Disability Reference Group

Disability Reference Group 2016–18 

The Commission is pleased to announce that, after a competitive selection process, a new Disability Reference Group 2016–18 (DRG) was appointed in December 2016. The DRG consists of 12 people with a range of disabilities and attributes, including carers of people with disabilities.

  • John Baxter is an advocate on disability rights for the Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander communities. John was also a member of the 2014–16 DRG.
  • Jen Blyth is an advocacy manager for Deaf Victoria and connected to several Deaf committees. Jen is committed to achieving equitable outcomes for people with disabilities.
  • Jax Jacki Brown is a disability and LGBTIQ rights activist, writer, public speaker and disability sexuality educator. She sits on the Gay and Lesbian Foundation of Australia (GALFA) Disability Project Advisory Committee and was named one of the 25 LGBTI people to watch in 2015.
  • Melissa Hale is the Current Coordinator of Disability Advocacy Resource Centre (DARU), assisting disability organisations to use laws to advocate on behalf of people with disabilities. Melissa has previously worked with the Commission.
  • Paul Gianni has had years of experience – both personal and professional – in the disability sector, and is knowledgeable in employment, training and community health in regional Victoria.
  • Piers Gooding is a sibling and carer of a person with disability who is focused on improving accessibility in the spheres of employment and health.
  • Frank Hall-Bentick is a recognised and respected advocate in disability rights both in Victoria and internationally. Frank has been a member of the DRG since 2008.
  • Lauren Henley is a young person who is keen to use her lived experience, and passion for social justice and advocacy, to make a positive contribution to the DRG. Lauren is currently employed at the Youth Disability Advocacy Service.
  • Suzanne Lau Gooey Is a former Oxfam HIV adviser, now working in the disability sector and volunteering as a Community Visitor with the Office of the Public Advocate. This is her fourth term on the DRG since 2010.
  • Brent Philips is Director – Language, Partnerships & Innovation at Vicdeaf, a statewide service provider that seeks to achieve access and equity for Deaf and hard of hearing people in Victoria. Brent has previously worked with the Commission and is currently Co-Chair of the Disability Reference Group.
  • Vince Pirrottina represents the views of those in the quadriplegic (ventilator users) community. He is interested in a building a human rights culture in disability advocacy and is from a CALD background.
  • Natalie Tomas works at the Office of Public Advocate and is passionate about contributing her skills and knowledge as a researcher, policy adviser and systemic advocate.

The DRG will help the Commission to understand how systemic discrimination impacts on the human rights of people with disabilities and will assist the Commission to find solutions to these issues.

The Commission looks forward to a collaborative working relationship with the DRG. The first meeting will be held on 23 February 2017.

If you have any questions about the DRG, please contact:

Liesl Oliver-Burger, Policy and Project Officer. Liesl works Wednesdays to Fridays.
Address: Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Level 3, 204 Lygon Street, Carlton VIC 3053
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: (03) 9032 3480

About the Disability Reference Group

The Disability Reference Group was established so the Commission could hear directly from people with disability about systemic discrimination and human rights issues that impact upon people with disability. The group includes members who have direct experience of disability, parents of children with disability, service providers and advocates.

While some members may come from particular organisations, it is the Commission's expectation that they will provide individual expertise and guidance to the group rather than represent the formal view of their organisation.

The Disability Reference Group meets four times a year and members are appointed for a two-year period.

The views of Disability Reference Group members expressed in public forums may not reflect the views of the Commission.

How the Disability Reference Group works

The DRG will meet with the Commission four times a year. Members are appointed for a term of two years. Members' travel, accommodation, meal and support costs are covered by the Commission.

Confidentiality/Privacy statement: All information collected will be kept confidential. The Commission complies with Victorian privacy laws and the confidentiality provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. View our privacy policy or call us on 1300 891 848 and a copy of our policy can be sent to you.

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