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‘Voices of the Pacific’ goes global

A team of Deakin University researchers has received a new accolade for their innovative program that aims to improve educational opportunities for children with disability in the Pacific region – and will serve as a model for service providers and policy makers around the world.

The ‘Voices of Pacific Children with Disability’ project was selected as one of 99 outstanding international projects of 2015 that improve the daily lives and legal rights of people with disabilities.

It has just been showcased at the 2016 Zero Project Conference in Vienna this month.

A feature of the “Voices” program is its “inclusive approach” that supports children with a disability with a range of innovative ‘tools’ to enable them to communicate their views.

Over a two-year period, researchers and children worked together to develop communication tools, such as audio recordings of local sounds, a photo library of local images, walking tours, drawings and dolls – all acting as prompts to help the children express their views about their lives.

The resulting knowledge translation manual “Inclusive Practice for Research with Children with Disability: A Guide” has been downloaded by hundreds of people and put into use in disability and development projects around the world.

The project was funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and involved collaboration between Deakin University, Save the Children, the Vanuatu Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association, and the PNG Assembly of Disabled Persons.

At Deakin, researchers from both the Faculties of Health, and Arts and Education were involved. The team included Professor Matthew Clarke, Associate Professor Erin Wilson, HDR candidate Elena Jenkin, Dr Kevin Murfitt, Dr Robert Campain and Ms Julie Anderson.

Elena Jenkin attended the conference in Vienna.

The 2016 “Zero Project – For a World Without Barriers” Conference had a focus on inclusive education and information and communication technologies. It was convened by the Essl Foundation (an Austrian charitable foundation), the World Future Council and the European Foundation Centre.

Associate Professor Wilson said that lack of access to education, greater poverty and inadequate health care were just some of the issues facing children with disabilities in developing countries.

“This interest further supports the dissemination and influencing of this work, and, hopefully, will lead to strong recognition of the needs and aspirations of children with disability in the Pacific.”

Through the project, three short films were produced for use as advocacy and attitude change tools within the disability, development and humanitarian sector globally.

One of the films “Pikinini Tok Tok” was featured at the UN Enable Film Festival 2015, held at the UN Headquarters in New York on 3 December, and is listed on the UN Enable Website.

On the same day, the film was screened at Deakin and in Canberra (via DFAT). The film was also part of the 6th Annual PNG Human Rights Film Festival late last year.

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