Showing posts from 2015


There she is, that mouthy girl. Fines owing. And look at her – bashed, not looking good. She’ll probably be better off in lock-up, she’ll get a feed.

5pm, August 2.

Click on the handcuffs, cold against her dark skin.

She’s another number today. Three grand’s worth of driving fines, and jeez she’s a difficult one. Get her health check done, she’s off her head, probably on drugs. Or just behaving like they do, you know, a lot of them have behavioural issues. You gotta be firm with them.

Fines, the last thing on her mind, between the beatings and the drugs and the fight for survival. And the lock-up door slams shut.

Typing up the file notes. She appears to be suffering withdrawals from drug use, not coping well with being in custody.

On the mattress, her burning skin hot against the blanket. Every breath drawn moves her fractured ribs, burns her lungs.

8am, 3 August.

Into the health campus for the second time, bright white lights. Pointing to ribs, pain is there. Pai…

An Open Letter to Destroy the Joint – We’re Waiting

Dear Destroy the Joint

Last week, you told us that you apologised for excluding us from your page and from the ongoing conversation about violence against women.

This is what you said;

Dear Destroyers,

Let us begin with a belated and unreserved apology about the way we have handled the comment moderation in this instance. We acknowledge we can always be more inclusive. We are constantly discussing ways we can achieve this and no woman living with disability should be excluded from this page. Anyone who has been banned as a result of this will be unbanned. Please email so we can be thorough about this.

It has always been our mission to include everyone and Counting Dead Women includes all women who have been killed as a result of gendered violence.

We have left this post here, along with all the feedback so we could gain a better understanding of how the events have unfolded and how the way we have run the page may have contributed to it. We want to do the ri…

On the Bus

It is so frustrating.

Destroy the Joint are counting dead women, mostly women who are killed by men.

Destroy the Narrative are counting dead men, only those who have been killed by women.

For both those groups, they are counting the people who have been killed 'this year'.

But for many people with disability, nobody is counting. Nobody knows when we are dead. The story of an Autistic boy who was killed by his mother and stepfather - he was bound to a chair, doused with cold water and put in a garden shed, where he died of hypothermia - only went to court this month, in 2015. He had died in 2011. Rebecca Lazarus, a woman murdered by her partner outside her group home in 2007, also went unnoticed, uncounted for over five years. On the 14 November 2012, 1960 days after Lazarus was brutally murdered, the Coroners Court of Victoria released its report, a “Finding Without Inquest”. Until then, nobody knew - and perhaps that was because nobody cared.

Our deaths 'must …

The Apartheid of Mainstream Feminism (or when is a woman not a woman?)

When is a woman not a woman? When she’s disabled, of course.

It’s been a sad week for women with disability who are battling for inclusion in feminist circles. But it’s nothing new.

In 2013, Stella Young wrote an article about ‘The Politics of Exclusion’, in which she recounted a story of her contact with Destroy the Joint, a feminist group who aims to make sure women are included in public participation.

Destroy the Joint had set up a website where people could take a pledge. It read, in part:

I want an Australia where girls and women, where men and boys, can take part in our society without enduring discrimination, sexism and violence.

I want an Australia where we respect each other; an Australia where no person experiences hate because of their gender, race, religion or sexuality.

And I will challenge anyone who uses sex, race, religion or sexual orientation to incite hatred or to demean or vilify any of us. I will not stand by and let others do so without speaking up.’

The Boy and the Bed

This week, police interviewed a mother of a 16 year old Autistic boy who was found chained to a bed. She was later released without charge, and her son was returned home.

And then it started. The media, the cameras and the comments on social media, many from members of the public who argued, ferociously, that although child abuse was 'never all right', the community should 'not judge'. Until you are this mother, a struggling Somalian migrant with five children, you cannot 'walk in her shoes'. You do not know what Autistic children are like, many of them declared - they can be violent, dangerous, and at least the boy would be safe chained to the bed.


In 2008, 16 year old Callista Springer died in a house fire after being chained to a bed in her home. She had tried to escape from the upstairs room, but the chains held her. Her parents were imprisoned, not for murder but for torture and child abuse - 18-50 years.

This was Callista.

But over in Au…

Do You Stand To Wipe?

Do you stand to wipe?
I blinked a little. Out of the blue, my charismatic 25 year old son was asking my friend this question, with all the charm that he could muster. The friend blushed. Of course not, she said, and my son carefully explained that he had asked hundreds of people this question, and the results were unexpected – almost half the group sat, the other half stood. And a few lonely souls put their foot on the toilet seat, meeting the others half way.

