Loretta Sheppard

Loretta's research interests are primarily with adolescents and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their participation in adult life situations. A series of honours projects seeking to understand barriers and facilitators to employment, and a current honours student investigating environmental supports in the workplace using the PREP (Pathways and Resources for Engagement and Participation) protocol complement her knowledge gained earlier through small grant funding and previous research in everyday living and self-determination.

The publication of a School to Employment Transition: Research to Action Guide in 2017 (NDA Centre for Applied Disability Research) led to a research partnership with an innovative disability organisation, Onemda, in eastern metropolitan Melbourne. Earlier this year Loretta and her team were successful in gaining a $485,168 NDIA funded Economic and Community Participation grant for a 3-year program from 2020-23. The project will develop and evaluate a collaborative service model to support youth with disabilities into employment. Young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including those with cerebral palsy, are significantly under-represented in the workforce in Australia with no change to this status over the last 20 years.

The implementation of this grant will be undertaken in partnership with Onemda’s Therapy and Innovation Centre, CGVT (a Disability Employment Service), partner schools in metropolitan and regional Victoria, and ACU in an effort to address environmental, personnel, and practice factors that may contribute to reduced social and economic participation for these young people.