International Day of People with Disability


Join us online to celebrate International Day of People with a Disability with a free community event.

3 December 2021
11am to 12pm

Join on Zoom

  • A conversation Kate Toholka, Chairperson of Council’s All Abilities Advisory Committee and Founder of @disabledmums
  • The Launch of Council’s Access and Inclusion Plan 2021-24
  • Council’s All Abilities Advisory Committee and the Surf Coast communities - working together to build a more inclusive, accessible place to thrive
  • Auslan interpreters and closed captioning will be provided

More information: Elle Steele or 5261 0600.

Download the invitation(PDF, 1MB) or contact Elle if you need a different format

Meet our IDPwD ambassadors

Kate Toholka

Hearing impaired

What do you do with your time?

I work four days a week as Support Co-ordination and Plan Management Manager for a not-for-profit disability organisation.

I also volunteer as Chair of the Surf Coast Shire Council All Abilities Advisory Committee.

In my so-called ‘spare’ time I run an online support group called Disabled Mums, a place for disabled mums and aspiring disabled mums to connect, learn and advocate for their needs.

Hobbies and other interests

Disabled Mums is my big passion project and something very new, but with a big, big vision. Outside of that, I enjoy spending time with my young family, caravanning around our beautiful state, and hopefully Australia!

Your proudest achievements

Having two healthy, happy kids – Pippa, 4, and Huey, 2 – would be my proudest.

Second would be the years I spent building myself an online profile, which enabled me to travel around Australia doing public speaking.

This was something I never thought I could do because of my disability and low confidence, so to be able to prove myself wrong was a huge achievement.

What would you like people to know about being a person with disability living in the Surf Coast Shire?

We want the same access as anyone else.

Council is doing a great job at working towards improving disabled access in many ways, but it would be great to see our small business community do their bit to ensure we all have access to services.

Facts about hearing impairment:

  • One in six Australians experiences hearing loss.
  • In Australia, hearing impairment and deafness is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act which makes it illegal to discriminate against a person who has a hearing loss.
  • Auslan – Australian sign language – is the sign language of the Australian Deaf community, but not every person with hearing loss speaks Auslan. That is why real-time captioning and the opportunity to read lips is imperative to some people with hearing loss.

Links: Geelong Deaf Social Group – Facebook

Miranda Millen

Aireys InletMiranda.jpg
Bipolar affective disorder type 1 and anxiety

What do you do with your time?

I am currently working as a volunteer at Anglesea Community House doing administration and ad-hoc tasks.

I can also be more creative and help with certain projects such as Science Week and the Farmers’ Market.

I am looking into the logistics of having some movie nights on a big screen

Hobbies and other interests

I enjoy living by the coast where the bush meets the sea.

In Aireys Inlet our clifftop walk from Sunnymeade to the lighthouse is a favourite walk of mine, with stunning views.

I am a huge lover of our native birds and animals.

In my downtime I enjoy doing puzzles, colouring in, watching movies and have a passion for all things marketing.

I find practising yoga is great for being present and a sense of mindfulness.

Proudest achievements

Currently six months out of hospital and working hard to maintain a healthy and fulfilling life.

Having returned to high school to finish year 12 after having had a difficult year off for mental health reasons. All of my friends had finished school the year before.

Receiving a nomination for best certificate student at the Gordon TAFE for my marketing studies.

Scoring four goals in a field hockey grand final and going on to win with my team!

What would you like people to know about being a person with disability living in the Surf Coast Shire?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, this is not a sign of weakness.

Mental health and disabilities do not define you. They are a part of you but don’t make up 100 per cent of you.

For mental health concerns contact the Surf Coast Mental Health team at Barwon Health Torquay. They will look after you!

If you have a question for someone with a disability, always ask first if they mind if you ask a question.

This allows them the option to reply or not.

Awareness of other people’s disabilities starts with empathy and understanding.

Never be afraid to ask questions to gain a better understanding of one’s disability.

Facts about mental health:

  • Bipolar type 1 disorder affects one in 50 Australians each year and often develops for the first time during teenage years or early adulthood.
  • Bipolar disorder tends to affect more women than men. It is sometimes referred to as manic depression.
  • While the causes of bipolar disorder are not fully known, a combination of genetic and other factors are usually associated with its development.

Links: The Black Dog Institute and SANE Australia for further information on treatment and support.

Tim Harte

Neurological, physical, sensory and cognitive impairments

What do you do with your time?

I spend my time studying a Bachelor of Science majoring in chemistry at Deakin University and contributing to organisations such as

  • Barrabool Hills Landcare Group
  • Corangamite Youth Advisory Group
  • Geelong Landcare Network
  • Youth Affairs Council Victoria
  • Australian Youth Climate Coalition Geelong Branch
  • Physical Disability Australia and Physical Disability Australia Youth Network.

