Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 05 Hansard (Tuesday, 31 March 2009) . . Page.. 1532 ..
Under her leadership, Koomarri implemented a certified agreement in 2002 that gave workers with a disability the same workplace rights as those of their colleagues who were without disabilities. She also urged upon the organisation the importance of ensuring that Canberrans with disabilities had access to appropriate and secure housing, somewhere deserving of the word “home”.
In these times we hear a great deal about brand recognition. But something sets apart the recognition we accord to a loved institution such as Koomarri from the Pavlovian response we give to a soft drink, a bank or a brand of jeans. The Koomarri brand is not manufactured by marketers but built on the honest exertions of men and women—and, for the past decade, on the exertions of Margaret Spalding and her team. It depends for its reputation and recognition not upon superficial imagery but upon real achievement. It seeks relevance not by idle and thoughtless commentary on the state of the world but by changing the state of the world, one job and one human being at a time.
Margaret Spalding helped change the world for hundreds of Canberrans with disabilities. She did it as CEO of Koomarri, but in a host of other roles as well: through her work as a committee member of National Disability Services ACT since 2005; as a member of this government’s Community Inclusion Board; as co-chair of the future directions oversight group of the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services; as deputy chair of the ACT Ministerial Disability Advisory Council; as a member of the Disability Reform Group; as a founding member of the ACT Leadership Development Group; as a founding member of the ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service; as a former director of disability policy in ACT Health and Community Services; as Executive Director of Headway Victoria; as founding coordinator of the advocacy service ADACAS; and as executive director of the respite service FaBRiC—from inside government and from the outside, wherever she could make a difference to the life prospects of those Canberrans for whom her service was given.
Her contribution and the deep integrity of her work were recognised and honoured by her peers, her community, her colleagues, her clients and her friends, and by the many of us who like to imagine that we fit into more than one of these categories.
In 2002 Margaret Spalding was runner-up in the prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year award for her work with Koomarri. Three years later Koomarri and ActewAGL were awarded a Prime Minister’s award for excellence in community business partnerships. Then, on Australia Day this year, Margaret Spalding was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for her service to people with disabilities. She was to have been formally invested in May, just a few weeks from now.
Through all her decades of service, the side to Margaret most of her acquaintances and colleagues saw was the vivacious side—optimistic; energetic; enthused by a challenge, not cowed by it. But there was another side, one of progressive illness and of compounding challenge. I do not believe we can truly honour and celebrate the whole person of Margaret Spalding, or appreciate her contribution to our city, without acknowledging these things. They, too, were a part of her complex humanity.