One-On-One With Changing The Ratio Speaker Cátia Malaquias

Catia Malaquias
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In a couple months B&T is holding Changing the Ratio, an event to drive equality and inclusion in our industry. Totally Aussie born and bred, this event will supply attendees with practical tools and case studies, not to mention game-changing ideas.

How? By bringing together a spectacular speaker line-up and presenting thought-provoking industry panel discussions. We know you already want to go, so grab tickets right here.

Cátia Malaquias is one of those on our amazing speaker list and, to get you excited, we thought we’d ask her a few questions about her charity, Starting With Julius, and why she’s excited for Changing the Ratio.

Why have you decided to speak at Changing the Ratio?

We see it as a great opportunity to help place the representation of disability within the framework of discussions and broader efforts around representing the diversity of our community in our media. We are strongly aligned with Changing the Ratio as an initiative that seeks to make equality and inclusion standard practices in Australia’s communications industry and beyond and we were thrilled to be invited into this forum.

Who are you bringing to the event with you and why?

I will be co-presenting with Angel Dixon, who is a disabled model and designer and is also an ambassador and advocacy manager for Starting With Julius.

Importantly, in any discussion about disability it is disabled people who must lead and be heard first and foremost. There is a long history of non-disabled people speaking for disabled people, making decisions for disabled people and imposing their perspectives on them, including about what it’s like to have a disability.

I founded Starting With Julius because as the parent of a child with a disability I have a very clear interest in the way that society treats disabled people, and I want change that, but I recognise that my experience of disability is an indirect one and that while I can support disability rights – as I think all of us should – I cannot speak for the experience of disability. One day, my son Julius will be his own advocate and I don’t want others to be speaking for him either.

Why is diversity and inclusion in advertising important?

Disability is a natural part of the human experience – one in five Australians have a disability – and, like other identifiers of diversity, disability should be represented, not excluded.

This matters because advertising and media have a powerful role in shaping attitudes and behaviour. I believe that by representing disabled people authentically and inclusively in every area of life, it’s possible to challenge and reframe the way that society thinks about disability and difference, and contribute to the elimination of social injustices that diminish human rights.

What made you want to start your organisation, Starting with Julius, and why is it important to you?

When my son Julius was born, I became aware of not just the exclusion of children like him but also families like ours. I would go and buy nappies and it struck me that families like ours weren’t ever represented on the box. I would watch television with that same realisation. The almost complete absence of disability in advertising and media became really obvious to me and, as a parent, I felt this was harmful not only to my son Julius but also to my other children.

The absence of disability representation is not a neutral act or omission – it represents a cultural message of exclusion and both reflects and entrenches a very long history of marginalisation of disabled people as a group, including through institutionalisation and segregation that forced disabled people to be “out of sight”. This was not acceptable to me and I wanted to do something about it.

What are some of the foundation’s major achievements and milestones?

I am really proud of our work with many brands including Kmart Australia and Target Australia in particular, which have demonstrated a commitment to sustaining inclusive advertising practices. More recently, we have also seen disability inclusion in advertising from ANZ and NAB. In all these cases, the companies’ commitment has also been broader, extending to initiatives in relation to employment and building an inclusive corporate culture.

Our goal was to raise consciousness about disability inclusion in advertising as a sustained practice alongside efforts to represent community diversity more generally, and to encourage major brands to take the lead and for others to begin taking this on board. I feel that we have achieved that. We have also worked with television and production companies to provide guidance on casting and portrayal of disabled people authentically and inclusively.

We continue to stimulate discussions about the portrayal of disabled people in advertising and media, through our social media platform and website. We also advocate for inclusive education which is another gateway to building a more inclusive society for everybody, including for disabled children.

What do you hope to achieve with the organisation in the future?

We are continuing to encourage more brands and building momentum for disability inclusion to become a new standard in advertising. We also have a number of projects in the pipeline and are trying to address some of the barriers that exist for disabled people in obtaining representation by casting and model agents. This includes agents having better understanding about accessibility issues and accommodations that may be needed or help to support participation.

There is much to do but we started with the belief that we can make a difference in this area and we will continue to work towards our broader goal of “a world in which no one is excluded and everyone belongs”.

Changing the Ratio will take place on Monday 28 May at Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney’s Surry Hills. 

For all the nitty gritty details about Changing the Ratio, click hereAnd (if you for some reason didn’t buy your ticket at the beginning of this article) click here to secure your spot.

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