7 March 2024

Inspiring inclusion and empowering women across Life Without Barriers.

Image: A grid of photos of four women smiling at the camera; Shelley Williams, Brigitte Fairbank, Emma Bennison and Paula Head.

We pay respect to all the aunties, sisters, mothers and grandmothers who have and continue to hold the light and hope for generations of daughters to come. We acknowledge your legacy of love, courage and resilience, today and always.

This International Women's Day, we looked inwards at how we inspire inclusion at Life Without Barriers every day.

We sat down with Brigitte Fairbank - Chief People Officer, Emma Bennison - Chief Innovation Officer, Paula Head - Chief Strategy and Governance Officer, and Shelley Williams - Senior Project Officer, Policy Practice and Development, to chat to them about a few key themes.

Inspiring Inclusion


"It's about people feeling valued, welcomed, respected, included, represented, and heard. I want to make sure that every single person in the organisation has a voice and that we learn from their lived experience and use that knowledge to inform how we can create a better experience for them in the workplace."


"I started in Life Without Barriers about six years ago, and it was one of the first places that I felt very comfortable disclosing my aboriginality. It was because of the questions and the onboarding questionnaire. I thought, if this organisation is brave enough to ask these questions or get people to read something about colonisation, it really must sit at the heart of the organisation.

"It gave me great comfort and confidence in ticking the box and saying 'yes, I'm happy for you to know this very special part of my heart and my body and my soul'."


"I would like people to recognise that inspiring inclusion is everybody's responsibility, everybody, and not just a responsibility, but a privilege.

"I would like it if we could get to a point where rather than people feeling like inclusion is something challenging that they have to do, that inclusion is just a way of being for all of us in the organisation.

"Everybody has characteristics or experiences, permanent or temporary, that causes them to feel excluded or feel unsafe from time to time.

"It's part of the human condition, and so I would like it if we recognised that inclusion is not something we just do on a particular day, like International Women's Day or International Day of People with Disability.

"I would like inclusion to be part of every organisation's DNA."


"For me, inclusion is seeing a workforce that really represents the people who we support and reflects all of those different areas of diversity."

Inclusion goes beyond mere representation; it's about creating an environment where everyone, regardless of gender, feels a sense of belonging and is given equal opportunities to thrive. It's about breaking down barriers, challenging stereotypes, and fostering a culture of respect and acceptance. When women, including trans women and nonbinary people, are included, whether in the workplace, politics, education, or any other sphere, society as a whole benefits from their unique perspectives, talents, and contributions.

Experiences of Women from Marginalised Communities


"For me, it is about turning a light on our mothers, our sisters and our aunties, and allowing us to recognise and see the strength and the resilience of women. Also, for us as an organisation, to really cast the lens on wanting to inspire hope, which is to help other possibilities emerge.

"So whatever we do, we never sit on that and say yes, we've done it, we've ticked it, look at us. It's something that needs to continue every day. It needs to engulf the whole organisation.

"We should never sit on what we are just happy with, we should always strive for the best."

“One other strong call out is the work that we've been doing in the relationships, intimacy and sexuality space.

"So that's looking at advancing the rights of all people to be able to experience respectful relationships and express themselves in ways that is right for them.

“Wherever we can, we want to empower women to be sexually safe, particularly when they're young, it is very important.

"We also know for so many cultures, there are special nuances around supporting women in having certain conversations about health and personal things.”


"One of the things that I love about working at Life Without Barriers is that one of our values is courage. With that, we have the courage to challenge the organisation when we're not feeling included."


"On an individual level, we've got carers all over our organisation looking after children and grandchildren, people with a disability, aged parents, a whole range of different things. I think there's some work we can do about recognising the internal carer and really bringing those stories and those voices to the forefront."

"It's also about how we advocate for change, I can actively advocate for some really great shifts that we need to make as a community in this organisation.

"Like having that national Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Children's commissioner announced, I know that that's something Life Without Barriers and the sector have been lobbying for for a long time.

"Or our commitment to transitioning Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander children back to ACCOs, where we know we get better outcomes for kids."

This year, the campaign theme is "Inspire Inclusion," a powerful call to action to promote the inclusion of women in all aspects of society. It's about recognising the importance of diversity and ensuring that every woman feels valued, respected, and empowered. In this blog, we delve into the significance of inspiring inclusion and how it can pave the way for a more equitable world for all.



“The first thing is to ask, then listen. Ask what people would like you to do. Because what you think might be really good behavior, might not be what the person actually needs or wants.

"Be brave enough to have that conversation - step into a place of curiosity rather than of saving people.”

“Don't make assumptions. Listen and ask and learn and develop. We are all developing our own allyship approach every day.”


“We need to focus on how we give a voice to those who don't use words to communicate.

"Research and experience tell us that people with a disability are some of the most vulnerable members of our society, especially those who don't use words to communicate."

"Their silence – for abuse perpetrators – is a cloak of protection. So whatever we design and deliver, we need to inspire the inclusion of those with the least opportunity to be heard.

"And I believe if we do stretch ourselves to the extremes of our uncomfortability, this is to show our courage and our bravery, and this will ensure that our investment and our approach is not tokenistic, but it's meaningful and true.”

Men can be better allies by recognising their own privilege and actively supporting women's rights and empowerment. They can help dismantle patriarchal structures and create a more equitable society for all. It's about listening to women's experiences, amplifying their voices, and taking concrete actions to promote gender equality in their personal and professional lives.

Workplace Flexibility


"If someone needs a period away from the workplace and then wants to transition back in, that support is just so important. It comes down to the manager and making sure that we've got managers who are supportive and help people navigate through experiences.

"I think the same is true of people who experience health issues, be they physical or mental health issues that can be episodic.

"We embed lived experience perspectives in our organisation, we also look carefully at how we embed lived experience in terms of the people we support to really enhance the service delivery that we provide to deliver great services across the organisation.

"What we want to do going forward is make sure that the process of embedding the voices of the people that we support happens right up front."

"When we're designing and developing the services that we deliver, we're doing that."


"It's about the work that we do with children and young people, families, people with a disability, the elderly, a whole range of different parts of the community, how we help remove barriers so that they can live their best life and also feel included in the community.

"And just as importantly, leveraging the lived experience of our employees and what they experience in the workplace and what they ask for.

"What do we need to do? How can we support them?"


"The workplace feels very different from how it used to feel 30 years ago in terms of the representation of women and support."

"We've got lots of representation at Life Without Barriers from different groups. Being able to see those changes over the years, it's really heartwarming.

"All the women in senior positions, positions of leadership, positions of influence, are having their voices heard, it is really important."


"I think it's in the strength of the manager that you have who inspires you to be open and bring your whole self to work and being able to go, 'you know what this day is not working for me.'

"I really need that space and I've been lucky in Life Without Barriers to work with some amazing leaders who are very open and sometimes are more willing to catch the times when I'm a bit wobbly and haven't even realised myself."

Empowering women to participate fully in all aspects of life is essential for building a more inclusive society. This empowerment can take many forms, from providing access to education and economic opportunities to promoting leadership roles and decision-making positions. When women are empowered, they can unleash their full potential, driving positive change and inspiring others to do the same.

As we mark International Women's Day 2024, let's recommit ourselves to the goal of inspiring inclusion. Let's work together to create a world where every woman and girl can live free from discrimination and violence, where their voices are heard and their rights are protected. By inspiring inclusion today, we can build a brighter and more equitable future for generations to come.

Diversity and inclusion at Life Without Barriers

At Life Without Barriers, we celebrate diversity, and we practice inclusion.

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