Four outstanding local achievers were celebrated for their contributions to the community at the ceremony for the Geelong Awards for People with a Disability on Monday February 5 at the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre.
This year’s honours went to Chris Hall for Achievement, Dr Melanie Thomson for Leadership, Kirrily Hayward for Advocacy, and Linda Stokoe for Volunteering and Employment.
The awards event, a genU and City of Greater Geelong initiative, recognised the impressive achievements of people with a disability living in the Geelong region. The event doubled as the opening for the 2018 VALiD Having a Say conference.
genU Chief Executive Officer Mike McKinstry said the awards have again shined a spotlight on the incredible contributions of people with a disability.
“We received another outstanding batch of nominations for the 2018 awards, which made judging really difficult,” Mike said. “We’re proud of all the achievements of everyone who was nominated and these awards continue Geelong’s emergence as the centre of excellence for leadership, innovation and best practice in the area of disability.”
The Geelong Awards for People with a Disability are supported by the Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability (VALiD), Barwon Disability Resource Council (BDRC), K Rock, Bay 93.9, Geelong Advertiser and AdCell Group. genU’s Australian Disability Enterprise, Seasons, catered the event.
Achievement Award – Chris Hall
Leopold local Chris Hall barely knew anything about Motor Neurone Disease until he lost a dear friend to the debilitating condition in 2015. After learning that there is no cure for the disease, it made Chris determined to raise money and support the cause. Over the past couple of years, Chris has wheeled up and down the waterfront of Eastern Beach, fundraising along the way through donations and live music events. This has helped him to build up his fitness while also drawing attention to his charity efforts. Chris has volunteered at a local aged care facility, Uniting Care facility, and primary school. His persistence throughout the last two years has been nothing short of inspirational. Congratulations, Chris.
Leadership Award – Dr Melanie Thomson
Dr Melanie Thomson is an experienced medical research scientist who has worked and studied in her field for over 20 years. While running her own research lab at the Deakin Medical School, Melanie was diagnosed with tumefactive Multiple Sclerosis in 2014. Since her MS diagnosis, which is now treated and under control, Melanie’s skills have been utilised as a patient advocate – giving her the unique position of understanding the challenges of having a disability while being able to empathise with the difficulties faced by medical researchers. After moving on from her role as a research scientist, Melanie has been a significant advocate for women in science and is now employed by a national not-for-profit medical company. This led her to meeting the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, in March 2017. Congratulations, Melanie.
Advocacy Award – Kirrily Hayward
Kirrily Hayward is well-recognised in the Geelong community as a disability and equal rights advocate. An integral part of the Geelong campaign for marriage equality, Kirrily used her respected public standing to advocate for LGBTIQ people with a disability through the “In Bed Project”. Living in an aged care facility, Kirrily has turned a potential hindrance into a way to speak of on behalf of all young people living in nursing homes. Kirrily’s warm and inviting nature has led to her developing a huge friendship group and professional network. She volunteers for a number of organisations, is adept in social media management, and heavily promotes ‘rainbow’ rallies and LGBTIQ people with a disability. Congratulations, Kirrily.
Volunteering & Employment Award – Linda Stokoe
A leader in the Geelong region, Linda Stokoe is a peer educator and co-researcher on the Sexual Lives and Respectful Relationships program, employed by Deakin University as part of the initiative. Ran in collaboration with community organisations, the program advocates for the sexuality and respectful relationships rights for people with an intellectual disability. Further to this, Linda presented at the VALiD Having a Say Conference in February last year, and Melbourne University’s Sex, Sexuality and the Rights of People with Disability conference in April 2017. A strong leader, a great listener and a powerful advocate, Linda uses her own personal experiences to reflect with her peers on the best way to further the rights of people with a disability. Congratulations, Linda.