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Potential Australian Story subjects Iva Strnadova and Julie Loblinzk

I think I have come across a partnership that would make a great candidate for Australian Story. I recently interviewed this inspirational pair about a research project called GeneEQUAL.



Professor Iva Strnadová and Julie Loblinzk OAM are research partners who have become close friends. Together their work is changing the experiences of those with intellectual disability through creating inclusive, person-centred resources and training for practitioners in health and education. Iva’s research aims to contribute to better understanding and the improvement of the life experiences of people with disability and Julie is a self-advocate, with intellectual disability, who also works to improve the lives of people with intellectual disability. She received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in January 2023 in recognition of her work.


A story of friendship and impact – Disability and Me (disabilityandmeonline.com) There is a 3-minute video at this link that will give you some insight into their work together.


And another short video here.


Iva and Julie started working together about 10 years ago. They met when Iva was recruiting people for a study on transitions experienced by older people with intellectual disability. Iva reached out to Self Advocacy Sydney, which Julie had been working with for more than 25 years, to find people to participate.


“I don't think I would have finished that study without her,” says Iva. “Julie was absolutely magic with the recruitment. She called people around, explained the study and I was really impressed. Also, when I was doing interviews there, she was able to make people comfortable in very personal ways. By the end of the study, I asked Julie, whether she would work with me.”


Iva and Julie have been working at creating inclusive models of research ever since and have conducted several projects around education and health, including My Way, My Say, Rights & Relationships and GeneEQUAL.


Together they have come up with a long list of projects. A lifetime’s worth.


“We work really well because we play to our strengths,” says Julie. “We are so good at doing interviews together that it really works.”


“Julie has a great ability to really get what language to use when asking questions,” explains Iva. “And so while I have been working in this space for 25 years, and I’m used to avoiding jargon, sometimes you use phrases or complicated sentences that people just don’t understand. And I don’t think the people we talked to would necessarily tell me they didn’t understand. But Julie has a talent to pick that up and ask in a way they understand which is amazing.”


“Our research is really about helping to improve the quality of life for people with intellectual disability and that really spans across education and health and across the lifespan. I think the great advantage of working with Julie is that she has the experience, she has lived through many things including not having any say in her schooling. But also, Julie has spent more than 25 years supporting other people with intellectual disability and teaching them how to advocate for themselves. And so there is that incredible wisdom and knowledge that informs my research as well, which I really value.”


Julie adds: “Before working with Iva, I spent 24 years not only getting support but also supporting other people with intellectual disability to be able to get information training and support to take part in the community. From there, Iva asked me to come talk to her students that are already teachers and teachers that are going to become teachers. So, once I year I would do that and talk about advocacy, family and me being a parent.”


“Students love it,” says Iva. “That’s the highlight of the course. And what I can see in the students is that they have themselves many students in their classes with intellectual disability. But I think seeing what Julie has achieved and talking about her experiences, it suddenly helps them to see their students differently. As somebody who has such a great potential, who can achieve many things. That is confronting for many teachers because they realise that they have put limits on people in their minds.”


Iva and Julie recently shared a little about what their friendship looks like. They encourage each other to try new things and be better versions of themselves. For example, Julie talked to Iva about driving again and also gave Iva 2 slow cooker cookbooks. So now Iva has no excuses not to cook. There are many things that they like doing together: swimming, working, playing games (as they both like to win), cooking shows, Self Advocacy Sydney, and Iva staying at Julie’s home in the Hunter Valley. Julie is getting married in 2024 and asked Iva to be her a matron of honour.


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