22 September 2023

A reflection on what this enormous year means for people with disability.

Image: Emma Bennison, Chief Innovation Officer, wearing a light pink shirt and dark pants, stands next to a brick wall with a tree behind her. Photography: Jess Oakenfull, commissioned by the Tasmanian Department of Premier and Cabinet.

This has been a big year for many reasons, but particularly for people with disability. 2023 has marked the final year of the Disability Royal Commission and also the review into the functioning of the NDIS by the Federal Government.

Lots of reports are being drafted and recommendations will be made – we will debate the pros and cons in Parliament, in workplaces and in media about what should happen next. But we must remember, in the middle of all of this, are people with disability. People whose lives are the subject of the debate.

Emma Bennison, our Chief Innovation Officer, has written a reflective piece on what this enormous year means for people with disability. It is an important reminder of the responsibility we all have to be allies and to advance and disrupt barriers that diminish the rights and contributions of people with disability across Australia.

Content warning: This piece makes mild references to violence and abuse.

So our words won’t be wasted

The shutters come down, the last volume closes, emotions run high, it's been no bed of roses.

Some have shared truths, some have stayed silent, some have abused, some have been violent, some are remembered, others forgotten, some have loud voices, others are softened.

But today hearts are heavy, pain squashed down with the wait, the weight of the wait of the fear and the hate, the wait for equality and the weight of exclusion, the fear that runs wild amid doubt and confusion.

What will become of the thousands of words? So painful to write but not truly heard, what will become of the unresolved pain, the anger, the fear, the guilt and the shame?

They felt wasted, dismissed, but still, we stay strong, what choice do we have, it's clear they've moved on. No point in lamenting, it's too late for many, hold on to the hope, that's if you still have any.

But where do the words go, does anyone claim, the anger the fear, the guilt and the shame? For contrived polite responses and empty platitudes, will not be enough to shift entrenched attitudes, what we need is compassion, deep listening that lasts, so our words won't be wasted and consigned to the past.

You can find Life Without Barriers support of the Disability Royal Commission here.

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