University of Melbourne and Scope Victoria launch strategic partnership

November 14 / 148

Professor Carolyn Evans, Dean, Melbourne Law School, at the Scope Partnership launch. Photo Richard Timbury.
Professor Carolyn Evans, Dean, Melbourne Law School, at the Scope Partnership launch. Photo Richard Timbury.

Disability research at the University of Melbourne will be enhanced through a new strategic partnership with Scope Victoria.

Disability research is one of the University’s first four Hallmark Research Initiatives, along with Indigenous Research, Materials Research and Computational Biology Research. The Initiatives have an interdisciplinary emphasis and are intended to build on existing strengths in areas considered a priority for the University.

The partnership with Scope Victoria includes joint funding for a professorial appointment to lead the Initiative and Scope’s strategic research programs. It was officially launched on 31 October.

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Collaboration and Infrastructure) Professor Liz Sonenberg said formalising the relationship with Scope was an important step in advancing the University’s disability research agenda.

“The partnership is a commitment by the University to work closely with an influential partner to improve practical and policy outcomes,” she said.

Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald, CEO of Scope Victoria, said the jointly funded appointment demonstrated a new model for collaboration within the disability sector.

“The objectives of this research initiative directly align with Scope’s mission of enabling each person we support to live as an empowered and equal citizen,” she said.

“The outcomes will play a pivotal role in improving the lives of people living with a disability both now and into the future.”

The Disability Research Initiative was developed after a forum held in 2013 highlighted a desire among academics to increase research into the way that society impacts those living with impairments.

Professor Bernadette McSherry, Foundation Director of the Melbourne Social Equity Institute, said research had traditionally focussed on improving conditions to allow individuals to participate fully in society.

“This focus remains of essential importance,” she said.

“However, the social model of disability takes the view that people may be disabled by society’s failure to provide the means to ensure their social inclusion. It emphasises human rights, particularly the rights to dignity and equality.”

Professor Sonenberg said the University had deep expertise in social and economic inclusion, medicine and allied health and the new technologies that improve quality of life.

“Disability research is one of the many areas in the University where we have remarkable strengths, but they are distributed across our complex organisation. The new Hallmark Initiative in Disability Research will help to connect researchers across the University and create opportunities for collaboration,” she said.

The Initiative also includes a new disability human rights clinic in the Melbourne Law School that will teach Juris Doctorate students about the legal rights of persons living with disabilities and support them in making submissions to inquiries.

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