and student welfare officer at 2 primary schools, while studying his Bachelor of Education.
James has worked in schools ever since he finished school himself, learning a lot about disabled youth whilst working at a specialist school and working privately for NDIS participants. He is extremely passionate about disabled youth being involved within the community and educating the community on providing safe, inclusive spaces.
James uses his personal experience of being an able-bodied/non-disabled person who has then become a disabled person, to educate on how spaces and facilities can be more inclusive.
He has also been a part of the Future Healthy Campaign as a Community Champion with VicHealth and sits on the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion Advisory Group for Triathlon Australia.
James is also an agency represented model who is confident, proud and passionate about non-tokenistic representation in the media. James’ mission when doing so is not only to provide representation to the disabled community but to also use his voice and the struggle he went through in becoming confident and owning his disability to take away the negative stigma the word disabled has, and challenge people's perceptions. As part of this, he is a blog writer and has guest spoken on many Podcasts to talk about mental health and disability.
Kate Jennings (she/her)
Kate Jennings is a disabled, chronically ill and queer woman who lives on Wurundjeri land. Kate is a passionate activist across numerous intersections, advocating for the rights of women, non-binary people and girls, people with disabilities and chronic illness, as well as the LGBTQIA+ community.
In her current role as a project manager for the Victorian Government’s sport and recreation group, Kate is driving improvements to strategy, policy, planning, and decision-making using an enhanced evidence-based approach. Kate previously worked for the federal government and in the non-profit sector, and has specific expertise in project management, stakeholder engagement, strategic planning, research, and critical analysis.
Kate has extensive experience in executive roles for numerous non-profits and is currently contributing her advice and experience to advisory committees at Disability Sport & Recreation and Women with Disabilities Australia.
Kate has a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications, Politics and International Studies) from the University of Melbourne and is currently undertaking a Masters in Business Management (Sports Management) at Deakin University..
Kadek Artayana (he/him)
Kadek is a completely blind man who lost all of his vision in two separate traumatic incidents. He emigrated from Bali at the age of 10 and was raised within a multicultural home in Perth. For the last 2 years he has proudly called Melbourne home.
Kadek is very passionate about being active, participating in sports and getting the most out of life. In August 2021 he graduated at the Australian Institute of Fitness with a certificate IV in Personal Training. Since then, he has started his own business focusing on training people to develop confidence in their physical abilities and improve their mental health, as he endeavours to support others to live their best life.
He is currently a blind AFL team member for the 2021 premiership club the mighty Saints! And in 2022 Kadek hopes to compete against sighted people in Brazilian Jujitsu. He is also a keen tandem cyclist and has ridden 900km in 9 days to raise over $15,000.00 for Guide Dogs Victoria. He was inspired to do this to give back to Guide Dogs Victoria after reflecting upon the benefits of receiving his guide dog, Livinia.
Kadek is also passionate about mental health, particularly suicide prevention, as he has personal experience with suicide after struggling with his vision loss. He looks back in gratitude for the experience as a pivotal point in his life. This is why he participates in the Alfred Health Suicide Prevention Committee.
Marijo Požega (he/him)
Marijo is a community worker, counsellor and teacher who has lived with chronic illness throughout his whole life. Marijo was born with congenital heart disease, where his heart had number of defects that were quite rare and very complex to treat. From a young age, he lived with the prognosis that the condition would quickly erode his capacity and that a heart and/or lung transplant would eventually be the only long-term solution. Marijo is a recent transplant recipient and therefore, lives with the challenges of being on anti-rejection medications and a highly immunocompromised status.
He is a host, producer, and presenter of the 3CR Community Radio show called ‘Chronically Chilled’ where he is involved in promoting voices, topics and issues related to disability, chronic illness and mental health – often discussing the intersections of invisible/hidden illness, physical health and mental wellbeing.
