• Jane Rosengrave (floral dress) pictured with the team from the First Peoples' Disability Network. (First Peoples' Disability Network)
Jane Rosengrave, a proud Yorta Yorta woman with an intellectual disability who passionately advocates for the rights of the disability community won the Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Award at the Australian Human Rights Awards last Friday.
Karina Marlow

14 Dec 2016 - 3:34 PM  UPDATED 14 Dec 2016 - 3:34 PM

The Award is given to individuals with a track record of promoting and advancing human rights in the Australian community on a not-for-profit basis and while Jane has certainly gone above and beyond the win caught her by surprise.

“I was so excited. I was not expecting my name to be announced due to the outstanding quality of the others who were nominated.“

Jane was accompanied by many of her colleagues from the First Peoples Disability Network where she is a Board member. The organisation advocates nationally for Indigenous peoples with disabilities and their families as well as providing support and education.

“When they announced my name I was so excited I needed lots of hugs and then needed help to get up the stairs because I was so overwhelmed. I have never received anything like this before and I am so proud to win.”

In 2013, Jane left her abusive partner and spoke out about the abuse she suffered at his hands and growing up as a child with a disability in state care. Living in institutions from the time she was six months old, Jane experienced both sexual and emotional abuse from the age of six until the time she was twenty-one.  

“I learned so much about myself by being involved with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and have shared this with others to give them confidence and hope so that they are able to talk about their lives and abuse in institutions and in abusive relationships,” she told NITV.

In 2016, she told her personal story in a powerful and affecting episode of ‘Lateline’ on the ABC. With two-thirds of women with an intellectual disability suffering sexual abuse before the age of 18, Jane hoped that by sharing her story it would encourage others to speak up about the abuse they have suffered.

“All of the people out there who are traumatised and experiencing domestic violence can look at my story and I hope that this will encourage them to leave their partners and go to support agencies and get the help they want and need."

Now at 53, she describes herself as “FREE AS A BIRD and by sharing my story I can give strength to other people so that they can feel more valuable and strong.”

With a bright future ahead, Jane is keen to continue her advocacy work. Over the years she has worked with the First Peoples Disability Network, Woor-Dungin, Open Place, Reinforce Self Advocacy, Action for More Independence & Dignity in Accommodation, STAR Victoria and the Self-Advocacy Resource Unit.

She is also keen to work with “any others who are working towards a fully inclusive community for people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds and people with a disability.”

For Jane it is so important for Indigenous people with a disability to have a voice through advocates like herself because "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability have been discriminated against for generations and this is still the case."

“I am looking forward to using this award to share my message with others and to keep fighting for human rights for Aboriginal people, people with disability and woman and children who have experienced violence and sexual assault,” she said.