A Truly Great Activist

Today’s Guest Post is from Puffy – a moving tribute to the late, great, and way too young to die Stella Young. Thank you, Puffy, and thank you for your forbearance with the delayed publication.

(Image Credit: Stella Young)

As we join Bill Shorten in paying our respects to a truly great activist for an inclusive accessible and FAIR society, we recognise that Stella Young, who has left us at the young age of 32, did not only advocate for a better deal for people with disabilities, she was pursuing a vision of a better deal for all of us. A society where everyone can access physical spaces, digital spaces, the world of ideas and the world of art, recreation, career and family regardless of ability is a better place for everyone.

As her friend Clementine Ford wrote:

Stella Young was not a brave, inspirational warrior sent here to teach us a lesson about Appreciating What We Have. She was a writer, activist, lover, daughter, sister, fighter, drinker, dancer, woman, and human being.

I never met this interesting woman, which is my regret. However, I know her work from reading Ramp Up, the online portal provided by the ABC, of which Stella Young was the editor.

Stella Young had a vision – some might have thought it was an impossible vision – except it isn’t. In a country where numerous ‘able-bod’ government ministers, while being paid so many times the average income of people with disabilities, have no vision and no concept of a society where people get a fair go, Ms Young’s example is a lesson to us all.

She was not ‘brave’ – Stella Young on what society should expect from disabled people:

I want to live in a world where we don’t have such low expectations of disabled people that we are congratulated for getting out of bed and remembering our own names in the morning. I want to live in a world where we value genuine achievement for disabled people.

She was not ‘inspirational’ – (discussing a poster):

These images – there are lots of them out there – they are what we call inspiration porn. And I use the term porn deliberately because they objectify one group of people for the benefit of another group of people.

Stella Young on how ‘inspiration porn’ gets it wrong:

That quote, ‘the only disability in life is a bad attitude’, the reason that’s bullshit is … No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp. No amount of standing in the middle of a bookshelf and radiating a positive attitude is going to turn all those books into braille.

But she had vision. Stella Young outlines why the NDIS matters – because one day you might need it:

The National Disability Insurance Scheme is an investment in all Australians. It’s not about people like me who currently live with disabilities, it’s about all of those who might in the future.

The NDIS is the culmination of thirty years of advocacy by the disability movement. and this scheme is overdue. The NDIS must not be starved of funds or left to the vagaries of political interest. so the advocacy work is not finished and everyone needs to insist that this be above political shenanigans.

One thing is for certain: Australia is a better place for Ms Young’s thirty-two years in it. Just one of her successes, ABC Ramp Up, has left a legacy of information and creative content. I only hope funding is restored to this progressive initiative.

From the ABC website, this is her announcement of its closure of Ramp Up (but the content remains online):

After much speculation about the future of Ramp Up since the Federal Budget announcement, we have some news to share.

As many of you are aware, in 2010 the ABC received funding to establish an online destination to discuss disability in Australia. The funding came from the Department of Families and Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, which is now the Department of Social Services. Our current contract with DSS finishes on 30 June this year and has not been renewed.

The publication of ABC Ramp Up will cease on 30 June, however the website will remain online as a resource for the disability community. Current comments will remain while new comments on articles will be closed.

Over the last three and a half years, Ramp Up has published over 500 pieces of original content, facilitated discussion on a broad range of disability issues, developed a strong social media presence and, perhaps most importantly, published stories and perspectives that put forward a strong case for the establishment of the NDIS. We’ve also had the honour of publishing great work from many talented, emerging writers with disability.

Stella Young writes a letter to her 80-year-old self:

I’ve never thought I was going to die young. But I’m aware, sometimes painfully so, that there are people who do.

For the young people here practicality is a good thing. There are times where compromise is necessary. That’s part of wisdom. But it’s also important to hang on to what you believe, to know what you believe and then be willing to stand up for it. And what’s true for individuals is also true for countries.

Vale and thank you, Stella Young.


442 thoughts on “A Truly Great Activist

  1. Arfur should have resigned his position when the ICAC thing began. Abbott should have made him do that. We have been without an assistant treasurer for almost a whole year. Not a satisfactory state of affairs at all. It shows Abbott up as the weak coward he is, too scared to insist a minister resign.

    ICAC’s final report will be interesting. I’m hoping it will bring on Sinodinos’ resignation from the parliament and will see him stripped of that damned AO. The report is now due in March, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was postponed again, with release delayed until after the NSW election on the 28th.

  2. Okay how is this for loveliness. Our little town comprising of 1 butcher shop, 1 bakery (that everyone stops at), one general store, Post Office, 1 servo, 1 garage, a trinket shop, 2 takeaways and of course the requisite Pub and an Op Shop. One of the ladies from the Op Shop just knocked on the door, asked for the ‘Lady in the Wheelchair’, and gave Razz a hamper bag that she had put together for her. It was a really lovely gesture. We were very bemused.

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