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Leadership and diversity – Challenging Assumptions


25 June 2014

Guest Blogger: Mowenna Collett

In Australia there are often discussion about the lack of diversity in leadership positions across the country.

There are several groups that are generally underrepresented and solutions often turn to setting targets or quotas to increase under-represented groups. One such group that would benefit from being prioritised, not to mention one with a lot of untapped capacity, are people with disability.

1 in 5 Australians experience disability yet this ratio is not currently reflected in our workforce let alone in our governance and leadership roles. Given their high presence within our population, people with disability are very much an under-utilised resource especially when we consider the significant contributions they make. Indeed, sometimes the experience of exclusion and (lack of) involvement experienced by people with disability has made some of our strongest and most effective leaders. But the medical-model attitudes held by many in society has led many disabled people to doubt themselves so deeply that their leadership potential is unrealised.

The Australia Council for the Arts is bringing UK based thought leader Jo Verrent to Australia to present a series of public forums to explore reasons for this current phenomenon. These forums will appeal to anyone from leadership , business, the arts or disability sectors.

Through her forums, held Australia-wide, Jo will examine the barriers that are faced by people with disability in achieving their peak performance and how these issues can be addressed. More importantly, Jo will talk about why we should care about all of this and what people with disability have to offer in terms of leadership.

As the Disabiltiy Coordinator of the Australia Council, I am proud that we are bringing Jo to Australia to share her knowledge and raise awareness of these important issues. These events align well with our organisation’s Disability Action Plan and commitment to improving access to the arts for all Australians.

Jo speciailses in the development of diversity and access. She is an artist, consultant and producer with disability, and is the cofounder of Sync, a training program that focuses on the interplay between leadership and disability. The Sync model provides fresh perspectives, challenging deep seated thinking about leadership. Jo is also the Senior Producer for the Unlimited Festival in London, that undertakes a 3-million pound commission programme for disabled artists from the UK.

Jo will also be a keynote speaker at the annual Marketing Summit – “The Arts of Connectivity” being held in Hobart on 30 June and 1 July. She will be returning to Australia again in October to run the Sync Leadership Program for Australian leaders with disability (more details on how to apply at the Australia Council website) and address the biennial Arts Activated conference as a keynote speaker in Sydney (28-29 October). Between her Australian visits, Jo will be working on London’s 2014 Unlimited Festival.

(In other Unlimited Festival news, South Australian choreographer/dancer Michelle Ryan will be presenting her work “Intimacy” at this years festival – the first Australian work to be presented at this festival. Good luck Michelle!).

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear Jo speaking in Adelaide on Wednesday 9 July 2014, 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM at Adelaide Festival Centre. If you wish to attend it is essential to RSVP by email to to confirm your attendance. Please RSVP by Friday 28 June 2014.

Morwenna Collett is the Disability Coordinator at the Australia Council for the Arts and is responsible for the development and implementation of the organisation’s Disability Action Plan. She has previously been the Program Manager of both the Music and Business Development Sections at the Australia Council, and has also worked as an Arts Development Officer for the Dance and Music section at Arts Queensland. Morwenna holds Masters and Bachelors degrees, as well as the University Medal, from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University and is a keen flautist. Morwenna also identifies as a person with disability.