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ADCET Forum: New Disability Practitioners - Universities

New to the university sector? New to your role? Keen to hear from others with experience? This forum will be for you.

The forum aimed to:

  • Provide clarity on what is expected within your role, where does it start and end?
  • Provide tips and tricks when starting out in the role;
  • Discuss what is reasonable when making reasonable adjustments;
  • Identify key legislative frameworks that underpin your work.

The panellists were: Jayne Ayliffe (Uni SA), Mirela Suciu (UNE) and Tracey Nelson (Deakin) all with many years of experience.  


Tracey Nelson photo

Tracey Nelson has over 30 years’ experience in a variety of roles, including recruitment, training, counselling and human resources in the corporate sector. More recently, Tracey worked at Swinburne University of Technology for 10 years, in roles ranging from student admin, team leader, research support, Industry-Based Learning and Professional Placements, and then a highly-anticipated secondment into Accessibility Services, which sparked a huge passion for supporting students with a disability. About 4 years ago, the opportunity came along to join the Disability Resource Centre at Deakin University as a Disability Liaison Officer, and Tracey hasn’t looked back since. The role of a DLO draws on all of Tracey’s years of tertiary education and corporate experience as well as qualifications in psychology and career development, with a sharp focus on problem-solving, which means that no two days are ever the same, and the level of job satisfaction is off the scale. 

Jayne Ayliffe

Jayne Ayliffe has worked in the higher education sector since 1993 in a number of student focused roles. Fresh from completing her Social Work degree, Jayne moved to Sydney and worked at UNSW as a Welfare Officer and then Equity Officer over a 3 year period. She then moved into community development in local government supporting disadvantaged groups in the South Sydney area for 3 years before heading back to South Australia. Her enjoyment for working with students saw her gain a job as an SSO in TAFE SA for a few years. An opportunity arose at UniSA as a Counsellor and this lead eventually to her taking on a position in Disability Services, now known as Access and Inclusion, where she currently works. Jayne continues to enjoy her role due to her supportive colleagues and the variety and diversity of the student cohort. With an interest in learning disability, she was invited to become a member of SPELD-SA and joined their Committee over 8 years ago. She recently completed her Masters in Speech Pathology through Flinders University.

Mark Wilcock

Mirela Suciu is an experienced disability practitioner in the higher education and not for profit sectors. She has been in her current role as Manager – Student Accessibility & Wellbeing at the University of New England (UNE) for over 8 years.  Mirela is involved in committees supporting universal design learning, the LGBTQ+ university community and widening participation. In 2019, Mirela took up an opportunity to work at the National University of Laos, in Vientiane, Laos, strengthening the services of the University’s newly established disability support office, as part of the Australian Volunteer Program. Upon her return, she acted in the role of the Head of the Secretariat at UNE throughout the emergence of the pandemic, supporting the University Council and Academic Board. 

Mirela completed her Bachelor degree at UNE, before completing a First Class Honours at Sydney University, which took her to Indonesia to talk to young Indonesians about their attraction to anti-Semitic and National Socialist ideals. After working as a disability advocate in Sydney, Mirela moved to Canberra to join the Graduate Program at the Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet. She then worked in the Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health in the Department of Health, before pursuing her passion in disability support with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance back in Armidale. Shortly after settling back into Armidale, Mirela was asked to apply to her position at UNE, which she continues to enjoy immensely. 

(May 2021)

Questions asked of the participants during the Forum

What motivated you to be a DP?

  • New challenge
  • Help others
  • Experience as Social Worker and raising children with a disability. And wanted to learn new skills
    disability standards for education
  • To assist uni students gain equity in their studies
  • Experiences as an OT helping facilitate clinical placements for students with additional needs.
  • Fell into it at first but love helping others and making an impact.
  • Also fell into this role but have a keen interest in mental health and helping others, and am loving this new space (1 month in)
  • An opportunity to draw on students experiences to increase awareness and understanding of disability in relation to equitable education

Imagine you are a student with disability, what would be the most important personal quality you would like your DP to have?

  • Understanding
  • Empathetic
  • Easy to talk to, drives action
  • Honesty and straight talk
  • Collaborative spirit
  • Active listening skills.
  • Lived experience helps also

Below are links to the ADCET web pages, weblinks and other resources mentioned in the webinar.

ADCET is hosted by the University of Tasmania