Tag Archives: gender equality

Equal access to Education

Jerusha Mather is an enduring voice of equality for disabled students seeking access into courses that they are grossly underrepresented in. Her personal journey began in Sri Lanka, where at birth, the doctors told her parents that she would never walk or talk, later she was officially diagnosed with cerebral palsy. In Australia, she received strenuous and heavy therapy and began to see drastic improvements in her physical heath.

“I was able to walk and talk – although it was not perfect, it was something of a miracle to me.”

At school, she joined the advanced maths group and was invited to participate in a statewide maths tournament. She was a Kwong Lee Dow Scholar at Melbourne University and the first to become social justice captain in high school however during her VCE exams, she was not given appropriate support.

“I was not even offered a scribe which made things challenging for me”

Despite the odds, Mather was accepted into a Biomedical Science Degree at Victoria University, a step closer to fulfilling her plan to become a Doctor.

Gender equality that has enabled women to become medical professionals has given female patients access to female doctors that share similar anatomy and conditions. For disabled patients, the opportunity to benefit from a truly empathetic doctor in a similar situation is highly unlikely.

“I believe it is because of, and not in spite, of my disability that I will make an excellent candidate to become a doctor. I have a sense of empathy unmatched by my colleagues, understanding of life with a chronic health condition and remarkable patience.”

Media Shot

As a patient, Mather has experienced the spectrum of health care professionals, the good and bad. She is motivated to be part of a generation of doctors where communication and compassion are paramount tools. Mather drew inspiration from the recognised and notable work of Dr Janice Brunstrom; a paediatric neurologist in the USA who has cerebral palsy.

“My career aspirations are also in neurology, though her dedication to her profession, continuous development, and desire to utilise her disability to her advantage have been a true motivational force for me.” Mather

Disability effects a high proportion of the community yet most have been denied pathways to medical training due to both direct and indirect discrimination by educational authorities. In some instances, disability discrimination is overt and direct; in others, it is founded on lack of knowledge of disability issues and inclusion practices. By law, educational facilities are to make ‘Reasonable Adjustments’ for their disabled students however the definition is vague and broad.

Curriculum adaptation needed; curriculum limited; or curriculum needs not addressed. Components of courses or post-qualification employment not accessible HumanRights.gov.au

Not enough has been done regarding curriculum needs and adaptation for people with disability. Academic courses for general qualifications contain areas that such a student with cannot complete or access. This creates difficulties with enrolment (advice and information issues), with granting qualifications or accreditation, and with post-qualification work or profession.

“There are still quite a few internal barriers for someone like me who wants to become a doctor. One of the major barriers is passing the GAMSAT. Now Section 2 is quite straight forward because I can type that section. Nonetheless, section 1 and 3 requires a fair bit of handwriting which is extremely difficult for me to complete. I think there is an unrealistic expectation for people with a physical disability to do it all in their head, which is merely impossible given the nature and complexity of such a test. I do not think that this is the only concern here, every student must undertake an interview, in which I fear the possibility of discrimination.”

Due to ACER, being an independent organization, students with disability do not get appropriate funded disability support to help them prepare for the required tests.  Students with disability require a levelled playing field, where all get the same chance.

“Although the university was very supportive, we did find it difficult, however, to source appropriate academic support staff. Thus, some of my academic support workers came late to class. Some of them did not write quality notes. Some did not facilitate my independence. Some did not understand what was required of them. Admittedly, it was a bit disappointing to see.

One of the most hurtful experiences I have ever had was when a doctor (with a disability) suggested I should be a ‘grocer’. He was the last person I expected to hear it from. I also had a lot of online trolls saying negative things about me. I was bullied a lot by past mentors and GAMSAT tutors.”

Mather believes that there are various specialties that a person with a disability can display excellent competence in and demonstrate safe clinical practices such as pathology, radiology, rehab medicine and general practice.

“I am completing my honors in biomedical sciences at RMIT University this year and am hoping to do further research, but I hope that one day, I will be serving you as a doctor.”

Please sign my petition here to produce an alternative pathway for prospective medical students with disability:

https://www.change.org/p/australian-medical-schools-alternative-entry-scheme-pathway-for-aspiring-medical-students-with-disabilities

 

 

 

 

The Man who United our Nation

The Lonely Hero

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Lionel Rose was unaware of the National Pride that he had evoked. When the plane landed back in Melbourne in 1968, thousands of well dressed white people cheered from the tarmac and balconies to welcome home the Aboriginal Star. A convertible was parked awaiting his arrival.

” Who are all these people waiting for ?” Rose asked the Air-hostess. He thought that maybe a The Beatles had arrived at Essendon Airport.

“You” she replied.

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Lionel Rose was a National Boxing Hero after he won the Bantamweight Title by beating Masahiko ‘Fighting’ Harada, the Japanese Champion in Tokyo.

People had sent gum leaves over to Japan in support of the young boxer.

Lionel Rose was propped up at the back of the convertible so that the roaring crowd could get a good look at him and shake his hand as he passed. A ticker-tape parade down Swanston Street had been arranged, and the street was lined with 100,000 Melbournians, cheering the Aboriginal man. He went on to become The Australian of the Year in 1968.

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Aboriginal people had been granted Australian Citizenship in 1967 which meant that Rose could obtain a passport, buy land and obtain legal rights. The constitutional Referendum, to allow Aboriginals rights, was voted in favour by 90.77 of the population, on the 27th of May. Rose won the Title on 26th of Feb, which meant that the 19-year-old had been an Australian Citizen for 9 months. Rose was a Celebrity for both Aboriginals and Caucasians, when the fight against racism was still on shaky turf.

Rose was the first Original Australian to be named Australian of the Year. When accepting the award, he said;

“One hundred and eighty-two years ago one of my mob would have been a dead cert for this.” (www.australianoftheyear.org.au)

RECONCILIATION WEEK May 27 – June 3