To get to know the WDSC 2024 speakers in more detail, click on their photos below:
Dr Jasneek Chawla
A/Professor Jasneek Chawla is a Paediatric Respiratory and Sleep Medicine Specialist at Queensland Children’s Hospital, Brisbane and leads the Kids Sleep Research Group at the Child Health Research Centre, University of Queensland. Her research interests include sleep in children with complex disability and the development of novel measurement tools for paediatric sleep medicine. A/Prof Chawla holds a Children’s Hospital Foundation, Early Career Fellowship and is leading a multi-centre MRFF funded study focused on improving the diagnosis and management of sleep disorders in children with neurodisability. Her PhD work focused on sleep problems in children with Down syndrome and provided the foundations for her ongoing research and forged a strong connection with Down syndrome Queensland and Down syndrome Australia. A/Prof Chawla is a board director for the Australian Sleep Association and is chair of the Education Committee and deputy chair of the conference committee. She is a strong advocate for children with disability and chronic illness and collaborates widely with many consumer representative organisations and individuals with lived experience through her research.
I love Rugby League and most other sports. I love to dance. I love my family and friends. In the NRL I support the Canberra Raiders and I’m a very passionate supporter of theirs. I’ve attended many of their games and had photographs taken with them.
I work for a company called EML, as an office assistant. I catch the bus to and from work, and often like to call in at the shops on the way home. In addition to working, I have also been involved in doing research with my sister, Kathy Cologon. I’m passionate about inclusion, too.
I live with my parents and one of my brothers in Canberra. I also own apartment, which I rent out to a tenant. That is an investment for my future. Before joining EML, I used to work in real estate.
I’m a member of a dance group called The Dream Team. We have classes each week at LEGS Dance Studio. I really enjoy the dancing.
Also, I have Down Syndrome.
Dr Kathy Cologon
Dr Kathy Cologon (she/her) lives and works on Darkinjung Country. Kathy is Principal Consultant at Toward Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Honorary Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Education at Macquarie University. Kathy is privileged to work with many children, families, teachers, educators, allied professionals, services, and a wide range of organisations. The crux of what drives Kathy's work is a belief in the value of human beings in all our wonderful diversities and recognition that this has important implications for the role of education and accessibility in our communities. Through her work, Kathy seeks to contribute to increased knowledge and understanding regarding how to provide effective opportunities to enable all people to flourish as valued community members. This requires challenging normative and deficit assumptions and engaging with practical issues relating to children's rights and inclusion. With extensive experience in the field prior to commencing her work in academia, followed by 15 years of educating teachers, Kathy has a depth and breadth of understanding of the many facets of inclusive education. This continues to develop through her ongoing research and engagement with children, families, teachers and allied professionals. Kathy is nationally and internationally renowned for her work in Inclusive Education, including literacy learning, and Disability Studies. Kathy has published more than 50 papers, book chapters, and books.
Sir Robert Martin
Over the years, I have travelled the world speaking to organisations, families, and people with learning disabilities about many topics, including the right to live in the community, deinstitutionalisation, the right to work, and to live their chosen life.
New Zealand nominated me for the Committee for the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and I was successfully elected to this role in June 2016. I am still on the Committee. I am the first person with a learning disability to be elected and succeed. I was given my knighthood in January 2020 for my service to my community. It is believed that I am the first person with a learning disability to have received such an award.
I live in Whanganui and with his wife Lady Lynda in a house on a street with a letter box like everyone else. I still require assistance to maintain an independent life. At times I do require assistance through supported decision making particularly with complex situations. I am very lucky to have family, friends and assistants that meet my needs. So I can live my life the way I want.
I believe every individual person is a member of our society. They should be respected and given opportunities and choices just like everyone else. Disability is often a barrier but should not be a blockade. People should be able to choose where they live, with whom and how they live.
I dream of the day where difference is ok and accepted. And every person has the opportunity to live life to the fullest.
Prof Roy McConkey
Roy McConkey is Emeritus Professor of Developmental Disabilities at Ulster University, Northern Ireland. A psychologist by training and a native of Belfast, he has previously held posts in England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. He has been visiting Professor at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, University of Sydney, Australia and at Trinity College, Dublin.
He has worked in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities for over 50 years and has authored, co-authored and edited over 15 books, and published around 200 book chapters and research papers in learned journals.
He has acted as a consultant to various United Nations agencies and International NGOs, and spoken at many international conferences. This work has taken him to some 25 countries in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America. Currently he is a consultant to Special Olympics International on health and social inclusion projects.
In 2015 he was awarded an OBE by Queen Elizabeth for services to intellectual and developmental disabilities. He was also the recipient of the International Award from the American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Prof Cameron Parsell
ARC Industry Fellow
ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course
School of Social Science
The University of Queensland
Cameron’s work examines multiple forms of exclusion and social harms. His research focuses on the nature and experience of poverty, homelessness, and domestic and family violence. He is interested in understanding what societies do to respond to these problems, and what societies ought to do differently to address them. In collaboration with researchers and partners from not-for-profit organisations including Micah Projects, Cameron’s program of research seeks to identify how citizens experiencing exclusion and practitioners working with them can work with governments to bring about systematic societal change.
Dr Brian Skotko MD, MPP
A Board-certified medical geneticist, Dr. Skotko is the Emma Campbell Endowed Chair on Down Syndrome at Massachusetts General Hospital. As the Director of the hospital’s Down Syndrome Program, he has dedicated his professional energies toward children with cognitive and development disabilities. He co-authored the national award-winning books, Common Threads: Celebrating Life with Down Syndrome and Fasten Your Seatbelt: A Crash Course on Down Syndrome for Brothers and Sisters. He is a graduate of Duke University, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard Kennedy School, and he is currently an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Skotko is a leader on clinical and translational research about Down syndrome. He has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The L.A. Times, NPR’s “On Point,” and ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Dr. Skotko has a sister with Down syndrome and serves on the Honorary Board of Directors for the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress.
Prof Ernst Wolvetang
Prof Wolvetang is a senior group leader at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland (Australia) where he leads a research team that employs human induced pluripotent stem cell derived brain organoids as in vitro disease models for monogenic, complex (such as Down syndrome) and environmentally induced neurological diseases. Leveraging these “human brain in a dish” models he aims to understand how genetic defects cause diseases that affect the brain during development and later in life, and to identify and test therapeutic approaches that can improve patient health outcomes.
Charlotte Woodward is a young woman with Down syndrome who has had four open-heart surgeries and a lifesaving heart transplant. She works at the National Down Syndrome Society as the Education Program Associate. As the third registered lobbyist with Down syndrome, she promotes the passage of important state and federal legislation that impacts the disability community. There is currently legislation before both the House and the Senate of the U.S. Congress that bears her name: the Charlotte Woodward Organ Transplant Discrimination Prevention Act. Charlotte is a recent graduate of George Mason University from which she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology with a concentration in Inequality and Social Change. Charlotte’s studies and her work perfectly complement each other - as a sociologist, she examines the structural and systemic inequalities in society that affect the lives of people with disabilities, and as an advocate, she uses this knowledge to raise awareness and to affect positive change. She is a passionate advocate for the human and civil rights of all people with Down syndrome and frequently writes and speaks on issues important to the disability community.