Tricia Malowney: Advocating From The Boardroom
As Tricia Malowney says to Peta in this episode, she has achieved so much because of not despite her disability. She is prolific in her work to improve the lives of disabled people.
Tricia is a remarkable woman.
An uplifting and motivating chat; Tricia and Peta hope you enjoy it.
Connect with Tricia:
Connect with Peta:
Peta [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to The I Can't Stand Podcast. The podcast answering your questions on what life is like when you have a disability. My name is Peta. I have cerebral palsy and I'm your host this week. I have the amazing Tricia Maloney. Tricia is an absolute powerhouse in the disability community here in Australia. I honestly wouldn't be able to list everything she does currently and everything she has achieved because this intro would go for way too long. Trust me on this. She is amazing. So without any further ado, let's hand over to Tricia.
Tricia [00:00:51] My name is Tricia maloney. I'm 69 years old. I'm the chief accessibility advocate to the Department of Transport and Planning in Victoria, and I had polio at the age of four months and I used callipers and crutches to get around.
Peta [00:01:07] It's always interesting how people choose to introduce themselves. Some people don't mention the fact that they have a disability while others go straight into it. Have you always been comfortable with your disability?
Tricia [00:01:21] Well, it's an interesting thing because I'm really proud of who I am. I'm happy to tell people I'm a proud Australian with a disability because disability is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, you know, we've achieved so much because of our disabilities. What, how I would like to put it, rather than despite the disability. I am who I am because of my disability and everybody else needs to get over it. I suppose, though, that that's not how I saw myself when I was younger. So I had a disability from the age of four months, but I didn't know I had a disability because I was the only person with a disability I knew because everybody else was institutionalised and my parents just didn't do that. They were advised to put me in a home, go away and have more kids. I've asked my school friends about this. Did you see me as the kid with the disability? And I said. We didn't even think about it because it was normalised.
Peta [00:02:21] Now, for those who don't know you, Trisha, and don't know what you do. I was going to try and explain to the audience everything that you do, and you're a very, very busy person, but I've decided you're probably a better person to explain that to the audience. So from a career perspective, what do you do?
Tricia [00:02:40] What I do has one singular goal, which is the empowerment of other people with disabilities. That's. That's all I want. I want everybody else to have what I have. I don't want them to be me. Right. Because that would be awful. What we need is everybody to be themselves, to be their own, to bring their own voice to the conversation. And I'm not the voice for anybody else. Right? I just make sure that other people's voices are included. My day job, which is three days a week, is the chief accessibility advocate to the Department of Transport. And my role there is to amplify the voices of people with disabilities. But in doing that, I also take on older people, parents with prams, anybody who struggles to catch public transport. So people, women of colour have contacted me. So I look at women's safety. I do the whole thing. Even though the Department of Transport pays me, I don't work for them. I actually work for the people of Victoria.
I'm also on the Independent Advisory Council for the NDIS. I'm also on the Urgent Action Fund for Women Asia Pacific, which is a fund to help women leave conflict. So we've got women out of Afghanistan, for example. So it's to help women leave war or to help human rights defenders who are struggling in their own country because of the politics of the day. So I don't have to go in and save anybody. I'm not operational at all, but I support this organisation. I'm also on the board of Melba support Services, but I've taken a leave of absence from there because I'm on the Special Disability Accommodation Price Review panel. So there be a conflict of interest. If I was on Melbourne's board as well as being on this one. I'm also part of the Oversight Committee for the AIG Tribunal.
Peta [00:04:46] And for those who don't know what the 80 tribunal is.
Tricia [00:04:51] How remain acronyms the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and these people have probably seen in the media there was some 4000 cases that were before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. This is people with disabilities who have been saying that the disability plan or what the what they've been provided with is not adequate or they've got some other complaint to take. And the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is a way of having an external review of that. And then I have my own business. Patricia maloney Consultancy. And I say, Patricia, because that's my official name. Nobody calls me that except my mother. When I'm in trouble, I'm doing a few things at the moment, so I'm doing a review of the orange door for people who don't know that the the site for family violence cases. So it's where you've got all the services in the same place. I'm doing a review of that at the moment. I also help women with disabilities who want to leave violence to support them, to leave, help them through the process of going to an outreach service. I'm part of the team that's looking at the elimination of gynaecological cancers. So I'm making sure that we've got a disability lens over it. So it's the HPV vaccination, making sure that girls with disabilities also get HPV vaccination. And those who have a cervix are not. Everybody is. You know, we've got to look at the transgender part of it as well, that they get access to PAP tests. And then, of course, if anybody does have a negative diagnosis that they get access to the treatment that they need right through from early diagnosis, right through to end of life stages. One more thing. Sorry, I forgot about that, which is my core work at the moment. So with a team, I have two partners, two business partners, and look at packing them with Sam Sun, who's the CEO there, and with Impact Co with Shell Blue Stain, who is this? The founder of that company. And together with We've built the good incubator. And we've just been funded to provide the inclusive Micro-Enterprise Project. Many, many people with disabilities run their own businesses. And so there's not many training programs that are accessible to them. So, Sam Sheldon, I developing the program and we've brought on board Ashley Malone, who's a colleague who's blind, who is a great facilitator. And so she and I are delivering it together.
