Dr Rhonda Faragher wins staff award for Mission Excellence

Published: Monday 8th August 2016

Dr Rhonda Faragher has won the Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Excellence Award for Mission Excellence for her life-changing work for people with Down syndrome in Australia and around the world.

Dr Faragher has been deeply involved in improving the lives of people with Down syndrome, particularly through education, since the birth of her daughter with Down syndrome in 1996.

She joined ACU in 2006, attracted in large part because of the alignment of ACU's Mission to her personal and professional work. Through research, teaching and service, she has made an exceptional contribution to those with and affected by Down syndrome.

Dr Faragher is an Independent Director of Down Syndrome Australia , the Chair of the Asia Pacific Down Syndrome Federation, and Trustee of Down Syndrome International.

Her contribution to research in Down syndrome led to her election as Vice-Chair of the Down Syndrome Special Interest Research Group of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSIDD).

She was appointed to the Board of the IASSIDD Academy on Education, Teaching and Research due to her expertise in translating research to practice.  The Academy is particularly focused on improving outcomes for people with intellectual and development disabilities in low- and middle-income countries.

A good example of her international leadership, was a workshop she presented at the Baby Memorial Hospital, Kerala, India last year, which provided cutting-edge research on early education of children with Down syndrome to health and education professionals, practitioners and family members in a region where opportunities for this professional learning are few.

Rhonda's commitment to those with intellectual disabilities has been mirrored by an outstanding research program in this area, starting with her PhD research into the mathematical needs of adults with Down syndrome.

She is the world's leading researcher in mathematics and children with Down syndrome, and the book which she co-edited in 2014, Educating learners with Down syndrome: Research, theory and practice with children and adolescents, represented a significant contribution to the field of Down syndrome and education.

Mathematics is a key economic, social and educational priority for Australia; given ACU's place as the largest tertiary provider of teacher education graduates. It is vital that mathematics education occupies a central place in our learning and teaching framework. The two groups of Australian children who have the least progress and competence in mathematics are those living with disabilities and those from low socio-economic status communities.

Dr Faragher's work has demonstrably improved the outcomes for both these student cohorts through her research and her professional development work with teachers and with communities of practice. However, her most influential work, in the longer term, is through the alteration of understanding and practice among pre-service mathematics educators.

She has enhanced the capability and practice of cohorts of future teachers by encouraging them to have high expectations of all their students; to see mathematics education as integral to human flourishing; and, to utilise measures of success applicable to all students.

Dr Faragher is a wonderful role model for staff and students as well as an acclaimed advocate in the wider community. The testament of others with detailed knowledge is further evidence of how widespread and influential her commitment to the Mission has been.

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