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Winners – 2023 ACT Chief Minister’s Inclusion Awards

The ACT Chief Minister’s Inclusion Awards celebrate people with disability who are leaders in our community and acknowledges the outstanding achievements of Canberra businesses, organisations and individuals who have demonstrated their commitment to encourage, welcome and support people with disability in their workplace, business and community.

The Awards acknowledge inclusive leaders across four categories:
• Recognising people with disability who are leaders in inclusion
• Excellence and innovation in community access and inclusion
• Achieving inclusion through supporting the independence and wellbeing of people with disability
• Championing rights protection and justice
An overarching Award for Excellence is then selected from award recipients.

The 2023 awards were announced at a gala night at the National Ballroom at Hotel Realm on Wednesday 6 December 2023.

The 66 finalists across four award categories beautifully illustrates that so many Canberrans are demonstrating their commitment to welcome, encourage and support people with disability in our community.

The 2023 winners are:

2023 Chief Minister’s Award for Excellence

WaterWombats Aquatic Disability Services

The Judging panel unanimously agreed WaterWombats truly demonstrate excellence in delivering inclusive services, going above and beyond their core business. WaterWombats are awarded the 2023 Chief Minister’s Award for Excellence for their holistic, wrap around approach of providing extended care to the whole family unit.

The water safety and aquatic therapy programs delivered by Allied Health professionals are complemented by the out of pool care team who provide expressive arts therapy, counselling and social work to the parents and carers of the children with disability, as well as consultancy and training to swim schools and therapy organisations. Congratulations to the founder of WaterWombats – Carol Jennings and to the whole WaterWombats team!

Emerging Young Leader

Daniel Bartholomaeus

Emerging artist Daniel Bartholomeaus is passionate about supporting those with mental health challenges and neurodiversity to reach their full potential. Daniel has demonstrated excellence in leadership through a number of avenues to engage young neurodiverse people in art, and mentorship programs.

Judges wish to highlight Daniel’s work as an advocate and his outstanding efforts to raise the profile of young neurodivergent people in Canberra.

Achievement in Inclusion

Lauren Cannell

Lauren Cannell has been advocating for systemic change for vulnerable people, including people with disability for over ten years. Lauren is a member of the Women with Disabilities ACT Policy Advisory Committee. As founder and president of Educación Diversa, Lauren focuses on equity for people with disability, women and children in accessing free inclusive art-based education.


Excellence in Making Inclusion Happen

Muhammad Rahman

Muhammad established Yellow Bridge in 2021 to deliver person centred support coordination, psychosocial recovery coaching and mentoring services. Muhammad’s lived experience of disability ensures Yellow Bridge’s services are consciously designed to empower his clients to grow and enhance independence.

Many of Muhammad’s clients and their family’s shared glowing testimonials, expressing their gratitude for the care always provided above and beyond with his core values of respect, dignity, and compassion shining through.

Muhammad is also a family carer and somehow finds time to volunteer as a youth support worker.


 Wayne Herbert

Inclusion in Employment

Peter Snell – Eastlake Football Club

Over the past six years Peter has facilitated many rewarding job opportunities for people with disability, providing a caring and safe environment for all employees at the Eastlake Football Club.

Peter has been the driving force at the Club, supporting people with disability achieve employment and broaden skills and experiences. Judges noted this is an excellent example of how smaller employers can create meaningful employment outcomes whilst simultaneously receiving the many benefits of employing people with disability.


 Brate Group McDonalds

Inclusion in Education and Training

Rebus Theatre

Rebus Theatre continues to expand their innovative training opportunities for people with disability through programs such as iDrama, Flair, and Systems of Sanity which build confidence, social connection, and self-advocacy skills.

In 2023 Rebus partnered with Canberra Community Law to deliver an access and inclusion workplace training program for lawyers, called Just Hearing to increase their skills in working with clients with mental health challenges and psychosocial disability.

The judging panel noted the far-reaching impact of the Rebus Access and Inclusion workplace training to break down barriers across the Canberra business sector as well as the wider community when Rebus projects culminate in public performances.


 Derek Brewer – Panache Driver Training

Inclusion in Business

Inclusive Volunteering Pathway to Employment Program 

The Inclusive Volunteering Pathway to Employment Program uses a person-centred approach to enable people with disability to experience volunteering within community with the aim of building the capacity, confidence and skills of participants to move into employment. Participating businesses and organisations also benefit by building disability awareness and gaining an appreciation of diversity and inclusion.

Judges noted the delivery of this program is not core business for VolunteeringACT, and were pleased to learn the program had strong foundations and continues to grow and empower many people with disability.

Excellence in Innovation, Design, and Access

Handmade Market Canberra

Handmade Market Canberra has consistently showcased a dedication to accessibility and innovation in design, fostering greater inclusion of people with disability. Implementing initiatives such as the Low Sensory Shopping Hour, creating a sensory-friendly environment and the provision of a designated quiet space in the foyer ensure a more comfortable experience for everyone.

To ensure these initiatives were successful, the Handmade Market consulted people with disability and peak bodies, invested in training for their staff and resources for their stallholders. Customer and stallholder feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, as Handmade Market Canberra are providing a welcoming and inclusive environment where everyone can fully participate and enjoy their market.

Award accepted on behalf of Handmade Market Canberra by Alex Hudson and Martin Greenwood

Excellence in Inclusive Services and Disability Support

WaterWombats Aquatic Disability Services

WaterWombats Aquatic Disability Services provide a range of tailored programs and supports both in and out of the pool for children with disability and their families. The aquatic programs delivered by Allied Health professionals are complemented by the out of pool care team who provide expressive arts therapy, counselling and social work to the parents and carers of the children with disability, as well as consultancy and training to swim schools and therapy organisations. This holistic approach demonstrates excellence in providing inclusive services which respond to the needs and aspirations of people with disability.

Yellow Bridge

Excellence in Volunteer Support

Mijica Lus

Mijica has extensive experience as a volunteer with a broad range of charities, community organisations and university groups who represent young people, women, and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Mijica is a young inclusion and diversity champion who advocates for people with disability within all the groups she volunteers for, ensuring vulnerable people are heard and have a seat at the table.

Excellence in Support Work 

Monica Rukavina

Since 2014, Monica has demonstrated outstanding commitment as a Disability Support Worker, empowering people with disability to increase their independence, enhance belonging in community and achieve goals. Monica has worked with clients who have experienced complex trauma and faced extensive barriers throughout their lives and has demonstrated exceptional dedication to her clients. Monica developed meaningful and enduring bonds of trust which laid the foundation to achieving some extraordinary outcomes for her clients over an extended period of time.

Monica’s dedication, creativity and enthusiasm, along with her belief in her clients and their strengths, abilities and potential, illustrates Monica truly goes above and beyond the core duties of a Disability Support Worker.

Sue Salthouse Award For Championing Human Rights and Equality

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT 

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT have made extensive efforts to improve the lives of people with low vision or blindness, reaching 4,000 clients per year. Guide Dogs NSW/ACT strive to provide excellence in their service to the Canberra community not only through their programs and community outreach but internally in their training of staff.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT are dedicated to creating opportunities for and championing the rights of people with low vision or blindness and have a plan for the future of their work to continue the impressive impact they make on the Canberra community.


View all the photos from the night on the 2023 Inclusion Awards Photos page.