Peta [00:07:40] I often get so frustrated and frankly, a little dismayed when nondisabled people are appointed to high positions within disability organisations and there are seemingly no representation for disabled people within that structure or within those conversations. When I look at someone like you, I feel so uplifted and motivated to say that someone like you are in those conversations and in those positions of power to try and make change from someone who really understands the barriers that the disability community face. How do you overcome the barriers within work and continually stay motivated despite the fact that probably often you're the only person in the room with a disability?
Tricia [00:08:38] Interesting. Somebody said to me recently, Well, we can't have a person with a disability in charge of a disability organisation because it'd be a conflict of interest. So and you just sort of think, yeah, right. Okay. So it'd be like we can't have women running women's organisations and we can't have been running Men's Shed zero because it'd be a conflict. I just think that one of the big problems we have is that there's an underestimation of people with disabilities about who we are, what we, what we know. I continually and frustrated as well about people who say, Well, why would you want a person with a disability? So I do get frustrated, but I think that the way we get around it is by being present in the room and making sure we're present in the room. You have no idea how many times I've been to business breakfasts. And somebody asked me, Why are you here? Well, because I run a successful business and they look at me like you've got a disability. So how can you run a business? I think people think that if your legs don't work the rest of your diet or if you can't speak, then the rest of it doesn't work. You know, it's like people who have cerebral palsy, who don't speak or don't speak well, people will talk to them very slowly. Right. It's not my hearing and it's my intellect. Or they'll assume that you have an intellectual disability. My biggest problem is people want to pray for me. Can I tell you that I hate it? I don't need anybody's prayers. And people who say to me, If you come to our church will pray for you, and then we'll heal you and then Jesus will love you. Well, I don't really care if Jesus loves me or not. I reckon if there was a Jesus, he would love me as I am. It makes him feel better. I don't think they have a real understanding of how it makes us feel. Now, one of the things that because I'm now older and not scared of anybody at all, I'm quite happy to go up to a politician and say, this is who I am. I'm Tricia. I'm here to help. Right. I'm not here to to give you a hard time. I'm here to help. I want to be able to make things better for my community. And I can help you do it. So. Was it government officials? On Monday night, Grimes, nine, drove up, and there was two politicians there that I wanted to talk to. They were several day that I didn't want to talk to, but the two that I wanted to talk to, as soon as I said who I was and why I was there, they would ask. Tell me more. Whereas if I had gone up and said, Hi, listen. You people, blah, blah, blah. That doesn't get you anywhere. There's times when I've done that and it's and it's. But it's been not my first introduction. So you've got to actually establish relationships with people in the first instance. And then what you do is you say, Can we talk about this a bit more? Can we have a conversation about why I think that's not the way to go? The other thing you have to do is be bipartisan. Don't favour one party over another. You know, make sure that you develop relationships with all sides of politics because. You know, they are all part of the game and that you know that you know, you need them all in there to make things better for people with disabilities. And I think that's what we have to get doing start doing is getting involved in your local community. Be present. If we're not in the room, nobody will remembers. In relation to organisations that are headed by people with disabilities. I had somebody come back to me and say, Well, I've got a hidden disability. And I said, Yeah, but that's useless if you've got a hidden disability unless you name it, you might as well say you've got none. Be proud of who you are. There's nothing wrong with having a disability and if you've got a hidden disability and you're leading up a major disability organisation, then what you're saying to people that you're supposedly supporting is there's something wrong about having a disability. They're starting to be a little bit of a shift in the disability community. So I've been on the board of a couple of disability organisations now and I see that there are a couple that are starting to employ people with disabilities in senior roles. I did a survey, an analysis of all the votes in Victoria, and I think it was about. Three people with just full people with disabilities. And then there was three because I left.
Peta [00:13:38] You said before that you really believe that people should go out and connect with their community. I don't think people can undervalue or underestimate the power of social media, things like LinkedIn or even Instagram to be able to connect with people who understand you, but also show people that you are just like them. You just might use the mobility aid or you might think differently, or you might have some access needs. When I think about 25 year old me walking out with my master's degree, I certainly wouldn't ever have thought that I would be connected to people and actually be friends with people that I am and the sort of opportunities that I've gained just through connecting with them via social media.
