The winners of the 2021 Victorian Disability Awards were celebrated at an awards ceremony on 28 September 2021. We thank you for your support and look forward to working with you in 2022 to keep honouring the achievements of Victorians with disability and the people who lead the way to create a fairer, more inclusive community.
2021 Victorian Disability Awards banner image
On this page

Victorian Disability Awards

The Victorian Disability Awards honour the contributions of Victorians who support, lead, educate and advocate for people with disability. The Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of individuals, teams and organisations that increase the rights and participation of people with disability.

Award recipients

There were many outstanding nominations this year. We appreciate the work that has gone into these amazing nominations.

Congratulations to our 2021 Victorian Disability Awards recipients.

This year’s award ceremony took place on 28 September as a virtual event.

Award categories

The 2021 Victorian Disability Awards recognise excellence in seven categories. Many of these categories reflect the four pillars of Absolutely everyone: state disability plan 2017-2020.

The Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers also recognises a recipient for the Minister’s Award for outstanding leadership, from the pool of finalists.

Emerging leader award

This award recognises an outstanding individual as an emerging leader who has made a significant contribution to improving outcomes for people with disability, by raising awareness and influencing others to shift community attitudes, creating cultural change or transforming services. Nominations of people with disability in this category are strongly encouraged.

This may look like:

  • a person who through leadership or self-advocacy has influenced the practice of others to increase the inclusion of people with disability
  • development of new and innovative programs, or strengthening of existing programs, to promote the inclusion with disability
  • a person who advocates, creates social enterprise or strategic partnerships to increase employment and economic opportunities for people with disability
  • a person who embeds sustainable change within organisational practices to create more social, economic and civic opportunities for people with disability.

This category relates to pillar 4 of Absolutely Everyone: state disability plan 2017–2020, ‘contributing lives’. This pillar focuses on civic life, the economy and education, including leadership and representation in these areas.

Excellence in creating inclusive communities

This award recognises the contributions of an individual or group towards building an inclusive community that improves the lives of people with disability. This could be in changing community attitudes, improving buildings and infrastructure, enhancing communication (for example, internet access) or increasing the active participation of people with disability in the communities with which they identify. These may include lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender diverse and intersex (LGBTI) Victorians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

This might look like:

  • stand out efforts to promote positive attitudes and challenge negative stereotypes about people with disability, for example awareness campaigns and media
  • improving buildings and infrastructure such as schools, shopping centres or recreational facilities so that they are more inclusive of all people with disability
  • increasing the active participation of people with disability within the community that they identify with. This may include initiatives that influence the practice, policy or programs of community organisations providing services to diverse groups.

This category relates to pillar one of Absolutely Everyone: state disability plan 2017–2020, 'inclusive communities'. The experience of inclusion is central to social interaction, sharing information and having everyday experiences.

Excellence in employment outcomes

This award recognises excellence in an individual’s or group’s contribution to improving employment outcomes resulting in economic independence and inclusion for people with disability.

This might look like:

  • business and community leaders championing positive change within their organisations leading to significant employment and career development opportunities for people with disability
  • initiatives resulting in raised community awareness of the benefits of employment of people with disability, for example media campaigns or partnerships with local businesses and employers
  • innovative programs or initiatives that assist people with disability to gain and maintain meaningful paid employment and develop their careers.

This category relates to pillar four of Absolutely Everyone: state disability plan 2017–2020, ‘contributing lives’. This pillar focuses on people with disability as active participants in the economy including as employees and employers. It recognises that the participation rate of people with disability in the economy is significantly lower than that of people without a disability.

Excellence in promoting health, housing and wellbeing

This award recognises excellence in an individual’s or group’s contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of people with disability. 

This might look like:

  • increasing the participation of people with disability in sport, recreation or leisure, for example tailoring sporting clubs and activities so that they are accessible for people of all abilities
  • promoting better health outcomes for people with disability, for example as an advocate or a health provider, shifting the way services are delivered to be more inclusive of people with disability
  • influencing and/or increasing the provision of housing so that it is more accessible to people with disability and promotes choice and inclusion within the broader community. 

