Showing posts from January, 2015

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…

I call myself an Australian

My parents arrived in this country on a boat, and yet I call myself an Australian.

As a disabled woman, I am in a minority group, yet I call myself an Australian.

But according to racist pages promoting a new rally - the 'Reclaim Australia Rally' - 'patriotic Australians' need to stand together and stop the minorities from changing our country. They're marching in April to tell the rest of Australia that they don't want halal certification, burqas and the teaching of Islam in government schools. In short, they don't want Muslims in our country, and they don't want our country to change to suit them.

3,306 likes in Perth, and another 500 or so in Bunbury. One in almost every state. It saddens me, because this is the message to anyone who is different - 'we will not tolerate diversity'.

My parents arrived on the 'right kind of boat'. They were ten pound Poms, and my father was skilled and the right shade of white. He was Dutch, …

A Different Kind of Attitude

Like other disabled people in Australia, I’ve been watching the new Attitude series on the ABC.

I don’t know what I’d expected. The first two episodes made me think a little, but not a lot. I considered them well made, but not terribly different from Four Corners. Stories about disabled people and their lives, which we tell every day.

But then I watched THAT episode, and it changed everything.

THAT episode is one that I would probably have not watched unless I’d been told to. It was about sport - I’m not the sporty type. It was about the Solomons, a country I’d never been to. And worst of all, it was narrated by a Paralympian – a good looking jock who’d rediscovered himself as a ‘motivational speaker’ – aren’t they all? I rolled my eyes and prepared myself for 'Kurt Fearnley meets The Third World', and watched with a sense of trepidation.

I couldn’t stop watching.

According to the blurb, Paralympian Curtis Palmer ‘has just one week to train Solomon Islanders with…

I sat down too long one day - and then something happened.

I sat down too long one day, and something happened.

Your eyes stopped connecting with mine, but I expected that. After all, I was no longer on your level. Instead of being an Amazonian five foot ten inches, I was shorter – barely half your height, on wheels and a titanium frame. I expected that.

What I did not expect was for everything else to change.

I was no longer on your physical level, but neither was I on your level as a person. Why else would you think it was okay to treat me so differently?

I finished my Christmas shopping, and my son watched me unpack my wheelchair into the car. You came up to me and wished me a Merry Christmas. I smiled and thanked you, and then you said, ‘I’m always nice to people in wheelchairs. It is because I feel sorry for you.’

Why do you feel sorry for me?
I was buying asparagus, and a delightful small child came and asked me what ‘fruit’ that was. I told him it was asparagus, and we had an endearing conversation about the origins of ‘spa…

The Secret Lives of Us

The lives of people with disability are full of secrets.

Not secrets-on-purpose, but accidental secrets. Only a female wheelchair user knows the importance of a well-fitting bra so that your straps don’t fall down when travelling – only a sheltered workshop employee knows what it is like to sweat over some menial task and be paid three dollars an hour for a long day’s work. There are secrets associated with bodily functions, rarely talked about, to preserve whatever dignity remains to you – secrets associated with discrimination and shame and humiliation, inflicted upon you over and over. All of these secrets make up a rich tapestry of experience that is rarely observed by the rest of the community. Those secrets, sometimes divulged through the telling of stories, are the secrets that can lead to the changes that we desperately need to be included in daily Australian life.

I’ve just watched an RSA Animate video – you can watch it here…