Tricia [00:14:33] I go to the opening of an envelope? To be quite honest with you. Go to events. Go to your local joint. See if you can join your local disability advisory group. People will notice you after a while. I'm a great one, a great believer in getting to know people. So I will go up and talk to people. The best way I found to do it, if I'm at and event is to go to get a cup of tea. But. Somebody will always offer to carry it back because, you know, I'm on crutches, so it's very hard to carry a cup of tea. What? It's cup and saucer. Somebody will always offer smiley women, but sometimes it's men. And then once they do that, they ask, you know, who are you? And I always ask people who they are, So why are you here? What's what's your connection? Not why are you here, but what's your connection with this organisation? And then you find there's something in common, so you might find. So I went to an event where kind of what it was about. But the woman who carried my tea bag was a professor at a university who was doing some studies on robotics for hand movements for people who had strokes. So we got into a conversation about that, ended up doing some work for them because, you know, they just needed somebody as an advisor and you just don't know where the conversation's going to go.
Peta [00:15:55] I like you. I will go to the opening of an envelope as well. I, I really do love connecting with people, whether it be online or in person. And yes, sometimes I really do have to drag myself out of my house to get dressed and get there because it is such an effort at times. But you never know what opportunities can come from just putting yourself out there and being willing to talk to people and the people that you talk to and that you meet. They don't know how they can help you or how they could be opportunities to work together until you meet with them and you speak to them and you get to know them as people. But in saying that, I also want to acknowledge that that might be difficult, particularly for some people with sensory disabilities or autism. You know, not everybody is just comfortable to walk up in to get to know someone. So again, I would say lean on social media, find methods that you are comfortable with connecting with people. Find a method that works for you. What do you wish people better understood about living with a disability?
Tricia [00:17:10] That it's not easy and it's not something you can walk away from, you know, sort of we don't knock off when we go home. It's it's there continually. But we're resilient. We're resourceful. We're flexible. And we can do anything that we're qualified to do. I think people just need to know that we're people that we can be approached. We don't want your pity. I certainly don't want your pity. I don't need you. I've probably got a bit of lots of most people who feel sorry for me and that we need to be in the room. That's the real thing. And that we need to hear our voices so we can have our lives up to the thing we really need. We really need allies. But the role of the ally isn't to take our voices. The role of the ally is to say, Why are women with disabilities in the room? Or why aren't men with disabilities in the room? Why have you having this conversation about excess that the people here know about and to treat this as the experts? And we're not children. That's the other thing. You know, said there are families who have adults with disabilities who call them my child with a disability. And they're 45. They're not children. In Victoria, everybody is an adult unless they are literally a child. And we have decision making capacity. And that's the other thing, too. People think that if you have a cognitive impairment, you don't have the power to make decisions on your own behalf. And if you ask a person with a disability what they want, and then you ask the so-called carers, because I hate that word what they want, they totally different. So we need to have everybody in the room and during the conversations.
Peta [00:19:04] Is there anything you like or even love about your disability? Tricia?
Tricia [00:19:10] It is who I am. There's nothing you can you can take away from it. I love that. It's given me a brilliant career. I love that it opened doors for me. I love that it's made me who I am. It's it's a really funny thing, isn't it? People don't expect you to. It's like that old thing. If you could be cured, would you want to be cured? It's a funny word. And I think. Well, no, because it would ruin my career. But also I wouldn't know how to be anything other than me. I would like to be able to get into a pool. I would like to be able to get into the beach, into the water easily. That would be nice. Simple little things like handrails in a toilet section. I know. I must admit, I'm a bit obsessed with toilets. I get whenever I go somewhere to sit with the toilet intellect. Because if I can use them, it's so exciting. It's like the rise of changing places. What a game changer is that?
Peta [00:20:07] Is there anything you don't like about having a disability.
Tricia [00:20:10] Or other people's assumptions and being prideful in the street and being told, Look at you, you've got a smile on your face, Like, apparently I'm supposed to be miserable all the time. I think that's that's about it. And people having low expectations.
Peta [00:20:26] I have quite a big question for the last question. I'm given your work and your expertise. I'm very excited to hear your answer to this question, frankly. So what do you hope for the future for people with disabilities?
Tricia [00:20:41] Sort of. Equality sounds like such a funny, wonky term, but it really is about respect. I hope for respect from other people. I hope to see more of a visible. I hope to see more of this on the stage in television programs. If you look at the UK TV programmes, I have people with disabilities all the time. Same with the US. I hope that everybody gets to do what they want to do with their lives regardless of what somebody else thinks they can do. I hope that we have full employment of people with disabilities, or at least up to the same standards as others, and I just hope that we get recognised for who we are, not what people think we are.
Peta [00:21:28] Thank you for listening to this week's episode. I hope you enjoyed it. I found Trisha to be so inspirational and I don't mean because of her disability, but I mean because of all that she's achieved and what she provides to the disability community. I felt it to be such an uplifting chat, and I hope you felt it too. If you did enjoy this episode, can I encourage you to write and review the podcast? If you listen on Apple Podcasts or please subscribe. Follow the show on whatever podcasting platform you're listening on. It helps more people find the podcast and for it to go up in the podcast charts. As always, if you want to follow me on Instagram, my handle is at @petahooke or you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you. So until next week. Have a good one, guys. Bye.
[00:22:32] I'd like to pay my respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, but especially to the pioneering people where this podcast was recorded.