Dr Dinesh Palipana Changing The Inclusion Landscape
14th September 2020
"To improve the world and to grow, you don't need one of the same - you need heaps of different things."
I still remember my excitement when attending TEDxBrisbane in 2018. A particular speaker stood out to me, he spoke of his journey within the disability space following a car accident that changed his life. This speaker had studied law and changed course to study medicine.
During his keynote speech, his determination to pave a better way for people with disability in the future spoke louder than his words.
The speaker was Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM. Afterwards, I had the chance to meet with him and discuss all things inclusion. We hit it off straight away as iron sharpens iron.Dr Dinesh Palipana on his organisation 'Doctors with Disabilities Australia'
We agreed to talk more about what real diversity and inclusion looks like for both employers and people with disability looking for work. Over many calls and text message threads, I noticed Dinesh was intent on creating a network of champions and that he needed more people to spread the message - “Everyone needs to have a chance”.
Now, a slight digression, I feel very blessed to live in a country where so many freedoms are offered with such incredible grace. Coming from a non-English speaking background, I realised early that I was different. I learnt lessons on the playground and in other social circles. During my formative years I found friendships and courage that would craft part of my personality forever.
I realised that some people needed more support in education and knowledge and that these two very powerful tools could have a profound effect against prejudice. If my intention is to be inclusive, am I demonstrating the behaviours that would drive people to engage? How can I communicate the importance that our actions, language and attitudes matter?
New orphanage building under construction at Kirsten Jade Rescue Centre 2019
In December of 2019, I travelled to Mae Taeng in Chiang Mai to build an orphanage building at the Kirsten Jade Rescue Centre. The new building has capacity to house an additional 20 children at the orphanage, who come from displacement, slavery, abandonment and family tragedy. The happiness and joy in the faces of the beautiful children who live with very little and come from such hardship was a very moving experience. This was a project that took great time, planning, many people and resources.
Lesh taking a selfie with children from the Kirsten Jade Rescue Centre 2019
Today, I have the privilege of voice and platform to help more people on a daily basis. Whether it's helping employers to further understand true diversity and inclusion, or helping my team to facilitate finding sustainable work for those in need. This still takes a great deal of time, planning, people and resources, but is something I am equipped to do within my role at Help and with a team of like-minded people behind me.
We are all here for what is ultimately a short time. Everyone deserves the absolute right to be able to achieve their best self. In spite of system or opportunities, we all need to do more to lift others. There is a great saying “Never look down at someone unless you are helping them up”. I think about the world that my children will be left and ask myself, when it comes to employment, will people look at my children’s talents first or their appearance?
Lesh (left) alongside Dinesh (centre) and CEO Greg Luck (right) at Help Employment & Training Head Office
We all have something in us to serve, but I personally believe I always get more out of these experiences than I give. Hearing Dinesh's story in 2018 and subsequently becoming a part of it has given me so much. I hold a deep respect not only for what he has faced, but how he has looked to the future for himself and others who might find themselves in similar circumstances. He remains ever the optimist and maintains a humility and kindness that I could only envy.
Together, we share a passion and determination to change the world for people with disability and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be their best self.
What started off as a keynote speech has turned into a friendship I am grateful to have. Dinesh is both humble and noble, a rare mix, and is someone who I can only aspire to mimic and never to resemble.
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