5 Young, Successful Women with Disabilities


These are all young, incredible, amazing and successful women with disabilities who are pursuing their dreams. And they’re all Australian! Louisa May Alcott, the Author of Little Women, once said: “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”

Learning about women similar to you can help to inspire and encourage you to fulfil your own dreams. As you read, try thinking about the following questions: What do I enjoy doing? What are my goals? What are my highest aspirations?




Torita Isaac is a 19-year-old proud Indigenous Australian athlete and university student from Marsden, Queensland.  She started competing in school sports when she was 15.  At the age of 17, Torita was selected to represent Australia at the 2012 Summer Paralympics in athletics in the 100 metre, 200 metre and 4 x 100m events. Torita holds numerous Australian records in athletics, and in 2015 she set a new World Record in the T38 800m. T38 is her classification for competition, which reflects Mild Cerebral Palsy. She has the additional disabilities of being legally blind (only 10% vision left eye/ right eye totally blind) and having epilepsy. [1] Torita has been described as “one of Australia’s brightest sparks for the future”. [2]

young woman with arms in air, smiling, wearing Australian athletics uniform.

Torita Isaac – Sept. 5, 2012
(Source: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images Europe)



Katrina is a 32-year-old artist from Rockingham, Western Australia. She works with a variety of techniques including acrylics, textiles, pastel painting, light instillations and wire sculptural forms. Katrina has had works exhibited across the country. In 2012, Katrina was selected to be a part of the HERE&NOW13 Project and exhibition produced by DADAA and the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery. The Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery purchased four of her watercolour works for their collection. In 2014, the Alcaston Gallery in Melbourne presented Katrina’s artworks in the exhibition From The Outside, alongside other artists from WA. In 2015, the Free Range Gallery in Perth hosted a solo exhibition, Glow[3]

Katrina is both deaf and has an intellectual disability. Whilst she uses some signing to communicate, art has become an important way for her to communicate her thoughts, feelings and ideas to others. For Katrina, art has become her voice and that voice is inspiring and beautiful. [4]

Young woman with short hair standing in front of a bright, colourful painting.

Katrina Barber – Sept. 8, 2011
(Source: communityartroom.blogspot.com.au)



Drisana is a 21-year-old deaf rights advocate from Perth, Western Australia. She is the fifth generation in her family to be born deaf, and is dedicated to helping other deaf people and advocating their human rights.  Selected to attend the Frontrunners international deaf youth leadership course in 2012 and 2013, Drisana worked with communities in Europe and Samoa to expand leadership capacity and human rights understanding of deaf youth. Drisana was the recipient of the 2015 Young Australian of the Year award for her dedication to raising awareness for Auslan (Australian sign language) and the rights of all deaf children in Australia to access Auslan. Drisana is currently working for the National Relay Service as well as a columnist for PrimoLIFE Magazine. She is also serving voluntarily on a number of committees, and studying a Diploma of Interpreting qualification. [5]

Drisana encourages others to accept diversity and promotes a positive image of deafness. Upon winning the Young Australian of the Year Award, Drisana said, “We need the support of the Australian government to ensure that deaf children and their families have access to Auslan. It’s a human right that they have that access. Auslan is my language, but it’s an Australian language and that makes it yours.” [6]

Drisana Levitzke-Gray, a beautiful, smiling young woman with long hair, holding a large trophy. She is standing in front of Australia's Parliament House with the Australian flag waving in the wind.

Drisana Levitzke-Gray – Jan. 26, 2015
(Source: AAP)



Jessica is a 30-year-old actress who immigrated to Australia from South Africa at a young age. She rose to fame in the Australian comedy Packed to the Rafters for which she won the 2009 Logie Award for “Most Popular New Female Talent”. She received many additional Logie nominations, including two in 2015 for her roles in the television series Love Child and the TV movie, Carlotta.[7] In 2014, Jessica spoke out publically about having bipolar disorder. Her family has a history of bipolar, and she has been experiencing mood episodes since she was a teenager. In an interview with Women’s Weekly, Jessica said, “I just think it’s important to talk about depression. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. And the more we talk about it as a community, the more we remove the stigma.”[8]

a beautiful young woman with long blonde wavy hair. She is smiling and staring straight at the camera.

Jessica Marais – May 27, 2014
(Source: Australian Women’s Weekly)



At only 26-years-old, Hon Kelly Vincent is the Dignity for Disability Party’s representative in South Australian Parliament. She was elected to the Legislative Council in 2010 in an event that made history. She is the first South Australian politician to permanently use a wheelchair for mobility, the youngest woman ever elected to an Australian parliament (at age 21) and the first Australian to be elected on the platform of disability rights. Kelly is passionate about the rights and needs of people with disabilities, and is also a keen human rights advocate. [9]

Kelly has spastic cerebral palsy that has affected both legs and her left arm. She actively fights for the rights of people with disabilities. On International Women’s Day 2015, Kelly said, “the hard truth is that women with disabilities in Australia also face discrimination at alarming rates…governments must combat the exclusion and isolation of people with disabilities, which can enable abuse and neglect.” [10]

young woman with glasses, bright red lipstick, and short hair. She is sitting in her wheelchair and smiling in front of the stairs leading to the South Australian parliament house.

Kelly Vincent – Oct. 13, 2014
(Source: www.kellyvincentmlc.com)



[1]  Sutton, C. and Holt, D., Torita Isaac: Australian Paralympian Breaks 800m World Record. Global SportCoach. 2015 – [cited May 2015]. Available from: http://www.globalsportcoach.com/torita-isaac-australian-paralympian-breaks-800m-world-record/

[2] Australian Paralympic Committee [website]. Athletes: Torita Isaac; 2012 [cited May 2015]. Available from: http://www.paralympic.org.au/team/torita-isaac

[3] Ocula [website]. Katrina Barber: Artist Profile; 2014 [cited May 2015]. Available from: http://ocula.com/artists/katrina-barber/

[4] Katrina Barber [official website]. About Katrina; [cited May 2015]. Available from: http://katrinabarber.com

[5] Australian of the Year. Young Australian of the Year 2015 Drisana Levitzke-Gray; 2015 [cited May 2015]. Available from: http://www.australianoftheyear.org.au/honour-roll/?view=fullView&recipientID=1253

[6] Deaf Children Australia. Drisana Levitzke-Gray Young Australian of the Year 2015; 2015 Jan 26 [cited May 2015]. Available from: http://deafchildrenaustralia.org.au/drisana-levitzke-gray-young-australian-of-the-year/

[7] IMDB. Jessica Marais: Actress; 2015 [cited May 2015]. Available from: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2847302/

[8] The Australian Women’s Weekly. Jessica Marais reveals: ‘I am bipolar’; 2014 May 27 [cited May 2015]. Available from: http://www.aww.com.au/latest-news/in-the-mag/jessica-marais-reveals-i-am-bipolar-5886

[9] Kelly Vincent Online Office. Homepage [cited May 2015]. Available from: http://www.kellyvincentmlc.com

[10] Dignity for Disability Inc. No matter when; no matter where, disability rights are human rights; 2015 March 8 [cited May 2015]. Available from: http://www.d4d.org.au/media-releases/2015-03-289-no-matter-when-3b-no-matter-where-2c-disability-rights-are-human-rights.php

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