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Disability leaders from Laos unite for systemic change

Media release

Curtin University will play host to disability leaders from Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) in November as part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Australia Awards Fellowship (AAF) program aimed at strengthening the capacity of developing countries.

The AAF will be delivered as the Lao PDR Disability Leadership Participatory Action Research Project, and builds on an ongoing three-year Australian Aid funded initiative between Curtin and the Lao Disabled People’s Association (LDPA) dedicated to improving access to social and economic services for people with disabilities in Lao PDR.

During the four-week stay in Perth, the 15 visiting AAF Fellows will undertake activities aimed at fostering a collaborative approach to improving access to social and economic services for people with disabilities in Lao PDR.

The Fellows include Lao Government Ministry representatives from the portfolios of Labour and Social Welfare; Health; and Education and Sports, along with delegates from disability organisations, service providers and advocacy agencies.

Dr Stian Thoresen, Senior Research Fellow from Curtin’s School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work, said the AAF aimed to strengthen sustainable disability-inclusive initiatives for systemic change in Lao PDR.

“People with disability in Laos face serious risk of lifelong poverty particularly when they are unable to access health and education services which are needed to achieve employment and self-reliance,” Dr Thoresen said.

“Lao PDR is in a state of rapid change, with a growing middle class in the cities, and a widening gap between the cities and the rural villages.

“It is difficult for the Lao Government to meet the needs of all people with disability, given the country’s challenging geography and the location of a significant proportion of the population in rural and remote areas making co-ordination between sectors and key service providers difficult.”

Dr Thoresen said the AAF would help to implement the changes necessary to meet the rights of people with disability across Lao PDR.

“This Fellowship Program is a unique opportunity to enhance effective governance for disability-inclusive development in Lao PDR, drawing on a strong existing partnership between Curtin, LDPA and other partners,” Dr Thoresen said.

The official welcome for recipients in the Australia Awards Fellowship will take palce on Monday 31 October, 2016 at Curtin’s Bentley campus.