Vanessa de Kauwe has more than two decades' experience in the disability and education sectors, and an honours degree in philosophy specialising in classical and postmodern philosophy. She has also completed studies in world theologies, pastoral care and ancient languages.
Her honours thesis examined questions of ethics and personal fragmentation regarding the American torturers at Abu Ghraib. She has published on postcolonialism and third world issues and allegorical portrayals of the marginalised in science fiction. Her publications also extend into the societal constructs of gender and disability, as well as the philosophy of politics and social justice.
Her PhD project is designed to academically frame, and rigorously evaluate, science-based programs for people with intellectual disabilities which she has run informally in professional contexts over the past decade. She has run masterclasses, lectures and workshops on this topic for diverse audiences, ranging from international science education and policy leaders to local disability practitioners.
In 2016 she was the co-recipient of an ANU Gender Institute grant in her capacity as postgraduate organiser and representative for the Gender, Science and Wonder workshop, held 11-12 February 2016, ANU.
In 2017 she initiated the Disability Ambassadors program. In its inaugural year, Vanessa and other Ambassadors worked with Dr Graham Walker and the Australian Embassy's Australia Awards to provide disability training to educators from around Africa and beyond.
In 2018 she was the recipient of an Australian Government Department of Foreign Affair & Trade grant which allowed for the dissemination of the results of her research in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through this grant, Vanessa created and delivered workshops that provided skills for teachers and organisations involved with students with disabilities. She also targeted the empowerment of girls and women in science.