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International Day of People with Disability 2021: Australians explain its importance

Pilot Nathan Parker (left), Dr Dinesh Palipana (middle) and conservationists William and Daniel Clarke (right) explained the importance of International Day of People with Disability.
Pilot Nathan Parker (left), Dr Dinesh Palipana (middle) and conservationists William and Daniel Clarke (right) explained the importance of International Day of People with Disability.

Australians with disabilities have explained the importance of International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD).

IDPwD "celebrates the contributions and achievements of people with disability" and falls on Friday, December 3 this year.

Dr Dinesh Palipana 

Dr Dinesh Palipana is the first person with a spinal cord injury to graduate as a doctor in Australia.

Dr Dinesh Palipana was in medical school when a car accident on Brisbane's Gateway Motorway left him with a spinal cord injury and quadriplegia in 2010.

"For me to become a doctor after having a spinal cord injury had a whole heap of challenges. The big barriers were things like coming through medical school, getting my first job," Dr Palipana said.

Dr Palipana became the first person with a spinal cord injury to become a doctor in Australia and second person with quadriplegia to do so when he graduated in 2016.

He currently works at Gold Coast University Hospital and co-founded Doctors with Disabilities Australia, which resulted in him being awarded Queensland Australian of the Year for 2021.

The doctor said "the single biggest thing that we need to change in society are attitudes" towards people with disabilities.

"We need to stop thinking about barriers and we need to stop thinking about the disabilities and start focusing on abilities and strengths. Normalising some of these conversations and showing what lives are like and showing that it's normal. And I think through those things, attitudes are slowly starting to change," he said.

Dr Palipana said IDPwD is important because "such a large segment of our society identify with having a disability".

"It reminds us to create a equitable platforms for all aspects of life in our society," he said.

Conservationists Daniel and William Clarke

Brothers Daniel and William Clarke have raised nearly a million dollars towards million dollars towards the conservation of orangutans and their habitat through their platform Tears in the Jungle.

Daniel, who has cerebral palsy, said "a lot of people didn't take us seriously" when they started their conservation efforts as children.

"As the years went on, people started seeing our work, including us in conversations and debates around orangutans and the environment and people started seeing that we did have something to say," he said.

"When you include everyone, you get all these different ideas that you may not have thought of and those ideas maybe the ideas that solve a lot of the problems of today."

William said "having Daniel's cerebral palsy in my perspective of the world has truly shaped who I am today".

"Both as a team and on our quest for the orangutans, I don't think we would be where we are today if not for Daniel and who he is as part of his disability," he said.

The pair were named Queensland Young Australians of the Year in 2021.

Pilot Nathan Parker

Pilot Nathan Parker was completing his Aviation degree at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) when a military bus accident left him badly injured and his left hand had to be amputated in 2015.

"When the accident happened, that basically set me back to square one. Lying in a hospital bed, wondering if I'd ever fly again. Wondering if all that work I'd put in from that young age had all gone to waste," he said.

Despite his injuries, Mr Parker became the first upper-limb amputee to graduate from the Australian Defence Force Academy in 2017 and was named NSW Young Australian of the Year in 2021.

"I think it's important we celebrate IDPwD because for every person I've met that's living with a disability, there's an incredible story and so many amazing achievements as well," he said.

"Be it on the sporting field or even in their day to day lives, doing things they never thought were possible."

A public speaker, mentor, flight instructor and now aspiring to provide joy flights for sick children, Nathan is also a gold-medal athlete who represented Australia in the Invictus Games in 2017 and 2019.