Dr Antoni Tsaputra is a champion of inclusion and accessibility for people living with a disability. Following extensive studies in Australia, Dr Tsaputra has combined his positions as a government official, academic researcher and disability activist to drive systemic change in the way government policy is developed to include and benefit those living with a disability. Having been a wheel-chair user his whole life and dependent on the assistance of a full-time carer, Dr Tsaputra has powerful insight into the implications of public policy decisions on accessibility of government services, spaces and places. This insight, combined with his academic knowledge developed during his PhD in Disability Inclusive Budgeting at UNSW, has made Dr Tsaputra a powerful agent of change in his home country of Indonesia, and a recognised leader in his field around the world.
Dr Tsaputra began working for Padang City Government in 2004 after graduating from Padang’s Andalas University with a double major in English literature. Determined to continue his education, he applied for an Australian Development Scholarship to pursue a Master of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication at Griffith University. At first he was unsuccessful, but his determination paid off when he was awarded the scholarship in 2009, supported by a disability carer package as part of the Australia Awards. This opportunity sparked the beginning of a new chapter in his career, as he realised the opportunity to channel his communications expertise into disability advocacy and eventually disability policy reform. During his studies at Griffith University, he was invited to speak at the launch of the World Health Organisation’s World Report on Disability at Parliament House in Canberra, alongside Kevin Rudd, Julie Bishop and other Australian ministers. With world leaders watching on, he shared his dream to live in a more inclusive and barrier-free society.
When he returned to Padang, Dr Tsaputra launched a local chapter of the Indonesian Disabled People’s Organisation in Padang, to increase awareness of and advocacy for the rights of people with a disability. In 2014, he was assigned by the Padang City Government to coordinate the drafting of the first Local Regulation on Disability Rights in West Sumatra province, as well as developing the first disaggregated dataset on disability and employment in the province with active participation of people with a disability. A direct result of his work has been the establishment of disability rights laws in Padang. Padang City has also created two disability friendly areas, built using universal design principles such as disability friendly pedestrian access, alongside monitoring and evaluation systems to ensure inclusive practices are monitored long term.
In 2019, Dr Tsaputra returned to Australia to further deepen his expertise, undertaking a PhD at UNSW’s School of Social Sciences, focusing on the potential of Disability Inclusive Budgeting as a mechanism to ensure the rights of persons with a disability in Indonesia. In recognition of his expanded expertise, the Governor of West Sumatra has appointed Dr Tsaputra to lead the formulation of a five-year Disability Action Plan for the province. He has also recently been named the Indonesia Chair of the Australia–Indonesia Disability Research and Advocacy Network (AIDRAN), and is now lecturing at the Special and Inclusive Education Department at the State University of Padang.
At every opportunity, Dr Tsaputra has translated his studies in Australia into measurable impact on the ground in Indonesia. As an alumni of Australian tertiary institutions, he is a shining example of how education and research opportunities in Australia can be leveraged by leaders to change the world.