ACT News


Sally Richards awarded Order of Australia Medal for service to people with a disability

Sally Richards has spent more than a decade working hard to enrich the lives of people with a disability.

Her innovation and activism has transformed countless lives for the better, including that of her son, Jackson.

But it's also transformed her own.

Ms Richards has been awarded the Order of Australia Medal for her service to people with a disability and their families.

The Yarralumla mother of four co-founded Getting a Life Intentional Community Co-operative, a housing model for people with a disability to ease pressure on family carers; and Microboards Canberra, which supports the creation of formal networks around people with a disability to ensure they live their best life. 

Ms Richards also founded JACKmail, a courier service through which Jackson delivers mail to a range of Canberra businesses.


All this among a string of various committee and board roles over the years. 

Although Ms Richard's has taken a step back from formal commitments, her passion and belief in making things possible for people with a disability has not waned. 

She said her biggest achievement was creating a life of meaning and happiness, not only for Jackson but for her other three boys as well. 

"Many siblings, you do hear them say, 'I missed out', or parents say, 'My other kids missed out because of the demands of my child with a disability'," she said.

"Above and beyond that I think my greatest achievement has been just doing things and working for disability in all sorts of areas, for all sorts of people, so other people can see what's possible. We don't imagine big enough."

Jackson has spearheaded JACKmail for nine years now, delivering mail to 15 businesses throughout Canberra.

The Intentional Community has been his home for almost two years. Ms Richards is working with other parents to ensure that the community flourishes without taking the reins from residents. 

Microboards Canberra is still in its infancy, supporting people to build an incorporated body around one person with a disability. 

But it hasn't been a smooth road.

Ms Richards' husband, Malcolm West, committed suicide while in treatment in a psychiatric facility in 2009.

Australia was a first world country with a third world disability service before the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme began, Ms Richards has said. 

But the tireless efforts inspired by Jackson have changed her life, mostly for the better. 

"It's made me a much stronger person but also more compassionate ... having Jackson has forced me to be creative in ways I never could have dreamt of," she said. 

"It's been incredibly difficult a lot of the time but all of those hard times have made me a better person."

She's humble too and quick to point out the hard work of other families touched by disability. 

"I climbed on the shoulders of other families to achieve the things I have," she said. 

"People will climb on my shoulders. Some people don't have many shoulders to climb on. But we all are working to improve the lives of the people we love."