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. Leone,

    The abbott probably dirtied his pants at the very thought of talking with the mad moni. He can barely handle live interviews with his mates Hadley and Jones. As for old Bob Ellis, I admit that when the siege began the thoughts Ellis has expressed crossed my mind because these days, anything that causes a media frenzy is more likely than not an abbott distraction.

  2. Abbott speaking to the gunman.
    One of those occasions when someone’s weaknesses coincide with good practice.
    He did the right thing not debating the perp.
    But he would’ve lost the debate.

  3. It won’t be the NE considering a reshuffle. He doesn’t do thinking. He will announce whatever Peta decides.

  4. Aguirre,

    It is vanity, pure and simple, that is driving the bitchop’s photo shoots. She’s conveniently forgotten her scathing criticism of Julia Gillard. At least JG had no need to plaster her face with Chanel makeup as she possesses beautiful skin and a peaches and cream complexion.

  5. janice and BSA Bob –
    I know Abbott would have been scared witless at the thought of a debate, and if he had gone ahead with it he would have lost. He would also have been unable to agree to whatever demands the gunman intended to make – obviously his purpose in demanding a debate. Which is why I believe those hostages would have been killed afterwards, out of anger or spite.

    Regardless of Abbott’s cowardice and lack of negotiating/debating skills he did the right thing this time. That has to be a first.

  6. Your Government just doesn’t have a clue

    The abolition of a panel advising the federal government on drug and alcohol use among Indigenous Australians has left its members stunned.

    The co-chairman of the committee, Scott Wilson, who has been on the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee (Nidac) as an illicit drug expert since its inception a decade ago, said he had not been consulted about the decision, announced as part of the government’s budget update this week.

    There were 10 Indigenous experts on Nidac, Wilson said, many of whom didn’t realise their positions had been scrapped until he informed them.


  7. And on and on it goes. Never mind what the experts say. Ideology rules.

    Kevin Andrews says he supports greater levels of income management for welfare recipients, despite a government report released on Thursday showing little evidence of its effectiveness.

    The social services minister wrote in an opinion piece for the Australian that the federal government was “committed to using income management to help stabilise the lives of some of the most vulnerable Australians”.

    But the report, Evaluating New Income Management in the Northern Territory, found that rather than “promoting independence and the building of skills and capabilities”, income management appeared to have led to increased dependence on welfare and simply removed the burden of personal management. It found numerous other significant problems.


  8. This contains a full list of all the government agencies abolished by Abbott.

    I learned the CRS (Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service) was to get the axe. This has not had much media attention. The CRS used to do excellent work in getting people with disabilities back into the work force, or into work for the first time. They did brilliant stuff, but it must have been expensive, all that individual attention with every client given whatever they needed.

    Howard gutted the CRS, slashed funding and turned a valuable, unique agency into little more than just another employment agency. Abbott’s Commission of Audit recommended it be abolished, with some staff being transferred to the NDIS and, no doubt, the work it does being farmed out to private organisations. Once again we will have people forced out of work to suit government ideology.

  9. This little black duck

    The income management in the NT resulted in scenes that looked more like something from the deep south or Seff Efrika as Coles and a couple of other shops I went to in central Darwin had a special lane for those with the cards, It made sense in that the cards really held things up as the poor staff had to check items and often argue the toss with the card owner as to whether an item was OK. Anyways in places like Coles the result was all the white folks in the lanes down one end and all the local Aboriginals in the card lane situated at the far end.

  10. TLBD

    Oh and Colesworth and the like made a killing because only larger companies couple afford to install the required kit for the cards. For large numbers of small business’ it was just out of the question and so could not sell goods to card holders.

  11. There’s another problem with income management – shoddy retailers bunging huge mark-ups onto groceries bought by those using the card. People have no alternative, they have to shop where they are told in small communities and they are being ripped off.

    This was circulated on Facebook a few days ago –

  12. Even before income management there were major problems.

    I have friends who spent a year at a tiny NT school on a large pastoral property. The local store – also on the pastoral property – was owned and operated by the pastoralist’s wife. Prices were at least double those of the store in the nearest town, about 1.5 hours’ drive away.

  13. Fiona

    Yep. Prices for food let along healthy food out bush were horrendous. They used to bang on about people out in the country needing to eat a healthier diet but there is no way you could afford to do so on anything less than extremely high wages. Things like $20 for a lettuce were reported. A snippet from a 2014 report.

    Table 8 reveals the true disparity between corner stores and supermarkets in remote communities, where the same exact basket of goods costs
    $972 on average in an East Arnhem corner store,
    $589 on average from a supermarket in the same district;
    $493 on average from a supermarket in Alice Springs,

  14. I’ve just read this about what is happening in the drought areas in Qld and NSW. It’s very depressing, but it should be something everyone in Australia is aware of.

  15. 2gravel
    I posted that story at least a week ago.

    There is a bit of good news since that letter was first posted – the ANZ announced a moratorium on repossessions of farms and other lenders have come up with assistance packages.
    Here’s some info on that –


    I have a problem with all that. Banks and governments do nothing to help small businesses in financial difficulties because they see it as all the business owners fault for being poor business managers. They just have to close. Why are farmers, who are actually running agri-businesses, treated differently, even when their own out-dated thinking, ignorance and unwillingness to change crops and livestock to suit a changing climate have caused their problems? Postponing repossessions and handing over more loans that just add to growing debt is not really going to help anyone.

    While I have every sympathy for those farmers doing it tough I still wonder why they don’t at least try alternative crops and grazing more suited to the current climate instead of sticking with wheat and sheep or cattle because that’s what they (and often their parents, grand-parents great-grand-parents) have always done.

    It’s a huge issue, it’s going to become much worse as the climate changes. Try telling that to farmers who vote National or LNP (again because they and their parents etc always have) and cheered when Abbott axed the carbon price.

  16. Pollies sometimes say they are resigning in order to pursue other interests. In Arfur’s case it may be more resigning in order for other interests are to pursue him.

  17. 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.

  18. 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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