Marijo is passionate about creating safe, equitable and inclusive communities that provide access and opportunity for all people. He has had extensive experience in the community sports area as a participant, supporter, coach and event organiser. He views sport and recreation as a great way to create wellbeing, build respectful relationships and bring communities together.
Melissa Hale (she/her)
Melissa is the Coordinator of Disability Advocacy Resource Unit (DARU) which resources and builds the capacity of the disability advocacy sector in Victoria. Through her work, Melissa supports disability advocates by finding them training, professional development and further resources, thereby helping them in their role as supporters and advocates for people with disabilities.
In addition to this, Melissa is a part of the 2021 cohort of the Williamson Leadership Program with Leadership Victoria, a mentor for Paralympics Australia and the Head of Deaf Women’s Cricket with Deaf Cricket Australia and Cricket Australia. She is also a member of the Accessible Transport Advisory Committee with the Victorian Government Department of Transport and Board Director of Expression Australia.
Melissa is a proud Deaf woman, married to James and together they have four young teenagers and an overgrown puppy, Jack. Sport is a huge part of Melissa’s world, with her whole family kicking goals in their own sports, and her passion for creating opportunities for Deaf and hard of hearing people to grow and thrive through cricket. Through her passion, perseverance and an unwavering dedication, Melissa has made cricket more inclusive for deaf women and girls all across the country!
Stevie Russel-Farnham (she/her)
Stevie is a bisexual woman with lived experience of physical and psycho-social disability who resides in Cairns, Queensland with her fiancé/dance partner and two black rescue cats. With a diverse and rewarding career spanning education, community services, finance and the military, Stevie has 20+ years’ experience working with people of all ages - children, youth, adults and seniors.
A passionate disability, veteran, LGBTQIA+, mental health advocate and activist, Stevie specialises in empowered leadership, emotional resilience, and goal setting. Stevie enjoys consulting for forward thinking leaders who are committed to driving change and championing equity, inclusion, accessibility and representation for all.
Stevie values disability sports and recreation immensely and the opportunities that participating, playing, coaching and volunteering offer. Sports and recreational activities provide invaluable opportunities for participants to practice new skills, develop self-esteem, build confidence, learn teamwork and also to master a craft and reach their full potential.
Stevie has fond childhood memories of gymnastics, basketball, squad swimming and soccer and teenage years spent hiking, rock-climbing, abseiling, canoeing, scuba diving and skydiving. In her adult years Stevie, takes flying lessons and competes in Ballroom and Latin dancing competitions around the country.
Despite her health challenges, sport and recreation continues to be a significant part of Stevie’s life and she continues to enjoy the community spirit, friendship, happiness, and sense of wellbeing that participation brings. She is humbled to join the DSR team and excited to contribute in 2022!
Zac Chu (he/him)
Zac is an award-winning teenage international activist and volunteer with a culturally and linguistically diverse background and a disability, who is a member of many organisations across a variety of fields mainly in climate change, youth empowerment, consumer representation in healthcare, diplomacy and international affairs, disability and carer support, as well as multicultural and ethnic advocacy. Besides sitting on several advisory groups in both public and private sectors, he is an ambassador of various communities. Zac is also an active contributor to research projects.
When Zac is not busy pursuing his tertiary education or nurturing Diet to Save Earth, a youth-led non-government organisation founded by him, he enjoys different sports. He is a keen sailor with a dinghy proficiency level 1 license and junior membership of the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria. Furthermore, he is a member of Melbourne High School's junior team for ultimate frisbee, which is the runner-up team in the 2021 Ultimate Victoria Secondary School State Championships.
Zac is excited to help ensure increased inclusion and diversity in sports participation and to ultimately support and encourage more Victorians/people with disability to be leading more active lifestyles and having greater positive outcomes.
Join Our Movement - Become a DSR member!
Every new person who joins as a member of Disability Sport & Recreation adds support to our vision of a Victoria where people with disability can choose and access any sport or recreation they want to engage with. Best of all, membership is free.
To find out more about becoming a Disability Sport & Recreation member, click here.
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