Today I would like to pay tribute to all of the people who have tirelessly advocated for people with disabilities to be able to enjoy their human rights in education, employment, housing, access to goods and services and all areas of life.
I acknowledge the invaluable contributions of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Disability Reference Group who support the work of the Commission in the area of disability, as well as in the Victorian community more broadly.
I would also like to pay tribute to two Victorian disability advocates, Stella Young and Madeleine Sobb, who we have sadly lost in the last year.
Stella used her profound writing and entertainment skills to bring disability into public discourse and to challenge people to re-think and re-conceptualise disability. Stella hosted eight seasons of Australia’s first disability culture program, No Limits, aired on Channel 31, was the editor of Ramp Up, an online forum for discussion of disability in Australia and winner of the Best Newcomer Award at the 2014 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Madeleine was a dedicated advocate at the Youth Disability Advocacy Service. She coordinated the first Australian National Youth Disability Conference in 2012, bringing together young people with a disability, peak bodies, representative organisations, workers and researchers from all across Australia to discuss priorities for young people with disabilities.
There are many other events occurring across Victoria today and I encourage you to join me in celebrating the achievements of people with disability and find out what’s on near you.
I would like to conclude with words from the late Stella Young in her final piece for Ramp Up entitled, 'Dance like Everyone's Watching'
"I dance as a political statement, because disabled bodies are inherently political, but I mostly dance for all the same reasons anyone else does. Because it heals my spirit and fills me with joy... And I dance because, in the end, dancing is a way for my body to have a conversation about these things, the pulsating waves of a hundred people sharing thoughts and dreams and ideas about what it means to be alive."