Australian perspectives on disability and social inclusion

Australia as a compassionate and just society

Harvard Law School | 25 February 2020

Register now

  • Date8.30am-2pm
    25 February 2020

  • WhereHarvard Law School
    The Morgan Courtroom
    Austin Hall 308

  • DateFree, registration preferred but not essential

Join leading experts at four interconnected workshops exploring and critiquing initiatives making headway for persons with disabilities in Australia. Discover and unpack why the current landscape is also causing some disabled populations to experience exclusion and the deprivation of their human rights. 

Major changes across a multitude of social policy and program areas in Australia has led to newfound social capital for many persons with disabilities. Namely, the Australian Federal Government’s decision to allocate budget for Royal Commissions, investigating the abuse of older persons and violence against persons with disabilities, has snowballed an evident political and social paradigm shift.

Previously silenced populations have been given a voice through the increased use of supported decision-making initiatives, such as Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Despite these initiatives and social shifts for some disabled populations, other populations continue to experience exclusion and deprivation of their human rights. 

Join us at Harvard Law School in a series of free interconnected workshops where American and Australian professionals will explore topics of inclusion in Australia, encouraging the cross-fertilisation of ideas internationally.

Open to everyone. Committee on Australian Studies at Harvard, the Harvard Law School Project on Disability and the University of Queensland encourages attendance for any, or all sessions, as guests are welcome to drop in and out throughout the day.

Time Session

Session 1: Indigenous Australians with disabilities

Intersectionality in a space of ‘not yet’ ready: On being the only Indigenous, vision impaired academic in Australia.
Dr Sheelagh Daniels-Mayes


Session 2: Children and young people with disabilities who have intersecting vulnerabilities

Refugee children with disabilities in Australia: Rights, access to support, and barriers to inclusion.
Dr Joseph Lelliott

Services to young people with complex support needs in rural and regional Australia:  Beyond a metro-centric response.
Dr Kathy Ellem


Session 3: Universal legal capacity and decision making support and protections for persons with disabilities

From exclusion to empowered agents: Norm lifecycles and cascades
Professor Tim Dunne, PVC

Children with disabilities and supported medical decision-making.
Professor John Devereux

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability: Progress update
Associate Professor Paul Harpur


Session 4: Working and studying in the academy with a disability

Persons with complex and profound disabilities entering the academy: The disability courageous university
Ms Jordan Akhurst

Nothing about us unless it is led by us: Realising a vision for ability equality in the academy.
Professor Tim Dunne PVC and Associate Professor Paul Harpur


Speaker biographies

Ms Jordan Akhurst

As Senior Manager, Workplace Diversity and Inclusion, Jordan is responsible for contributing to the delivery and leadership of The University of Queensland’s workplace diversity and inclusion portfolio.  She manages a team to provide evidence and strengths-based diversity and inclusion training, policy, strategy, programs and initiatives. These various programs and initiatives aim to cover all areas of diversity and inclusion, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, gender, cultural and linguistic diversity, disability and LGBTIAQ+.

Dr Sheelagh Daniels-Mayes

Dr Daniels-Mayes is an Indigenous Australian Kamilaroi woman originally from north-western NSW. She joined the Sydney School of Education and Social Work in 2017 as a Fellow in the Wingara Mura Leadership Program. In 2016, Dr Daniels-Mayes completed her doctorate titled: Culturally Responsive Pedagogies of Success: Improving educational outcomes for Australian Aboriginal students, at the University of South Australia. She has studied in the areas of education, criminology and psychology.

Dr Daniels-Mayes’s experience also includes working with the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Adelaide City Council Access and Inclusion Panel, and the SA Minister’s Disability Advisory Committee. She facilitated the writing of Vision Australia’s Reconciliation Plan (RAP seeking to make the organization more culturally savvy for Aboriginal peoples who are blind or have low vision). Prior to returning to university to study education, Dr Daniels-Mayes worked as a Senior Project Officer with the NSW Department of Corrective Services, developing programs to lower the re-offending rates of Aboriginal peoples across the state. Dr Daniels-Mayes has had a diverse work history having been a counsellor with organisations like the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON), the Salvation Army and Oasis Youth Support Network.


Professor John Devereux

Professor Devereux has a special interest in medical law, most notably in the areas of competency to consent to medical treatment and in epilepsy and the law. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Australasian College of Legal Medicine.  A Rhodes Scholar, Professor Devereux has worked as a lawyer in a variety of contexts including as a barrister, as a consultant to a multi-national law firm, a Law Reform Commissioner for Queensland, a legal member of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and the legal member of the Health Quality and Complaints Commission. He currently serves as a member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. As a member of the Australian Defence Force, Professor Devereux has seen active service in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was awarded a Bronze Star by the United States for his service.

Professor Tim Dunne, Pro-Vice Chancellor

As Pro-Vice-Chancellor (PVC), Professor Dunne is the senior executive at The University of Queensland for people and culture.  He is in charge of developing and shaping policies and procedures that promote excellence and diversity.  The PVC works with Ms Jordan Akhurst and Associate Professor Paul Harpur on the UQ Disability Inclusion Group and has championed this group with success in the University Senate. Prior to his current position, he was the Executive Dean of UQ’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and a Professor of International Relations in the School of Political Science.  In recognition of his scholarly contribution, Professor Dunne was elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences Australia in 2016.

Dr Kathy Ellem

Dr Ellem has been a scholar, social worker, advocate and ally in the field of disability for more than two decades.  She is a member of the Queensland Board of the Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability, a committee member of Queensland Advocacy Incorporated (a systems and legal advocacy service for people with disabilities). She is also Vice President of Community Living Association, a small non-government agency which provides community supports to people with intellectual and cognitive disability and young people at risk. Dr Ellem is a chief investigator on an ARC Linkage project on the experiences of transition for young people with complex support needs. This project spans three Australian states and explores cross-sector collaboration between many agencies, including educational settings, out-of-home care, supported accommodation settings, health, mental health, disability, and youth justice services.

Associate Professor Paul Harpur

Associate Professor Harpur is an international and comparative disability law scholar who is currently at Harvard Law School as a visiting academic on a Fulbright Future Scholarship. He is an academic fellow with the Harvard Law School Project on Disability and an international distinguished fellow with the Burton Blatt Institute, Syracuse University.  He is an Associate Professor at The University of Queensland where he chairs the UQ Disability Inclusion Group.  Outside academia he sits on a number of renumerated boards in the disability sector, is a special advisor at a national industrial relations law firm and is a former Paralympian.

Dr Joseph Lelliott

Dr Lelliott is a lecturer at The University of Queensland’s School of Law.  His principal areas of research concern forms of transnational organised crime, especially smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons, and international human rights law, with a strong focus on the rights of the child. His broader research interests include immigration and refugee law, criminal law, and the various issues that intersect with irregular migration. He has served as an expert consultant to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna and Bangkok, working on various projects relating to smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons including the second edition of the Legislative Guides for the Trafficking in Persons Protocol.

Supported by

Harvard Law School Project on Disability







Australian perspectives on disability and social inclusion

Australia as a compassionate and just society

Harvard Law School | 25 February 2020

The Morgan Courtroom, Austin Hall 308
1563 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge
Cambridge, MA 02138 United States

Register now