Another award drops for Penny
PENNY Robertson OAM had no idea so many children were excluded from the mainstream education system until the birth of her second child, daughter Shona.
Shona was born with Down Syndrome in 1981, sparking Ms Robertson’s drive to champion her daughter’s rights, and that of children like her, to achieve their full potential.
The Tweed Heads resident’s efforts over more than three decades have been recognised with multiple awards, the latest being on March 12 when she was named a winner in the Australia Indonesia Awards at a ceremony in Sydney.
The recognition was for her work in establishing the inclusive Australian International School in Jakarta, Indonesia, after she moved there with her husband Derek and their children in 1994.
“I realised that if we set up a school we could do something for all kids,” she said.
She has also consulted on curriculum development for people with disabilities throughout Indonesia and played a significant role in establishing support programs and national Down Syndrome Associations in the Asia Pacific region.
In 1991 the Australian Government awarded Ms Robertson as a Member of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her services to the education of the intellectually disabled.
She also worked with colleagues in North America and Europe to establish Down Syndrome International and lobbied the United Nations to mark World Down Syndrome Day, which is held on March 21 each year since 2011.
Ms Robertson was raised on the Tweed, attending school at Murwillumbah, but ended up living for many years in South Australia and Asia before returning to the region several years ago.
“I am most proud the way that all our students at AIS appreciate diversity and demonstrate acceptance and tolerance, having had the privilege of being educated in an inclusive International school,” she said.
“And on a personal note, seeing my own daughter able to live an independent and joyful life, something we were not promised 35 years ago.”.