AIS Indonesia’s founder and well known special needs advocate Penny Robertson was bestowed the annual advocacy award for 2015 by SENIA - the Special Educational Needs Network in Asia.
Each year the SENIA Board bestows an Advocacy Award for someone who promotes the SENIA mission. It celebrates the achievement of a student, adult or group who encourages awareness and advocates for the aspirations of people with disabilities. The award honors those who exemplify the vision and mission of SENIA, which is to advocate in behalf of exceptional people in Asia.
The 2015 award is an acknowledgment of Penny Robertson for her efforts in first establishing AIS back in 1996 and her ongoing work with Down Syndrome around the world.
The award was announced at the joint EARCOS and SENIA Teacher’s Conference 2015 held in Sutera Harbour Resort Kota Kinabalu Malaysia from March 26 to March 28, 2015. Accepting the award at the conference on behalf of Penny Robertson, the AIS Learning Support Director, Rovanna Bawden said “It is wonderful to highlight the work of Penny and the ongoing work of AIS in such a large and important forum.”
In her video acceptance speech Penny Robertson said: “I want to thank SENIA for this award. In a submission on the right to education for persons with disabilities to the UN last week I recognised the advocacy role of organisations such as the Special Education Network in Asia (SENIA). The United Nations Charter on the Rights of People with Disabilities accepts inclusive education as a philosophy which acknowledges and values human diversity.
I believe, and research supports, the view that positive attitudes of teachers and schools is more important than knowledge and skills as prerequisites for effective inclusive education. So I commend SENIA and I commend EARCOS in the work that you are doing in bringing about this positive change. And I recognise all the work that you as individual teachers do every day in your classrooms. So as a parent and an advocate I thank you on behalf of our students and their families”.
SENIA has highlighted Penny and her work on their website with the following words: Penny Robertson’s advocacy story started when her daughter, who was born with Down Syndrome, could not find a suitable school. Armed with her passion and advocacy for special needs children, Penny founded a school which aimed to educate special needs students of varying disabilities in a mainstream school setting. Her initiative, the Australian International School – Indonesia (AIS), is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. AIS is the only fully inclusive school in Indonesia catering to the needs of local and expatriate children. The school not only brings hope for children with challenges, it has also become a center of excellence and inspiration for other educators. With AIS’s engagement with the Indonesian Ministry of Education in 2010, local school principals have visited AIS to learn how to integrate special needs into their programs. Today, the Australian International School – Indonesia has become a beacon school for inclusive education.
Penny Robertson’s advocacy reaches far more than the school setting. She is known as the ‘person in Asia’ for the Downs Syndrome Association worldwide. She helped local parents establish Down Syndrome support organizations in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia. She is also a key person in establishing the Asia Pacific Down Syndrome Federation with the support of the Down Syndrome Association of Singapore. Until 2013, Penny chaired the UK foundation which manages the Down Syndrome International, an organization that provides assistance and support to national Down Syndrome associations in 80 countries.
Penny Robertson’s story truly inspires and compels all special education practitioners to continue to advocate for exceptional children in Asia. Congratulations, Ms. Penny Robertson and the Australian International School Jakarta family for this achievement.