We’re not comfortable with sharing our personal habits, and it’s only people like my lad who can (almost) get away with asking questions like this. Curious about how this subject arose, I asked why he’d thought of conducting this slightly odd research – he’d told his friends he had fallen over in the toilet whilst drunk, in the act of wiping. But why were you standing? one friend asked. And thus the Great Standing or Sitting Debate was born.

It’s an amusing topic. Last night, I sat with some friends around a table and …

Virtually Non Existent.

I don’t exist.

Neither do many of my friends – specifically, those with disabilities.

I discovered this recently when playing the Sims, a ‘life simulation video game series’, developed by EA Maxis and published by Electronic Arts. It’s one of the best selling video games of all times – it has sold more than 200 million copies world wide.
There are fat Sims, black Sims, Sims with purple hair. You can tweak your Sim character until he is a morbidly obese black guy with a bad ass taste in goth fashion. You can add traits and characteristics to make your Sim charismatic, a good kisser, lucky – but you will never see one type of Sim in the land of the Sims.

Yep, that’s us. People with disability.

There are no blind Sims. There are no Deaf Sims. There are no wheelchair using Sims, and it is unlikely that you will be able to introduce learning disabilities or neurodiversity into the Sims’ basic makeup. When you google ‘disabled Sim’, YouTube will tell you all about how to unloc…

They Built A Wooden Coffin.

She locked him in a cage, in the corner, because he wouldn’t do what she wanted him to do.

He tied her to the bed so that she wouldn’t leave the room. Every night, for two years.

They built a wooden coffin, with a padlock, and soundproofed it with egg cartons so they wouldn’t hear them scream.

By anybody’s standards, these are acts of torture. The kinds of torture that we read about in the tabloid rags, titled with sensationalist headlines that scream, ‘He locked me in a coffin!’

But in Australia, you won’t read those headlines. Why? Because we are disabled, and torture is de rigueur. It’s par for the course. If you won’t comply, if you don’t fit in, into the box you go. And aside from a slight flurry of outrage by disability rights activists, the rest of the world will make a moue of distaste – ah, that really should not happen, should it? – and will carry on, business as usual.

The reactions are appalling. Only yesterday, the news headlines told us that a wooden box ha…

A Fair Trial for the NDIS

The recent opinion pieces published in the West Australian by David Gilchrist, Gordon Trewern and other stakeholders in the disability sector are of great concern to Western Australians and their families.

The views expressed are not the views of people with disability and their families themselves, who want a fair trial for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the State based scheme, My Way.

The West Australian Government and disability service sector have been vocal in decrying the Federal scheme, stating that 'My Way is the best way.'

But who should get to decide what the 'best way' is? Those who will be directly affected by the scheme, or those 'stakeholders' who have vested interests?

In his latest opinion piece, Gilchrist not only fails to disclose his own vested interests, but tells West Australians that the scheme is destined for failure because the 'amounts being paid for services being paid for services by the NDIA will not sustain th…

Transcript of the Opinion Piece in today's West Australian.

The West Australian, Monday 28 September 2016
Summit throws down gauntlet on NDIS cost
By David Gilchrist

Last month’s National Reform Summit was one of he first realistic and open policy discussions we have seen in Australia for a long time. It included participants from industry, unions and non-profit and community groups and, essentially, laid down a challenge to politicians to implement real reform in a comprehensive rather than a piecemeal and politically-averse way.

One of the key areas of focus was the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and for the first time industry and government leaders are realising the challenges of implementing this critically important policy.

The summit identified that this important initiative was likely to be more expensive and more complex than seemed to be understood in policy circles and that the rollout of the scheme was at considerable risk if there was not a more realistic policy discussion – focused on demand and true cost.

This observation…

The Specificity of Pain

‘White people weaponize both the concepts of individuality and equality in order to deny that they constantly perpetrate patterns of abuse by denying the specificity of marginalized experiences and pain (which, in itself is a form of abuse).’ – Cassandra L.
I sat in front of the man at the conciliation conference, and he looked at the file. For a long time, fixedly. Finally he spoke.

‘You said in your message that you were ‘slightly concerned about how this is going’. That really doesn’t reflect that you felt discriminated against, or that you were hurt in any way, does it? ‘Slightly’ concerned?’

I blinked. We were there to discuss a physical barrier that his organisation had installed to prevent cars from entering a site. That had also stopped me and other wheelchair users from entering the site, something they admitted that they hadn’t thought about.

I could feel my face reddening and my throat closing up. The last time I’d been in this room, I’d been at another concili…

'Oh, what a feeling...exploitation.'

"Every year, small children die in their driveways when their parents accidentally reverse over them in their SUVs. Take a photograph of yourself doing a Toyota jump in your driveway to raise awareness about the perils of childhood!"

