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Department of Premier and Cabinet

Premier’s Disability Advisory Council (PDAC) members

John Stevens - Community Chair

Until he recently retired in 2017, John was the City Engineer for the Clarence City Council. With over 40 years’ experience as a Civil Engineer, John was responsible for city infrastructure such as roads, footpaths, storm water and parks as well as service provision for waste management, sport, recreation and natural resources. This experience has led to an understanding of the critical importance that assets and services play in promoting access and social inclusion for the community.

John has been profoundly deaf since 2010 and has bi-lateral Cochlear Implants. He is particularly interested in governance and indicators used to gauge progress in the achievement of the Disability Framework for Action as well as promoting awareness of the issues faced by the hearing impaired.

Rebecca Astell

Rebecca is employed as a member of the Professional Development team at Possability. She is a board member at the Speak Out Association of Tasmania and in 2015 was awarded the MAIB Disability Achievement Award for her work with the Speak Out Association of Tasmania.

David Cawthorn

Chair, Minister's Disability Advisory Committee

A paraplegic since an accident in December 1993, David offers a consumer perspective on living with disability. He is currently Chairperson of ParaQuad Tasmania Inc and also a Volunteer Liaison Officer.

Over the past 17 years, David has been involved in various committees and boards including the Hobart City Council Access Advisory Committee, Spine Safe Educate, and Physical Disability Sports Program. David has worked as a Volunteer Access Auditor since 2002 and sees inclusion of people with a disability in community life as a key priority. He has strong beliefs that people with disability should be able to live in an inclusive society and offer a consumer perspective on living with disability. David also believes that all houses being built today should be of Universal design that can be adapted in later life if required.

Virginia Case

After 20 years in the workforce, Virginia gained a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Tasmania in 1998. Since graduating she has worked in front-line service delivery in social housing, and as a project officer and business analyst in health related IT projects.

Various family and personal health issues have given Virginia an understanding of problems faced by individuals and their carers on a daily basis. She has experienced her own challenges with "hidden" disability after being diagnosed with MS in 2013. Unfortunately, a major health crisis in mid-2016 saw her level of physical disability increase suddenly and significantly.

Virginia is a participant in the UTas Clinical School's Patient Partner Program, and assists the Menzies Research Institute with the Australian Multiple Sclerosis Longitudinal Study, reviewing the relevance and structure of questionnaires before they are sent out to nearly 4,000 AMSLS registered participants.

As a business analyst with a strong focus on process (working smarter not harder) and improving "organisation/client interfaces", Virginia believes she will be able to use these skills, and her own experiences with disability, to contribute positively as a member of PDAC.

Biannca Clark

Biannca holds a Bachelor of Education (Primary) degree and has been working as a relief teacher and a teachers’ assistant in the Learning Support area at Newstead College for the past three years. During this time, Biannca has worked with a diverse range of students (eg Down Syndrome, Autism, ADHD and Cerebral Palsy), modifying curricular content, enabling them to reach and achieve their full potential.

Living with Cerebral Palsy, Biannca is determined and passionate to ensure that all individuals regardless of disability, ability, socio-economic or religious background are participating in an all-inclusive equal society and have their needs catered for fully.

Katherine Elliston

Katherine is a Psychology PhD Candidate at the University of Tasmania. Alongside her studies, she has worked in disability and aged care for the past five years. During this time, Katherine has worked with individuals across all ages and ability levels in one-on-one environments and has facilitated group programs. She is also actively involved in several disability-related programs, advocacy roles and community organisations.

Katherine has a younger brother who has an intellectual disability. This has taught her the importance of ensuring inclusive practices in day-to-day living and fostering independence and choice wherever possible.

Katherine is passionate about reducing the barriers people with disability face and empowering people with disability to create meaningful lives.

Ara Popowski

Ara Popowski is principal at Circular Head Christian School which is located in the township of Smithton. For many years, Ara has been the Learning Support Coordinator and continues to work in that role. Ara began her educational career in 2002 as a teacher aide after spending many years assisting learning in the classroom in a voluntary capacity, as a parent helper. She has a passion to see all students develop regardless of their abilities and believes with appropriate supports, everyone is capable of learning and making good progress. Ara has a Bachelor of Education from UTAS and a Postgraduate Certificate in Educational leadership from the Australian Catholic University. Ara is a married mother of 6 adult children. She and her husband are former dairy farmers, with all of the children growing up on the farm.

Kate Shipway

Kate Shipway

Before retiring in 2007, Kate spent many years in education, working to increase the inclusion of students with disability and other learning challenges in Tasmanian schools and in the training sector. The key focus of much of her work as teacher, principal, and manager of a district support service, lecturer at UTAS and Director in the Department of Education was to enhance the educational outcomes of students through more supportive school cultures and more inclusive teaching practice.

Kate has family members with mental ill health. These work and life experiences have led to an understanding of the issues that impact on the lives of people with disability, including mental illness, as well as on those who are close to them. She was President and Chair of the Board of Mental Health Carers Tasmania for a number of years. After stepping down from those roles in 2016, she has maintained her advocacy for improved mental health services in Tasmania.