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Keeping Up With Chris this Disability Awareness Week

4 September 2015

Inclusive Education student at the University of Sydney, Chris Bunton, is proof that living with disability is no obstacle to realising your dreams.

Chris Bunton (centre) with his student mentors Christophe Rowe (left) and Robert Murphy (right).

The gold medal-winning Special Olympics gymnast will add the title of ‘film star’ to his long list of achievements when his documentary ‘Keeping Up With Chris’ screens at the University of Sydney’s front lawns on Wednesday 9 September, as part of Disability Awareness Week.

“When I watched it for the first time I thought the documentary was so awesome, I want the whole world to see it,” said Chris.

“I hope people learn how to set goals and achieve them, like I did in my life. In the future I’d like to be in an inclusive community where everyone is treated equally. So that is what I want to share.” 

Keeping Up With Chris

Credit: AttitudeLive.

In the film, produced by AttitudeLive, Chris describes his busy life balancing a demanding gymnastics training regime with part-time work at Special Olympics Australia, coaching young gymnasts at YMCA Penrith, and studying at the University of Sydney. The 22-year-old won gold in gymnastics at both the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai and in the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens.

Chris Bunton is one of ten students currently participating in the Inclusive Education Program (IEP), a pioneering two-year scheme run by the Centre for Disability Studies that gives people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to explore further education at the University of Sydney. 

Established in 2012 by Professor Patricia O’Brien, the unique program is modelled on an initiative she introduced at Trinity College Dublin’s National Institute for Intellectual Disability. Now in its third year, the program has grown from five students in 2012 to include 10 participants, who have the chance to study subjects as broad as Greek mythology to health nutrition.

“The Inclusive Education Program gives participants the chance to gain valuable skills, from confidence-building to lasting friendships with their student peer mentors,” said Clinical Professor Vivienne Riches from the Centre for Disability Studies.

“Students build practical abilities like researching but also expand their intellectual horizons, helping them to follow a passion for learning and become more independent as they experience University life.”

IEP students can select up to two units of study each semester, attending lectures and optional tutorials. Supported by the Centre for Disability Studies, IEP students are partnered with a current University of Sydney student mentor and work towards completing individual projects.

“I really like expanding my knowledge. I’ve learned lots and it’s really good information, the lecturers are great,” said Chris, who is studying digital business innovation this semester.

Disability Awareness Week

Disability Awareness Week runs from 7 to 11 September, and is an annual celebration of diversity aimed at raising awareness of disability and changing attitudes. Launch day celebrations will feature live music, interactive activities by disability service providers and a free BBQ for students. 

Other highlights in the program include a demonstration game of wheelchair basketball along Eastern Avenue by Wheelchair Sports Australia on Monday 7 September.

At a public Sydney Ideas panel discussion ‘Talking About Mental Health in the Media’ on Tuesday 8 September, CEO of beyondblue Georgie Harman will lead a debate on the way mental health issues are treated in the media. The panel includes:

  • ABC’s medical reporter Sophie Scott
  • Director of the Hunter Institute for Mental Health, Jaelea Skehan
  • Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney Gerard Goggin.
  • Research psychologist and researcher at the Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney, Bettina Friedrich (panel chair)

The University will also host a public forum for RU OK? Day on Thursday 10 September, chaired by media personality Julie McCrossin and featuring University of Sydney alumnus and Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham, comedian Gen Fricker, Deputy Mental Health Commissioner Fay Jackson, and current student Sarah Chuah.

Event Details

What: Outdoor cinema: Keeping Up with Chris, part of Disability Awareness Week
When: Wednesday 9 September, 12pm to 1pm. Screening will be followed by a Q&A session with Chris Bunton, star of the film
Where: University of Sydney front lawns, Quadrangle, Camperdown campus
Cost: Free

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