"Too many toddlers and children drown every year. Last year, 30 children under fourteen drowned in pools, at beaches and at inland waterway locations. You can help raise awareness about the possibility of drowning by taking a photograph of yourself in your pool and posting it to Facebook!

Don’t you think they’re good campaign strategies? Why not?"

That’s right. They’re offensive. The idea of your healthy, live child posing in the same place that someone else’s dead child has been to ‘raise awareness’ is a horrible idea. Yet Epilepsy Australia has chosen to do just that, with their ‘epilepsy australia bubble bath challenge’ campaign. They’re saying that you can ‘raise awareness’ – and, of course, funds – by posting an image o…

'Learn, Respect, Celebrate' - and other trite, white, phrases.

Image description: Children play in raw sewerage around a toilet block.

There’s a running joke in the disability sector that goes something like this.

Q: If the 3rd of December is International Day of People with a Disability, what happens on the other 364 days?
A: Discrimination.

I’m reminded each year on that day by the hypocrisy of the sector, who hold breakfast events to celebrate IDPwD despite most disabled people being unable to attend, who speak in glum terms about two percent employment rates and then do nothing to remedy it, who do things for us and to us but never with us, and consequently seldom get it right.

But sometimes I see this happening in other sectors. That happened this week, and it hurt my heart.

Down the centre streets of Perth, flags are proudly flying for NAIDOC week. There are celebrations in parks, in schools – even a ‘Miss NAIDOC Perth’ event for young Aboriginal women to be ‘trained’ in grooming and deportment and leadership skills. The theme for …

I'm Not Here For Your Entertainment

‘How would you do that?’ I asked the job candidate. She’d applied for a job in the disability sector, and I was interviewing – one of the questions related to the ‘how’ of making systemic change in the sector.

‘I would find people and get them to tell their stories,’ she said earnestly, and I made a mental note – she was the third in as many interviews who had spoken about the importance of using people’s stories to create systemic change.

She’s not the only one. Bolstered by the success of Twenty Years: Twenty Stories, former Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes has long been a proponent of the use of the stories of people with disability to transform the system. We all know it works – telling a personal story adds that extra, authentic, undeniably effective element. The BSWAT decision, the result of a concerted wage justice campaign, would not have been made if Messrs Nojin and Prior had not been prepared to tell their stories about being paid $1.85 an hour. Di…

An Open Letter to Jules Anderson

Dear Jules

At three thirty today, Parliament are being asked to say yes to a national inquiry into disability violence, abuse and neglect.

I heard today that you are standing shoulder to shoulder at Parliament with other disability advocates, making your voice heard.

When I watched the Four Corners episode, where you talked about being raped by a disability support worker, I cried.

You spoke out with such ferocity. You understood that this man was wrong to do what he did. You spoke up, and he went to jail, and now the nation waits to hear what our Government will do.

I don’t know if you know how important your voice is. That you have made change for hundreds and thousands of Australians with disability – no matter what they say today.

You were not just speaking up for yourself.

You were speaking up for every single woman with disability who has been raped or who has suffered some other form of violence – that’s 90% of Australian women with an intellectual disability.

You w…

Her Absence Filled The World

Her absence filled the world.
It's an image by Kentridge, a simple sketch of a figure standing on an empty hill with the words 'her absence filled the world' sprawled across it. An desolate image that makes you think about loneliness and loss, and grief. For me, it makes me think of something other.

I read a story a few years ago, and it haunts me still. It is about a girl, a young girl who moved out of her home in Pyramid Hill when she was nineteen. Her learning disability was mild enough to present few barriers, and she could read and write and work.

Her name was Krystal Fraser.

You've probably never heard of Krystal, right? If you lived in Pyramid Hill prior to 2009, you might remember a bright, sociable girl who was described by a community member as a 'serial pest'. She talked to everyone, indiscriminately - as a person with a mild intellectual disability, she wasn't supported by staff. And eventually Krystal fell pregnant, although nobody …

Public Stripping

I stood there, in my underwear.

They were pale blue, with small flowers on them. I remember it very clearly – mostly because there were four men in the room who I had never met before. They were looking at my body, and my mother wore a worried expression.

The tallest man touched me.

“You see, here and here,” he said.

His hands were warm. The other men were looking at my body, and none of them looked at my eyes.

“You can get dressed now, dear,” he finally said, and I scrambled to put on my clothes.

I was four.

I was not sure why that memory has always stayed with me, nor why it was a traumatic one. There was no suggestion of sexual impropriety – these men were doctors. Nobody ever acted inappropriately. It was not until the first time I looked at a medical image of a young girl with a disability that I blenched. A young girl in her underpants, facing the camera without a smile on her face. The image was posted online and I immediately recoiled. So did other women wi…