Catia Malaquias

Catia Malaquias is a tireless and outstanding advocate for people with a disability, working to ensure that all members of society have equal access to educational opportunities, as well as representation in the media.

Catia is the mother of three young children, including Julius who has Down Syndrome.  Catia became involved in advocating for children with disabilities when her son, Julius, was a toddler- she became acutely aware of barriers to inclusive education and the under-representation of people with disabilities within advertising and media. Such exclusion and discrimination hinders broader social and economic inclusion in these children’s later lives across all spheres. It also fails to represent the true diversity within Australia’s society.

Catia completed a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws at UWA, and worked as a paralegal and corporate lawyer before joining the State Solicitor’s Office in 2005.

Catia’s achievements include:

  • Assistant State Solicitor at the WA State Solicitor’s Office.
  • Founder and Director of Starting With Julius in 2013; a not for profit organisation committed to promoting the equal representation of people with disability in advertising, media and education through engaging with advertisers and educators, its social media presence and Ad Inclusion Ambassadors.
  • Director of the Attitude Foundation, created with the purpose of relieving the discrimination experienced by people with disabilities in Australia by increasing their inclusion and integration into every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
  • Director of Down Syndrome Australia and formerly Deputy Chair of Down Syndrome WA.
  • Co-Founder and National Convenor of the School Inclusion Parent Network Project (SIPN).
  • Co-founder of the Global Alliance for Disability in Media (GADIM), an international platform which encourages actions to increase and improve representation of persons with disabilities in the media.
  • Co-founder of All Means All Australian Alliance for Inclusive Education, which provides theoretical and practical information regarding inclusive education.
  • Co-author of SIPN’s ‘Schools for All Guide,’ a free comprehensive Australian inclusive education online resource for parents.
  • Co-author of the Starting with Julius’ Tips for Teachers(Inclusive Education) Series.
  • Finalist for the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Community Individual Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Award 2016.
  • Recognised by Pro Bono Australia as a “Changemaker.”

Catia’s approach cannot be described as less than innovative. In 2013 she contacted the children’s clothing brand eeni meeni miini moh and suggested that they diversify their marketing strategy to include children with disabilities, as this group was clearly under-represented within the media. The company agreed and Julius became the first model with Down syndrome to feature in a national advertising campaign – and has now complete d seven campaigns for eeni.  Since then, Catia has also campaigned tirelessly for inclusive education and fought against the entrenched stigma and cultural barriers experienced by students with a disability.

Catia believes that parental and community engagement and support is critical to implementing an inclusive education system in Australia.  She co-founded the School Inclusion Parent Network (SIPN) in June 2016 and writes the Starting with Julius IncludED blog promoting evidence-based inclusive education for parents and teachers.

Catia’s influence has extended well beyond Western Australia. She has appeared in mass-reach media including The Women’s Weekly, Channel 10’s The Project, on radio and is regularly featured in on-line publications and social media. She also presents around Australia on inclusive advertising and inclusive education – including at the WA NDS International Day of People with Disability in November 2016. Her initiatives for inclusive advertising and inclusive education have spread to the US, South America and throughout Europe – a number having been translated into other languages.

In addition, Catia  presented on World Down Syndrome Day in March 2016 at the United Nations in New York on the importance of inclusive advertising and media for the realisation of rights of people with disability and also spoke in October 2016 at the United Nations in Geneva for the launch of GADIM.

Catia also participated in 2015 at the United Nations Day of General Discussion in Geneva on the right to inclusive education, which culminated in the General Comment on the Right to Inclusive Education recently released by the United Nations.  She has also made extensive submissions on education of students with disabilities to various inquiries, including the 2015-2016 federal Senate inquiry and the 2015 review into Disability Standards for Education.

In 2016, Catia worked with both the Kmart and Target Australia executive and marketing teams to help them develop sustained commitments and policies to embed the representation of people with disability in their advertising.  Throughout 2016 and 2017 these retail giants have regularly represented people with disability in their mass-reach catalogue, in-store and television advertising – to much acclaim.

More recently, Catia has advocated more generally on corporate social and sustainability reporting and inclusive advertising and is working with a number of other leading retailers and advertisers.

Catia has worked to promote widespread recognition of the right to inclusive education and the evidence-based benefits of students with disabilities being educated together with their same-age peers.  She has also made an important contribution to the sustained and significant representation of models with disability in mainstream advertising.  This has resulted in an increase in the diversity standard of Australian advertising.  The potential for positive cultural impact is undeniable.

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