Judith Geppert – 54 legendary years at CPA

Activist, daredevil and trailblazer Judith Geppert celebrates her 54th anniversary of working at CPA. That’s a pretty close contender for the Guinness World Record holder’s longest serving employee!

Judith’s contribution to CPA has been legendary. Her involvement in the CPA community started at the very beginning when the first brick was laid on The Spastic Centre of New South Wales building in Mosman.

“My dad was one of the first parents who helped build the Mosman site, and then McLeod House and Centre Industries at Allambie Heights. Back then it was a close-knit community of parent volunteers.”

Accessible technology was limited during Judith’s school days. Without access to a computer she had to type with one finger on the typewriter, up to Year 6, and, sat in the classroom doing an Activity Class through the Correspondence School for five years. She began her first employment in 1969 at Centre Industries where they packed parts and tested the design prototype for the first push button telephones; ensuring the pressure was suitable for people with disability to use. This was Judith’s first introduction to technology.

 

Judith was fiercely ambitious and grabbed the opportunity to undertake The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. She became the first person with a severe disability, to receive the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award at age 21. She also defied more norms by working with a veterinary practice as part of the Duke of Edinburgh, scoring an unprecedented 98% on the test.

She expanded her creative horizons with the encouragement of a wonderful teacher; learning poetry, story writing, and design using a typewriter. She became the foremost ‘typewriter artist’ in the world, winning the Diplome D’Honneur at the Prix Jericho Art Prize in Paris; and participated in the Artreach Festival (receiving a commendation in the able-bodied section before it was realised that she lived with a disability). Her art work can be found hanging in Ireland, England, USA, Japan and Fiji and in Australia.

Judith then set her sights on working in the corporate office at Cerebral Palsy Alliance (back then The Spastic Centre of New South Wales). She hatched a plan, faking an injury that prevented her packing tasks and was seconded to the corporate office for one week, which turned into more than four decades.

Since then she’s worked in fundraising, accounts; then Marketing. This was the highlight of Judith’s employment in the 80s and 90s, when technology was moving on and she was able to start working with computers, designing invitations for Miss Australia Quest and Miss NSW Quest.

“I have never taken technology for granted. When man landed on the moon in 1969, I got my first powered wheelchair. The wheelchair has been the most important piece of technology for me. Followed by the computer.”

Judith is still a valued member of the Marketing & Communications team at CPA. Her role as Information Officer holds the keys to CPA’s 76-year historical assets and archives.

“When I am no longer around, history will live on. Future generations will see how people with disability evolved in Australia, and this is very important.”

Dyranda Hortle, General Manager of Marketing and Communications commented on Judith’s contribution,

“Congratulations Judith on your 54th work anniversary with CPA. You have made such an important contribution to the organisation – not only preserving our amazing history but promoting CPA through your support of the many enquiries we have from journalists, film makers and writers. On a personal level I have learnt so much from you about the lived experience with CP and with it your tenacity and resilience. I look forward to many more years of working with you. “

Rob White, CEO of Cerebral Palsy Alliance commented,

“Congratulations Judith on another amazing milestone at CPA. While you are the keeper of our history, you have also played an enormous part of being the history of our organisation. Thank you for your many contributions. You are an important part of the CPA community and I always enjoy seeing you around the office and hearing you share your stories.”

 

 

Judith believes the skills which enabled her to have such an interesting career and life, are innovative thinking and advocating for herself and other people with disabilities.

“I think outside the box. I learned to stand up for myself, fighting for what I wanted and needed.”

“People still ask me while I’m out in the community, ‘Where’s your carer?’ They assume I can’t do things. When you can picture doing something in your mind, you are capable of doing it. I could never picture walking, but I could picture doing other things.”

 

Judith’s been a powerful advocate for her community and ensuring accessibility in NSW. In particular, in lobbying NSW State Transit Authority successfully for everyday accessible local bus services; and as a consultant to NSW State Rail Authority for the Olympic and Paralympic games in 2000. She’s also lobbied successfully with NSW Parliament for the rehousing of animals to older people and people living with disabilities.

Currently, Judith advocates as a consultant for AI companies to ensure website accessibility and uses her voice to campaign for inclusion in her role as Board member of Community Connections Australia.

So, what’s next for Judith? In addition to Judith’s 54 years working at CPA, her adventures have so far included patting a wild cheetah; travelling the world; winning medals in sailing; undertaking tandem skydiving; hot ballooning; and being the first person living with a severe disability to do the Bridge Climb. There’s bound to be another bucket list adventure on the horizon….