Outstanding contribution recognised

December 3, 2020 BY

INSET: Ainslee worked with the City of Melbourne to help identify ways to improve its Disability Advisory Committee, so that members could adequately address access and inclusion issues.

ARMSTRONG Creek resident and applied anthropologist Ainslee Hooper was last week honoured with the Employment Award, one of four accolades awarded as part of the 2020 Geelong Awards for People with a Disability by the City of Greater Geelong.

The awards celebrate people living with a disability in Greater Geelong who are doing outstanding work in advocacy, leadership and empowering others, and in their contributions to volunteering, at work or in the community.

“This award is definitely one of my biggest highlights, both personally and professionally. I love what I do, so to receive this award was icing on the cake. This year has been very quiet on the personal front due to COVID-19, so it has been all business, business, business,” Ainslee said.

“It’s important that the issues that people with disabilities are faced with are given more attention. We are 20 per cent of the population of Australia, so it’s not like we are a small group of people, and yet we are 40 years behind women when it comes to equality, and 10 years behind Indigenous Australians. So we not only need to celebrate people with disabilities, but we need to do something about these issues.”

As founder and director of Ainslee Hooper Consulting, Ainslee assists businesses to identify opportunities to remove invisible barriers through a holistic approach to accessibility – helping to make their business more inclusive and increase profitability.

Most recently, Ainslee worked with the City of Melbourne to help identify ways to improve its Disability Advisory Committee, so that members could adequately address access and inclusion issues.

“I loved being able to interview each member of the DAC to gather insights and form a narrative which explained the findings, and why the recommendations I was making were necessary,” Ainslee said.

This incredible award and achievement was announced days before International Day of People with a Disability, which is today.

“I think it’s great that we have a day to recognise people with disabilities. There are so many great disability advocates out there,” Ainslee said.

“As an anthropologist, I sit back and see how disability is situated in society and how this changes. I would have to say that it has been really exciting how society has adapted during COVID-19, like remote working for example. I felt like people with disabilities were finally being understood and our needs met.

“The flip side to that is, we have been asking for remote working and other benefits those without disabilities have been enjoying for decades, that we were told time and time again were not possible. Being an anthr

opologist with a disability is both fascinating and conflicting.”

Outside of her work Ainslee is heavily involved in powerlifting, something she got into after suffering from a nervous breakdown.

“Being a wheelchair user I only compete in benchpress, but I get to compete with all my friends and my partner, who compete in all three lifts [bench, squat and deadlift]. I love that the sport is so inclusive. I’m the only wheelchair-user I’ve seen at meets but I’m competing exactly like everyone else,” Ainslee said.

“Powerlifting has become a way of helping me to manage my anxiety. I love being on the bench and not being able to think about anything else; it just makes everything else silent. I really missed being able to visit the gym during COVID-19 so being back amongst my friends is amazing. I feel very lucky to have found a sport I love, a group of people who encourage me, and to be working for myself doing what I love.”

Ainslee is proudly outspoken in this space and uses her social media platform and podcast series to educate the community on different ways that business and the community can provide an equitable, inclusive and diverse environment for those living with a disability.

For more information please head to ainsleehooper.com.au or follow her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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