A Newport resident inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women will champion opportunities for western suburbs young people.
Dr Maria Dudycz, who is of Ukrainian-Italian descent, left school in year 11.
Her English teacher at Footscray High School, Rosetta Manaszewicz, encouraged her to complete year 12, which she did over two years at night school while working full-time.
Dr Dudycz went on to study law and medicine, eventually becoming a senior member of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
She was instrumental in developing the Disability Act 2006, which aims to preserve the rights of people with disabilities, particularly in relation to the use of chemical restraints. She also instituted legal reforms relating to the sterilisation of women with disabilities.
The mother-of-three, a former state president of the Australasian College of Legal Medicine and an inaugural director of the National Breast Cancer Centre, said a chance meeting at Bunnings inspired her to create opportunities for young people in the west.
“I met a young boy … he was struggling to find work experience as a doctor,” Dr Dudycz said.
“When I went through the process over nearly two months of trying to find him a placement, I thought, ‘Oh my God, is this what these kids are facing’.
“I thought, ‘This is so inequitable’, so I’m actually trying to set up a network where I use all my networks to get these children work experience.
“I remember being that starry-eyed kid and not believing that in the western suburbs of Melbourne I could ever become a doctor – and that was also one of the reasons I left school.”