Our woman of influence

24 September, 2015

CBM Australia’s very own Inclusive Development Director, Dr Kirsty Thompson is one of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence.

Kirsty Thompson, Director, Inclusive Development

On September 24, the Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards 2015 was published, announcing Kirsty in the Global category for her work in strengthening Australia’s Aid program through disability-inclusive development.

CEO of CBM Australia, Jane Edge who nominated Kirsty said:
“In the nearly three years I’ve had the privilege of working with her, I’ve been incredibly impressed by Kirsty’s ability to leverage her personal and professional commitment in growing support for disability inclusive development globally – this is a well deserved recognition of her leadership, passion and strength”.

An innovative, highly collaborative and inspirational woman, Kirsty is prepared to step out and take risks to see the world’s most marginalised people, especially women and girls, gain a voice. Through her exceptional vision, vibrant leadership, intentional empowerment, and mentoring of those around her – she is truly a catalyst of change.

Kirsty’s early lived experience of disability, having been born with club-feet, contributed strongly to her understanding and approaches towards disability-inclusive development. She studied Occupational Therapy at the University of Sydney and at a very early point in her career focused on the social and economic exclusion generally faced by people living with disability.

While studying for her PhD and teaching at the University of Sydney, Kirsty mentored and encouraged younger students, coordinating a program in which students gained rehabilitation experience in poor communities in India. Many of the young women who joined this program continue to make significant contributions to Australia’s international development efforts throughout the world.

Joining CBM Australia in 2005 as the organisation’s ‘Disability Specialist’, Kirsty’s primary role was to see disability considerations built into Australia’s response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami, and subsequently to the devastating Pakistan earthquake of late 2005.

Given Kirsty’s unique combination of academic knowledge, practical experience and extraordinary passion, her influence was obvious.

A meeting of CBM’s International President, Professor Allen Foster with Kirsty and some of her close colleagues in 2007 was a key to CBM improving its programmatic approaches towards inclusion and adopting a new vision statement: “An inclusive world in which all people with disability enjoy their human rights and achieve their full potential”.

Kirsty’s influential role in strengthening CBM Australia’s advocacy, and the creation of the ‘Australian Disability and Development Consortium’ (ADDC), were foundational to the launch of Australia’s first ‘Development for All’ Strategy in 2008; re-launched by the Hon Julie Bishop in 2015.

Since 2008 ‘Development for All’ has created enormous strength in Australia’s Aid Program, ensuring people with disability, who make up 20 per cent of the world’s poorest people, are included in international development efforts.

In 2009, Kirsty was invited to establish CBM Australia’s Inclusive Development Department – a team that now has 24 staff – and quickly achieved significant outcomes, such as:

  • Establishment of the CBM-Nossal Partnership with the University of Melbourne
  • Founding CBM Australia’s ongoing contracts with Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the implementation of ‘Development for All’
  • Numerous training, consultancy and research assignments with Australian Council for International Development members
  • The launch of the ‘End the Cycle of poverty and disability’ campaign where people with disability tell their own stories (www.endthecycle.org.au)

These achievements speak to Kirsty’s strong mentoring and empowering approaches – a skill that is recognised throughout the Australian and international development sector.

Through Kirsty’s work and dedication, some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged people in the world, those with disability, are now being intentionally included and are contributing to their country’s development and poverty alleviation strategies.

Although this is just a small snapshot of Kirsty’s achievements, it is clear that she is a woman of influence, and we at CBM Australia are thrilled that her work has been recognised.

The most influential in each category, as well as the most influential overall, will be announced at an awards evening on October 15 in Sydney Town Hall.

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