Access and inclusion campaigner named as Chancellor’s Medallist - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Access and inclusion campaigner named as Chancellor’s Medallist

25 Sep 2019

A dogged determination to demonstrate how being in a wheelchair is not an impediment to becoming involved in university and community life has helped Bachelor of Business graduate Belinda Harris earn recognition as a Chancellor’s Medallist.

The 32-year-old from Kallangur in Moreton Bay will deliver the graduand response when she graduates tomorrow (1pm Thursday 26 September) with a double major in tourism, leisure and event management, and marketing.

A devoted volunteer, Belinda was a student representative on the Vice-Chancellor and President's Equity and Diversity Committee, a member of USC Enactus, an Orientation Week volunteer from 2016-2019 and a USC National Student Volunteer Week Expo volunteer in 2018.

Graduating with an impressive grade point average (GPA) of 6.58, Belinda said she’s always been a passionate advocate for access and inclusion.

“The reason why I volunteer in the community is for not only my own enjoyment and personal development but to show others that you can do anything you want no matter your circumstances,” Belinda said.

“I wanted to be able to demonstrate to others that being in a wheelchair is no limitation to being an active and contributing member of a community, and to help break the stigma and change perceptions of people with a disability, to promote inclusiveness,” she said.

“Being able to help a community become more accessible and inclusive is my number one aim, and you can only do that by going out there and getting involved and educating people on the importance of and many benefits of inclusive communities.

Belinda also works as the volunteer Youth Engagement and Events officer for Nature Freedom, a community organisation that provides socially inclusive opportunities for young people with disabilities and mental health conditions to experience the natural environment.

“My motto in life is ‘where there is a will, there is a way’ and there will always be challenges in life and people that tell you ‘no, you can’t do that’,” Belinda said.

“But, if you have a drive or a passion to do something in life and think outside the box, there is always a way to overcome challenges and achieve dreams,” she said.

During her undergraduate degree Belinda had an assignment published in the Australian Association of Social Marketing’s Viewpoint publication on the low graduate employment rate for university graduates with a disability – a topic that’s inspiring Belinda to contemplate post-graduate study.

“I am considering doing my honours degree to further research and explore one of my passions which is accessible tourism and thinking about starting my own business in accessible tourism consulting in the future,” Belinda said.

USC Chancellor Sir Angus Houston said Belinda’s positive attitude, her patience, determination and resilience were inspirational.

“In recognition of Belinda’s outstanding achievements and distinguished contributions we couldn’t think of a more worthy recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal. Congratulations Belinda,” he said.

- Megan Woodward

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