What can we learn from our leaders with intellectual disability?

18 November 2019

At Council for Intellectual Disability we had a research group that looked into leadership.

First we looked at our own stories.

Then we reached out and interviewed other leaders with intellectual disability.

Then we put all the info together to see what we could find out.

Here are some things we found.

What helped shape us into who we are now

At some point in our own lives we have all been through bullying and trauma. Some of us are working hard on healing ourselves.

Luckily all of us had at least one person who stood by us which is good.

You should try to get as many people to stand by you.

Our strengths

We have lots of different strengths.

We don’t know our strengths until we try. How we use them is what counts the most.

We found some of our strengths are

  • Not backing down. Being willing to deal with blocks and barriers to get to our goals
  • If something is not right, we try to stop it from happening
  • Knowing our special skills, and building on them and using them
  • Being really passionate about changing things for the better

Taking risks and having adventures

Leaders told us they tried new things and took risks.

Here are some things you can do:

  • You can do study to learn more
  • Find peer groups who are friends you can work with
  • Look around for different work opportunities.
  • Find advocacy groups

We tried new things like looked into how to become a leader.

Sometimes it was scary. This was because we didn’t understand until we looked into it.

But we worked together as a team to sort it out.

Making the wrong decisions can land you in some trouble.

You also get to go on adventures along the way.

 Reaching out for support to keep going

You can get support for different things.

Support can come from a mix of people and places, like

  • Family and friends, or people in your everyday life
  • Co-workers and mentors, everyday professional friends
  • Advocates and self-advocates. They are sometimes friends or sometimes people you may not even know.

It can be hard sometimes to work out your limits and what level of support you actually need.

People said it was important to know how to manage yourself too.

Just have a go, because you don’t know what you can do until you try.

By Jack McKenzie Stewart, CID Member


Jack meets Judy and Peter Huett, who are strong leaders from the Speak Out Association of Tasmania.

More about our leadership project

For a long time CID members with intellectual disability have taken up opportunities to grow their leadership and influence. We show the world that our voices can and should be heard in the highest places as well as in everyday life, and that important decisions must always include us.

This year we formed a peer research group to better understand pathways to leadership, and how people can grow and stay strong as leaders. With this knowledge we hope to build a CID leadership framework.

This blog by Jack is a report on the first stage results of the research group. Jack presented these results at the 2019 Speak Out Tasmania conference, ‘Expect the best – the Future is Today’.

“I wanted people to be able to show me some of their life stuff and for them to take the next step and to work out for themselves what skills they have for leadership,” Jack said.

“I liked how I was asked for help. It means people were engaging with our activity and were not afraid to ask. I wanted people to laugh and have a good time and get heaps engaged, and we got just what we wanted.”

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