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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Meet Kat Reed: new leader of Women with Disabilities ACT

Kat Reed is the new leader of Women with Disabilities ACT (WWDACT) and she intends to double-down on the existing gendered advocacy for Canberra’s 41,000 women, girls, female-identifying and non-binary people with disability.

Ms Reed said WWDACT is a “progressive organisation based on feminist principles”, working to create a supportive community and develop policy to eliminate systemic disadvantage at the intersection of gender discrimination and disability discrimination.

Statistics for women with disabilities ACT

Women with a disability make up more than 50% of the ACT’s disabled population, yet only 34% of local NDIS recipients.

In line with national trends, women with disabilities in the ACT have significantly lower labour force participation than men with disabilities (65% compared to 80%).

They are 40% more likely to be victims of domestic violence and experience sexual victimisation at rates four to 10 times higher than women without a disability.

Disabilities and leadership

Although Ms Reed has only been CEO of WWDACT since last November, she is not new to the organisation, having already produced a showcase of the artistic talents of Canberra’s women with disabilities.

Her advocacy began at university when her own lived experience with mental health led to disability activism, politics, and attendance at the Disability Leadership Institute.

“At the moment, people who are disabled aren’t seen as people who can lead,” Ms Reed said.

“It’s one of those weird dichotomies where we’re seen as inspirational but also not qualified to be in positions of leadership in conventional ways.

“For ages I didn’t realise you could identify as a person with a disability because of mental health.

“As time went on and my mental health didn’t exactly suddenly improve, I began to see it as a chronic illness that I deal with on a regular basis.

“At uni I was needing to apply for special consideration so I kind of felt like I had experience navigating my mental health, and needing a workplace and study environment that took that into account was really important.”

WWDACT membership and programs

WWDACT have around 160 members and are working on expanding their multicultural involvement.

Ms Reed said diversifying their membership base was “complex” due to the tendency for some people from a multicultural background to not identify with the word disability.

“We need to educate people and destigmatise the word so more people feel empowered to use it and use it to describe their experience, rather than see it as a hindrance,” she said.

“Our membership definitely needs that diversity, along with more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

WWDACT run various programs including their successful parenting group, which Ms Reed hopes to continue.

She said a significant number of their members “feel shamed” by the medical profession for wanting to be parents.

“A lot of women feel encouraged by doctors not to have children and don’t feel supported by their doctor when they do. They are seen as not being capable to be mothers.

“There is still this idea that a disability is a bad thing, therefore why would you want your children to be brought into the world, if it’s a possibility.”

Visit wwdact.org.au for more.

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