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International Women’s Day 2024: Dr Melinda Smith OAM

Updated: Mar 13

This year, we celebrated International Women’s Day by chatting with two incredible disability advocates, Dr Melinda Smith OAM and Anaab Rooble.

Mel’s story

Dr Melinda Smith OAM is an artist and teacher living with cerebral palsy and is supported by Melba.

Melinda mentors young people with cerebral palsy and complex communication needs around the world. She is a lecturer at Deakin University in Inclusive Arts and a regular performer and Board Member with the Women's Circus. She has an Honorary Doctorate from Deakin University.

Melinda often uses speech-generating devices to communicate. For our interview, she typed in Zoom chat. This meant the conversation was mostly quiet and had a peaceful, serene quality. She highlighted some of the perceptions of people with disability that remain today.


What does International Women's Day mean to you as a woman and as a woman with disability?

I have been involved in a few International Women's Day events with council, and to me it's a celebration of being and expressing who I am personally and professionally.


The theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is ‘Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress’. What do you see are barriers to economic equality, and what can we do?

That's a big question. I guess for me, I feel unless people know a bit about me, they assume I don't have an employment status and I have been self supporting myself for three decades now.


What are some of the barriers you still face as a woman and as a woman with disability?

I really push for a better perception, e.g. in communication and allowing that time for a greater understanding, rather than assumptions. I think if we can promote communication rights for those of us that use various ways, we are then creating a more quality community.


What would you like changed or people to do?

People hear me bang on about “TIME” all the time (laughs). I encourage my listeners to embrace stillness and silences.


What impact has being with Melba had for you?

I have been with Melba since October 2023 and I am absolutely loving the community here. I feel safe, supported and respected. Also, I like the give and take attitude.


More information

You can explore Mel's work on her website:

Image credit: Dr Melinda Smith OAM


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