This category relates to category two of Absolutely Everyone: state disability plan 2017–2020, 'health, housing and wellbeing'. Having a stable home is key to health and wellbeing. This pillar focuses on making sure that health and community services meet the needs of people with disability, and enhancing the wellbeing of people with disability through sport and recreation and other activities.

Excellence in promoting rights, fairness and safety

This award recognises excellence in an individual’s or group’s contribution to prevent family violence, assisting people with disability to speak up for their rights, safeguard people with disability from abuse and neglect, and make the community a safer and fairer place for people with disability.

This might look like:

  • initiatives or individual actions which make Victoria a safer place for people with disability, such as those related to community safety or prevention of violence against women with disability
  • advocacy initiatives including individual, self and systemic advocacy to reduce barriers to social, economic and civic participation and promote the rights, fairness and safety of people with disability
  • initiatives or individual actions that promote right, fairness and safety within the justice system including policing, the courts and prisons
  • significant changes in organisational policy and practice to create cultural change and provide a safer and fairer service for people with disability, for example, human rights training, zero tolerance training or positive behaviour support programs that significantly reduce the use of restrictive practices.

This category relates to pillar three of Absolutely Everyone: state disability plan 2017–2020, ‘fairness and safety’. This pillar is about getting a fair go and creating opportunities for all Victorians.

Volunteer award

This award recognises an individual or group working in a voluntary capacity demonstrating exceptional skill and commitment that significantly contributes to improving outcomes for people with disability.

Definition: Volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain.

Volunteers are not remunerated but can receive reimbursement for out of pocket expenses or can receive gifts or honorariums.

This might look like:

  • a volunteer with disability, or a group made up of volunteers with disability, who have achieved significant contributions to advance the rights and inclusion of people with disability
  • a group of volunteers who coordinate a social enterprise initiative for or with people with disability
  • a volunteer who designs, adapts or modifies individual equipment for or with people with disability.
  • a volunteer who mentors or supports people with disability to be active contributors to their community, for example assisting people with disability to umpire football matches
  • a volunteer who serves as a board member and promotes change, best practice, and systemic advocacy for people with disability.
Lifetime achievement honour roll

The Lifetime achievement honour roll recognises exceptional individuals who have made a significant contribution over the past 20 years and demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the rights, participation and inclusion of Victorians with disability. People with disability are strongly encouraged to be nominated for this category.

This might look like:

  • a person who has gone above and beyond to work with local businesses to successfully promote employing people with disability in sustainable employment
  • a person who has founded a non-for-profit disability support agency or agencies that successfully promotes systemic change towards individualised and rights-based support for people with disability
  • a person who has demonstrated outstanding leadership of a campaign or initiative to support sustained improvement in the lives of people with disability
  • a person who has worked across a variety of roles within the sector, as a leader, manager, influential thought leader or researcher, advocate and/or frontline worker, and who has an exemplary track record of empowering people with disability and improving outcomes for all people with disability in Victoria.
Minister’s Award for outstanding Leadership

Since 2017, the Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers has chosen a winner for this award from all the finalists.

The award will go to someone who has demonstrated immense leadership skills and has been a driver of change.

The inaugural winner of the Minister’s award for outstanding leadership in 2017 was Dylan Alcott OAM from Get Skilled Access.

This category is not open for nominations as the winner is decided from the pool of finalists.

Judging panel

Judges for the Victorian Disability Awards are drawn from Victoria’s extensive disability services sector. They bring a range of skills, experience and enthusiasm for improving the lives of people with disability, to their judging. The judges generously volunteer their time to assess the nominations and make final recommendations.

The judges will review the nominations to consider the nominee’s relative merits in relation to their commitment, level of service and how their work benefits people with disability. The judges will then make their recommendations to the Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers.


Victorian Disability Awards Secretariat

Phone: + 61 3 9500 4044


Mail: GPO Box 4057, Melbourne 3001, Victoria, Australia

Videos - 2021 Victorian Disability Awards

Rocca Salcedo

Rocca Salcedo video transcript (Word)

Maurice Gleeson – Lifetime achievement honour roll

Maurice Gleeson video transcript (Word)

Margherita Coppolino – Lifetime achievement honour roll

Margherita Coppolino video transcript (Word)

Noel Bates - Lifetime achievement honour roll

Noel Bates video transcript (Word)

Previous award winners