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Disability in Leadership. Because Representation Matters by Amy Walduck.

May 2024

Amy Walduck bio

Amy Walduck is a library practitioner and former Non Executive Director (NED) of the Australian Library and Information Association. As a NED with disability, she was awarded a 2024 Directing Change Scholarship by the Australian Disability Network and the Australian Institute of Company Directors. With a passion for diverse and inclusive leadership, Amy prides herself on being a people focused library and information professional and industry leader who excels at bringing together passionate people and creating environments that are conducive to solving complex problems and driving user focused outcomes. A former professional musician and music educator, Amy brings creative flair to both her personal and professional lives.


Disability in Leadership. Because Representation Matters


My name is Amy Walduck, a librarian from Queensland who has been working in libraries since 2011. You may have seen me speak at a library conference, as a guest lecturer during your studies, as part of webinars for the ALIA Mentoring Scheme, or we may be connected on LinkedIn. You may also know me as a Director on the ALIA Board. In fact, after only one year of my 3-year term, I have just resigned from the Board to take on a permanent role as Senior Manager Membership and Engagement with ALIA. I loved my time on the ALIA Board, and I am looking forward to working full-time with ALIA, for its members, and for our industry.

In 2024, I “came out” as a person with disability. I was formally diagnosed 10 years ago, but like many others like me, I have been hiding. At the ALIA National 2024 Conference in Adelaide, I did something brave and publicly spoke about being a leader with disability, because when it comes to disability in leadership, I truly believe that representation matters.

The truth is that “normal” is an illusion and people with disability are tired of being seen as not capable of leadership. Ableist views of leadership and the workplace need to be replaced with acceptance and flexibility.

At the conference, my presentation was called: Disability in Leadership. Because Representation Matters. I would like to thank all of those who were in the audience in Adelaide (it was also my 41st birthday!), and in Brisbane at the ALIA QLD conference wrap-up event where I repeated the presentation, who created a supportive and welcoming environment for me to speak on this topic as well as those who have since shared their personal stories with me.

The Australian Disability Network defines disability as any condition that restricts a person’s mental, sensory or mobility functions. It may be caused by accident, trauma, genetics or disease. A disability may be temporary or permanent, total or partial, lifelong or acquired, visible or invisible.

There are 4.4 million Australians with disability, that’s 17.7% of the population. 11.6% of Australians aged 0-64 have disability, and our likelihood of living with disability increases with age, rising to 49.6% for Australians aged 65 and over. This means that by the time we retire from the workforce, half of us will be living with disability.

The Final Report of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability was released in September 2023. Over the course of the Royal Commission, almost 10,000 people shared their experience of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation and it was clear that the voices of people with disability are not being heard in Australia. ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ is the rallying cry of the disability rights movement because people with disability need to be included every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural decision making yet it was clear that governments, disability service providers, businesses and community organisations often ignore the expertise of people with disability.

Senior disability leaders are quoted in the Executive Summary, Our vision for an inclusive Australia and Recommendations highlighting the reality of leadership for people with disability:

“Organisations often assume people with disability do not have leadership capacity, knowledge and skills.” Daniel Stubbs, Victorian Disability Worker Commissioner

“Disabled people have simply not been considered as leaders. We seem to have been left by the wayside when it comes to being considered as people who are able to do leadership. There are very few openly disabled people in positions of leadership, decision-making [and] positions of authority.” Christina Ryan, CEO of the Disability Leadership Institute

In the April 2024 monthly bulletin of the Disability Leadership Institute, which landed in my inbox not long before the ALIA National 2024 Conference, Christine Ryan writes:

“Disability leaders often talk about burnout – it seems many face challenging work environments with unrealistic and ableist expectations. The more senior disability leaders are, the more ableist the expectations get. The more senior disability leaders are, the more ableist the expectations get. Many still face the assumption that disabled people don’t do leadership, or if they do they should be doing it like everyone else.

Everyone seems to want diversity, but few organisations have put real thought into operating in more diverse and flexible ways. This means disability leaders are welcome so long as they can work as though they are not disabled people. Disability leaders report being welcome to talk about all areas of diversity except disability. They are welcome to hold senior positions, so long as they don’t require adjustment.”

The Watermark Search International and Governance Institute of Australia Board Diversity Index is an annual report that provides analysis of diversity on Australian boards including gender, cultural background, skills and experience, age, tenure and independence. The 2024 Index highlights the limited data on Australian directors with disability, and the barriers to they face to being appointed to these leadership roles. Whilst some not-for-profits, small businesses, charities and support organisations include people with disabilities on their boards, they remain almost entirely unrepresented on boards for ASX300 companies.

Now in its third and final year, the Australian Disability Network partnered with the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) to increase the representation of people with disability in executive and board leadership positions by offering a series of formal governance training and mentoring programs. The goal is to create a pipeline of qualified leaders with disability to increase diversity, representation and performance on Australian boards.

At least two library colleagues participated in the Disability Leadership Program and in 2024, I am a recipient of a Directing Change Scholarship. As well as completing the AICD Company Directors Course, I have connected with remarkable disability leaders across Australia, and we are determined to advocate for leadership opportunities for people with disability across all sectors of the workforce. We are smart, we are capable, we are worthy.

If your organisation is a member of the Diversity Council Australia, I recommend watching the recording of the March 2024 event, Increasing Pathways and Opportunities for People with Disability in the Workforce. It explores some of the recommendations from the Royal Commission and features a panel sharing their lived experiences and expertise on how employers can play a key role in making change.

In library land, if you are a person with disability or an ally, I encourage you to get involved with the following two groups. Both provide a sense of belonging and support as well as professional development opportunities and resources.

ALIA Disability aims to facilitate networking, support, professional development, and resources for the Library and Information Sector with a focus on supporting people living with a disability.

The Association of Neurodivergent and Disabled GLAMR Professionals Australia (ANDPA) aspires to promote the acceptance of disability and neurodiversity in GLAMR fields through community, pride, belonging, and leadership.


Thank you to Amy Walduck, State Library of Queensland for sharing your ALIA National Conference 2024 ‘Disability in Leadership. Because Representation Matters’ presentation with ALIASNGG.


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