Improving the Lives of People with Disability and Mental Health Conditions




Karen Fisher

Professor Karen Fisher

Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Arts & Social Sciences

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Creating Impact Where it Matters

Major changes in public opinion, policy and practice have improved the autonomy of people with disability and mental health conditions. This momentum continues to grow as these people find innovative ways to contribute to civic life and the economy.

Steadily working away in the background, forwarding this cause at every turn, is Professor Karen Fisher and her team from UNSW’s Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) Disability Research Program.

Karen Fisher and UNSW Team
UNSW Professor Karen Fisher with a Chinese Foster Care Village.

Shaping the Future of Disability Policy in Australia

Professor Karen Fisher has been conducting inclusive research about the organisation of social services in Australia and China for over 30 years. She leads the Social Policy Research Centre’s Disability Research Program (DRP) at UNSW.

DRP’s research spans services in the community, disability and mental health services, and project and service evaluation. DRP has also played a significant role in informing the design, implementation and continuous improvements to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Their work on the NDIS, increasing recognition that people with disability contribute to civic life and economic potential in Australia; and the DRP’s expertise in social policy research in China mean that the team is in a unique position to help shape the future of disability policy in Australia.


Exploring Meaningful Innovations

“Although social policy in China is a mixed bag, there are some fascinating innovations to investigate. E-commerce, for example, is a new area where people with disability are taking up the increasing employment and entrepreneurial opportunities,” says Fisher. “We’re exploring this through a comparative research study with a team that includes Disabled People’s Organisations Australia and organisations in China. There are also similar initiatives taken in Australia and our research is looking at the patterns of employment of people with disability within the digital economy.”

Improving the Lives of People with Disabilities in Australia and Beyond

Ayah Wehbe, a UNSW researcher with hearing loss who works with DRP, attests to the importance of this inclusive research agenda. She says it’s wonderful to see her research contribution used by governments, disability organisations and the wider public. “Our research has had a significant impact in the community and policy landscape and influenced changes that improve the lives of people with disabilities. Being able to advocate for marginalised groups is an amazing opportunity.”