ACU academic invited to speak at UN headquarters

Published: Thursday 2nd April 2015

Mother and daughter team Rhonda and Ruth Faragher have just returned from the United States where they were invited to address an international audience on the importance of inclusive education at a meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in recognition of World Down Syndrome Day.

Ruth is a self-advocate for people with Down syndrome and acknowledges the work of her teachers in supporting her development. The senior student at Indooroopilly State High School said, "I just love telling people about how my teachers have helped me. I have learned how to speak up for Down syndrome. With good teaching and the right support, we can achieve so much!"

Ruth also acknowledges the support of her parents. Her mother, Rhonda, is an education academic at the Australian Catholic University and an international expert in the field of inclusive mathematics education for learners with Down syndrome.

Rhonda and Associate Professor Barbara Clarke from Monash University are completing a research study on inclusive mathematics education for primary school students with Down syndrome. Gandel Philanthropy has funded the study that has been conducted in partnership with the Australian Council for Educational Research.

Key among the findings reported at the UN on 20 March:

  • Students with Down syndrome can learn important mathematics in regular primary school classrooms.
  • They need the support of teaching teams who have undertaken professional learning in the education of students with Down syndrome.
  • Professional learning must include understanding of the mathematical and general education profile that is common among learners with Down syndrome.
  • Other important aspects are how to work effectively with teaching teams, how to adjust lessons to meet the needs of learners in the class and the use of resources such as calculators and iPad apps.

"It is a great honour to be invited to speak at the UN meeting", said Rhonda. "It is a recognition of the standing of Australia in the world community when it comes to inclusive education. We are world leaders in this area and our students are reaping the benefits."

It was a privilege to be invited to give a presentation for the Down Syndrome International Conference at the United Nations Headquarters on 20 March 2015, in recognition of World Down Syndrome Day.

Australia is one of the Permanent Missions to the United Nations that sponsored the meeting and we were honoured to have Her Excellency, Caitlin Wilson Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN, address the meeting. In her speech of welcome, she mentioned a number of initiatives that the Australian government is pursuing in the disability-inclusion sector including the new Development for All strategy.

"I was asked to speak on the family's role in inclusive education, with some of the presentation based on findings from my recent research project funded by Gandel Philanthropy and managed by ACER. My daughter spoke as a self-advocate. I was very impressed with the number of self-advocates who spoke at the conference. They gave a strong message of diversity and accomplishment from around the globe," said Rhonda.