Senator Jordon Steele-John

2018 McKinnon Emerging Political Leader of the Year

Senator Jordon Steele-John has been named the McKinnon Emerging Political Leader for 2018 for his outstanding leadership on disability advocacy. Throughout 2018, Senator Steele-John brought his lived experience of disability to the parliament and used his growing public profile to achieve change. Senator Steele-John has used the platform of the Parliament to shine a light on the appalling treatment of people with disabilities in Australia with the government agreeing to establish a Royal Commission into abuse of people using disability services.

In September 2018, Senator Steele-John wept in the Senate chamber as he read out the names of 34 Australians with disabilities – some as young as seven years old – who had died because of violence, abuse or neglect in institutional and residential settings. The speech highlighted the passion and personal conviction that Senator Steele-John had brought to the parliament as he became a spearhead for change. He has been relentless in applying pressure on government by engaging with a range of stakeholders comprising constituents, the media, the disability sector and other political parties, to agitate for reform through the initiation of a Royal Commission into the treatment of disabled people in care. Impressively, Senator Steele-John’s efforts over 2018 recently culminated in both houses of parliament passing an historic motion to support a royal commission into violence, abuse and neglect against people with a disability. Senator Steele-John has remained steadfast in his continued petitioning of government and has made it clear that his efforts will extend to whenever is necessary in order to elicit change.

In addition to his work on the Royal Commission, Senator Steele-John has advocated for Auslan to be included as a standard in the Federal Government-funded free interpreter service, for use of captions for online videos of parliamentary proceedings and introduced a bill for mandatory audio- descriptive services on free-to-air television – an Australian first. In 2018, he also launched a campaign to see the Australian Public Service aim for more employment of people with disabilities.

Senator Steele-John has also been central to the implementation of changes in the systems and structures that support Australian Parliament House (APH), which was (and has historically been) inaccessible to disabled people.

Senator Steele-John became Australia’s youngest-ever federal Senator when he was elected in 2017 and the first to use a wheelchair for mobility. He is a worthy recipient of the McKinnon Emerging Political Leader for 2018 and has shown over his short time in the parliament what is achievable when personal conviction and determination are applied to the policy making process.

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The McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership is a collaboration between the Susan McKinnon Foundation and the University of Melbourne through the Melbourne School of Government.

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