The Nita Curtis Scholarship, offered annually to postgraduate students in the Department of Disability Studies, is inspired by the legacy of an exceptional woman, Nita Curtis, OAM, and has been established through the ongoing strong relationship between Flinders University and non-profit disability support organisation Cara Inc. (find out more about Cara’s work in providing accommodation and respite services to people with a disability).
Nita Curtis, OAM was the first president of Cara, holding the position for a remarkable 15 years from 1994 until 2009. A foster parent since 1971, Nita has cared for over 30 children, many of whom had severe and multiple disabilities. Her countless acts of generosity and selflessness were acknowledged by the award of a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 1994.
Nita, a strong and outspoken leader, has contributed to policy development as a member of the National Disability Advisory Committee, but is equally at home baking cakes for an auxiliary fundraiser. Under her guidance and leadership, Cara has grown and expanded its client profile and, as president, Nita continued to encourage new and creative approaches.
There have been so many children and families whose lives have been touched by Nita and whose lives have been the better for the care and support that she has provided.
The purpose of the scholarship in Nita’s name, funded by Cara, is to encourage postgraduate training in disability studies and provide financial support to students in the Disability and Community Inclusion Unit, School of Medicine at Flinders University.
Many Cara staff members are Flinders Alumni or current students of the University. As Cara CEO, Denice Wharldall, has said of the relationship between Cara and the University, “Flinders University has produced outstanding employees for Cara who have greatly contributed to the organisation and to the disability sector as a whole.”
“South Australia is still desperately in need of developmental educators and we hope that this scholarship will encourage more students to take on this challenging and rewarding career.”
Scholarship recipients are expected to undertake research relevant to Cara and its clients, with the potential to apply their findings to Cara’s services.
This year, the Nita Curtis Scholarship has been awarded to three recipients: PhD candidate Ted Evans, and Masters students Tania Smitham and Mohammad Tarik. Ted’s research explores the service quality attributes in Australian Community Access Services to inform their innovative co-creation with people with disabilities. Tania’s research focuses on the principles of Active Support, Person Centred Practice and human rights considerations, while Tarik’s research is centred around people with intellectual disability who present challenging behaviour, with the vision of providing a better quality of life and services for the most vulnerable and isolated people in our community.