By Natalie Walsh and Mary Webb, MSA National Advocates program
What an honour and delight to be present at the National Disability Awards, where MS Australia National Advocates Coordinator Robert Pask won the Excellence in Advocacy & Rights Promotion Award at the 2013 National Disability Awards at Parliament House, presented by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield on Wednesday 26 November 2013.
Senator Fifield commented that, “This year’s field was exemplary, with many committed recipients whose work has helped improve the lives of Australians with disability and their families.”
As we know, Robert is a wonderful advocate for people living with disability and chronic illness. After being appointed as one of the initial ‘Advocacy Champions’ back in June 2004 (where we had one rep from each state MS society), he realised that model was not working effectively, and was instrumental in revamping the program in 2008. Together, Robert, Alan Blackwood and Michael Summers transformed the now MS National Advocates program into a ‘well-oiled machine’ comprising around triple the number of advocates from across Australia, and giving us purpose, training, well-researched and credible background information, and fantastic support for our endeavours.
On the night of the Awards presentation, in Robert’s usual style, politicians and other advocates and key players in the disability sector were all chatting with Robert, including Mitch Fifield, Senator Claire Moore and Jenny Macklin MP, who all praised Robert for his well-deserved win. Sue Salthouse, who had also been nominated for an award, told Mary how she tells everyone thinking of lobbying: “Just look at what MS are doing. They’re the gold standard!”
With over 200 nominations received across nine categories, 29 finalists were acknowledged for going above and beyond to achieve great outcomes for people living with disability. The categories featured at the 7th Disability Awards mirror the principles of the NDIS. It was a spectacular night celebrating true champions for all that they do.
Hosted by fabulous MC Tim Ferguson and entertainment provided by Rachel Leahcar (of The Voice), dancers Paul Mately and Sue-Ellen Shook and Emotion 21, and dubbed by Tim as the Logies without the scandal, one thing was for sure—it was a wonderful night and great celebration was had by all.