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Vale Jan Daisley, ‘A Mighty Activist’

7 July 2017 at 9:30 am
Wendy Williams
Leading disability advocate and a founding member and former president of People With Disability Australia, Jan Daisley has died.

Wendy Williams | 7 July 2017 at 9:30 am


Vale Jan Daisley, ‘A Mighty Activist’
7 July 2017 at 9:30 am

Leading disability advocate and a founding member and former president of People With Disability Australia, Jan Daisley has died.

PWDA announced her death on Facebook on Wednesday saying they were “devastated” by the news.

Matthew Bowden, co-CEO of People with Disability told Pro Bono News she was “a mighty activist and advocate for the rights of people with disability”.

“She led PWDA at the time the NDIS was being conceived, and right from the start, wanted to make sure that the NDIS would improve the lives of people with disability,” Bowden said.

“Jan’s experiences in an institution gave her a fierce passion for the rights of people with disability to live freely in the community, just like everyone else, not locked away.

“She fought every day so that people with disability never had to go through what she had.”

Daisley lived in an institution for 30 years and according to PWDA, in 1993, “as soon as she could communicate, she clearly stated that she wanted to move out and into the community”.

“She was determined to make an independent life for herself, despite many people saying that was impossible,” PWDA wrote on Facebook.

Daisley told The Australian in 2014 that she had “no regrets” about moving out.

“Sometimes things can be difficult, but that’s life no matter where you are,” Daisley said.

“When I decided to move into the community, most people were sceptical of my survival and even said I would be begging to go back after a week or two. Boy, have I proved them wrong! I have made a life for myself above and beyond even my wildest dreams.”

After moving out of the institution Daisley enrolled in TAFE and obtained certificates in disability and law.

She then went on to university to do a Bachelors of Education in Habilitation, then a Masters in Communities in Social Justice.

She also wrote and published three books; including her autobiography I Hear More Than You See, and featured in the recently released film about the disability rights movement in Australia, the UK and the USA, Defiant Lives.

She was a life member of PWDA, first elected to the board in 2007 and then president from 2010 to 2012.

A spokesperson for PWDA said a key part of her activism was her belief that everyone had a right to adequate housing and social support.  

“She saw these as fundamental human rights as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Putting people with disability in institutions is a breach of these rights – Jan campaigned long and hard for people with disability to have the same housing options as other members of the community,” the spokesperson said.

“We are devastated to hear of the death of Jan Daisley, one of Australia’s leading disability advocates, particularly for the rights of people with disability to live in the community, and a founding member of PWDA.”

Writing on her website Daisley said she had achieved more than she thought possible.

“No one ever thought a blind, speech impaired quadriplegic could rise above numerous obstacles in their life including cancer to become the person I am today,” Daisley said.

“When I first acquired my disability the supports which are around today were not available, that is why I was determined to become an advocate for people with disability, so they don’t experience the hardships which I had to endure along the way.

“I believe my experience and knowledge on disability holds me in good stead to advise and assist others who are experiencing difficulties in their communities. If I am able to help one or two people to become more independent and gain a better quality of life for themselves, then all the hardship and struggle I have experienced over the years will make it all worthwhile.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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