I am also a member at Winchelsea Men’s Shed, a great local community organisation.

Hobbies and other interests

I enjoy contributing to the community and working towards building a better world for all by supporting fantastic charities and not-for-profits like Physical Disability Australia, which advocates for and with people with physical disabilities for a more accessible Australia.

I also support Youth Affairs Council Victoria which as the peak body representing young people in Victoria ensures young people’s voices are heard and listened to by decision makers, and Geelong Landcare Network which does fantastic environmental work supporting communities to manage country for better farming and environmental outcomes.

My interests and hobbies include anything nature-related including bird photography and identification, which I am not very good at but enjoy immensely, enjoying Australian native plants, science of all topics but particularly chemistry, and good mystery books.

Proudest achievements

I acquired disability in 2015. At the time I was studying ballet in Melbourne, and during the subsequent year of increasing health deterioration it became clear that I was not returning to the ballet world.

My life since I was 13 had been focused on that career and at the time all but one of my friends were in the ballet world.

My proudest achievement was that I hit the reset button and made a new life with new interests, passions and challenges.

In 2017 despite not having an ATAR from school I started studying part-time, due to health reasons, at Deakin College.

After meeting many new friends and lots of hard work I finished a Diploma of Science at Deakin College, graduating with the highest grade of my cohort, and transferred into second year of a Bachelor of Science at Deakin University.

Getting involved in community organisations in the Surf Coast area helped me to form new interests, make new friends and reconnect with our great community.

I am proud of many personal achievements reflected in awards in academic and community contribution areas, but I am most proud of my resilience and determination over the challenging past six years.

What would you like people to know about being a person with disability living in the Surf Coast Shire?

People with disability are extremely diverse in terms of their disabilities, impairments and life backgrounds.

It is very important not to assume anything about people with disabilities.

People with visible disabilities, such as people who use a wheelchair can often be assumed to require assistance or need help.

If you see a person with a visible disability who is for example carrying groceries treat them like any other person and if they look like they need a hand ask them if they would like you to assist.

Don’t assume and grab the groceries out of their hands and ask them where their carer is. People with disabilities are feeling, thinking people, treat them as such.

People with invisible disabilities, such as a heart or neurological conditions, can often be assumed to be being ‘weird’ due to actions they are taking to manage their condition, like lying down or resting for a heart condition, or ‘lazy’ as they are perceived to not be doing the physical work of a non-disabled person.

My disabilities are mostly invisible but I do wear dark sunglasses due to light sensitivity caused by a neurological condition.

This has resulted in some amusing examples of people in supermarkets leaping out of the way because they thought I was blind and dangerous with a trolley.

This story is amusing but at the other extreme of assumptions when I have been exiting a parked vehicle in a disabled parking spot I have had people stop driving past, beep their horn and yell out their window that I shouldn’t be in a disabled car park.

This was clearly because I didn’t meet their definition of what ‘disabled’ looks like.

When in doubt about how to treat a person with disability, think about how you would like to be treated.

Facts about disabilities:

  • 48% of working-age people with disability are employed, compared with 80% without disability.
  • One in six Australians have a disability, that is 4.4 million people or 18% of the Australian population.
  • For about three in four, or 77 per cent, of people with disability their main form of disability is physical.

Link: Physical Disability Australia

Thomas Byrne

Deans MarshThomas.jpg

What do you do with your time?

I live with my Mum in Deans Marsh. I am on the spectrum. Living in Surf Coast Shire means that I have been able to live within a small and generous community. Opportunities such as being a member of Surf Coast Shire Council’s All Abilities Advisory Committee have been something that I’m not sure I could have achieved had I not lived in a supportive environment. It has enabled me to feel part of the governing bodies that represent us all.

Proudest achievements

 I am studying for my Diploma of Community Services. This is amazing to me as I found mainstream schools so difficult and discontinued schooling in Year 8.

What would you like people to know about being a person with disability living in Surf Coast Shire?

Autism can be, in my experience, a lonely and isolating thing. Living outside the cities and in a more isolated place has provided me with less isolation. Being autistic and living in Surf Coast Shire has certainly shaped my views regarding education, equality and inclusiveness.

Facts about autism:

  • People are born with autism, a difference in the way a brain processes information.
  • It is likely we know someone with autism. Sometimes they are happy to discuss their condition with family, friends and people they meet but others might prefer to keep their diagnosis private.
  • Approximately four boys are born with autism for every one girl. Researchers are still trying to learn why.

Link: The Treehouse Geelong


Every December we celebrate the achievements and contributions of our community members living with a disability.

For more information on IDPwD, contact Council's Access and Inclusion Officer by lodging an online request or calling 5261 0600.