New Colombo Plan Scholar acts on disability inclusion

2020 New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholar and UQ philosophy and economics student Adele Greedy-Vogel wants to make her mark in disability inclusion.

COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of all UQ student exchange for 2021, but Ms Greedy-Vogel will go to Thailand in 2022 to fulfil her dream of creating a lasting connection between both countries’ Deaf communities.

As a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), Ms Greedy-Vogel’s first language is Australian Sign Language, Auslan, a visual, gestural and spatial language that is not a visual representation of English.

“Having a language of the body is such a beautiful way to experience the world, Ms Greedy-Vogel said.

“However, at University, I regard myself as an English as a second language student.

“Often on assignments, the feedback I get is to improve the structure of my writing.

“It’s just not how my brain works, and that means there’s an invisible barrier to my participation.

In primary school, Ms Greedy-Vogel moved from NSW to undertake the bilingual/bicultural program at Toowong State School in Brisbane.

She then left High School in Year 8 due to the cultural shock of being in a hearing school after growing up in a Deaf community.

Part of finding her way back into education involved studying at TAFE for a Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care.

This alternative pathway to UQ has instilled a profound appreciation of what a tertiary degree can offer.

“When you drop out of high school, people assume your life’s over – that you’ll never have fantastic opportunities – but this prejudice is just not true,” she said.

Alongside her studies, Ms Greedy-Vogel works as an interpreter for Education Queensland to facilitate conversation within a classroom setting and advocate for Deaf children.

She said learning institutions are not always fully inclusive of people with disabilities, something she wanted to change.

At UQ, Ms Greedy-Vogel took advantage of the University’s Disability Action Plan (2018–2021), which allowed her to access Auslan interpreters when her family attended an event.  

In Thailand, Ms Greedy-Vogel will study Thai Sign and spoken Language at Mahidol University, and intern with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for the Asia-Pacific.

“The UN has a department that focuses on gender and disability, which is a perfect match for me because of my background and studies,” she said.  

“When I return to Australia as an ambassador of the NCP program, my main mission will be social justice and how I can benefit the lives of others.”

Since the NCP started in 2014, 33 UQ scholars have spent part of their academic life in the Indo-Pacific region in study, work, and in internships.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has named 125 scholars – nine of them Indigenous – from 38 Australian universities to undertake scholarships in 26 countries in 2021-22.