Ambassador Q&A: Rick Neagle
White Ribbon Ambassador Rick Neagle shares with us his family experience and how the shared goal of preventing violence against women, is an important goal for his role in disability services and representation.
What is your current profession and why have you chosen this career path
I am the President Dignity Party, and Founder and Executive Chairman of the Count Me In Foundation.
Through my lived experience as family carer for my son, Mitchell, who has autism, I first became involved in the disability sector about ten years ago. My main involvement has been in seeking parliamentary representation for the specific issues of people with disability, through the Dignity Party. The Dignity Party is a South Australian political party with a strong human rights ethos. The conviction that a better way is necessary and possible, is the abiding theme in all that we set out to achieve.
Forced retirement, due to a muscle disease, from my chosen career as an accredited APA Sports Physiotherapist, has freed my time up for voluntary community involvement. It is immensely rewarding to contribute in this way, like anything in life you get out what you put in.
I have also founded Count Me In (CMI), a not-for-profit organisation founded and majority managed by people with disability. Count Me In works to actively involve people with a disability and their family carers in the management, design and delivery of universal design principles in public places and buildings. Through this, we believe we will create a better and more inclusive community.
How long have you been a White Ribbon Ambassador?
I have been a White Ribbon Ambassador for two years now.
Do the experiences of women and girls with disabilities differ from those of the general population in terms of the nature and severity of the violence they are exposed to?
Yes, unfortunately. Estimates suggest that the rates of sexual victimisation of women with disabilities range from four to 10 times higher than for other women. Further, it is estimated that 90% of Australian women with an intellectual disability have been subjected to sexual abuse, with 68% of them being sexually abused before the age of 18.
Women with disabilities are likely to know the perpetrators as partners or family members, but the presence of disability means that they also face an increased risk of violence and abuse from people they rely on for support, such as healthcare providers or paid support workers.
How can Ambassadors highlight the issue of men’s violence against women in the context of people with disabilities?
Creating awareness by speaking out about the abuse of women with a disability is the first step in the right direction. The implementation of effective safeguarding frameworks, as those highlighted in the core principles of the National Disability Insurance Scheme form part of the remedy to reduce the abuse of women with a disability. And, in turn it is essential that we, members of the wider community, all understand that mandatory reporting of such abuse becomes the key ingredient of the solution.
How can changes in government policy, legislation and funding lead to increased equality for women (and others) with disabilities?
We need to ensure equal opportunities for education and employment are provided for all Australians. This is about changing attitudes, more than money.
What key messages do you want Ambassadors and the wider community to take away from this Q&A?
Tomorrow, or the next day, you – or someone you love – could become part of the “disability club” this is as normal a part of life as to be born, to laugh or to cry. It helps to think of “disability” as all of us, because potentially it is. Violence is unacceptable, that’s the simple message of why I passionately support the work of White Ribbon Australia. Please come over and say hello if you see me at an event!