Erin Looby, a passionate advocate for people living with disability, has received the 2015 Sisters of the Good Samaritan Prize for Commitment to Social Justice.
Sister Veronica McCluskie, on behalf of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, presented the prize to Erin during an awards ceremony last month at the Strathfield Campus of Australian Catholic University (ACU).
For 21-year-old Erin, who recently completed a Bachelor of Inclusive Education and Disability Studies degree from ACU, the award came “as a massive shock”.
“I have also felt quite moved that I was nominated by the teachers of my degree. I am humbled to be able to receive this award,” she told The Good Oil.
The $500 prize, which has been awarded by ACU and sponsored by the Good Samaritan Sisters annually since 2003, recognises students who have “shown a strong commitment to social justice in the area of inclusion, reflecting the charism of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan in social justice and its commitment to the provision of pastoral care and education of persons with disabilities”.
According to Trudy van Dam, National Director and Lecturer in Inclusive Education and Disability Studies at ACU, Erin was nominated for the prize because of her commitment, during the course, to people living with disability.
“This was evident in both her academic work, which demonstrated a strong understanding of social justice principles, and also in her execution of practical work,” explained Trudy.
“When undertaking projects or fieldwork with people living with disability, she demonstrated a strong empathy and worked through issues to ensure a positive outcome for individuals.”
Erin said she feels passionate about “the inclusion of people with disabilities”, and in particular, “a passion for teaching students with disabilities”.
“I would love to help make classrooms an inclusive environment for students with any form of impairment,” Erin said.
Erin chose the Bachelor of Inclusive Education and Disability Studies course instead of a general education degree because she “liked the significant amount of practical experience the degree offered”.
“It broadened my horizons and gave me significant opportunities such as time in a transition to work program, community home and plenty of teacher’s aid work,” she explained.
Currently Erin works as a casual teacher’s aid for students with disabilities “who need a bit of extra help adjusting to the classroom environment”, and is a nanny for a family who has children with disabilities.
Erin is also undertaking a Master of Teaching (Primary) at ACU which will qualify her to teach.
“My ideal job would be a teacher of a special unit in a mainstream [school] classroom,” she said.
“In this position I would do my best to foster an inclusive environment and encourage my students’ involvement in the rest of the school as much as possible.”