Project Open Doors Launch Video and Transcript
Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner Mr. Alastair McEwin launched Project Open Doors calling on student journalists to combat stereotypes and promote positive perceptions and respect for the rights of people with disabilities citeing article 8 of the convention on the rights of people with disabilities.
Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, Federal Member for Ryan Hon. Jane Prentice, MP, introduced Mr. McEwin, followed by a Keynote presentation by Pro Vice Chancellor and Head of Logan Campus Professor Lesley Chenoweth AO,
Guest Speakers included advocate and spokesperson, Mr. Alex Baker and Self Advocate Ms. Jill Goodman who spoke about their experiences of being self-advocates and why inclusion matters.
The launch was followed by a series of Panel discussions featuring Qld Disability Commissioner Kevin Cocks AM, CEO Deaf Services Queensland Mr. Brett Casey, and a variety of speakers from our partner organisations and support services along with journalists, mentors, and activists.
Videos of each session follow, and a transcription of the event appears below. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at ProjectOpenDoors@griffith.edu.au if you would like more information.
Project Open Doors Launch and Panel Discussion 1 – Why media inclusion needs to be addressed
Panel Discussion 2 – We don’t all speak with one voice
Panel Discussion 3 and 4 – Issues impacting the Disability Sector and How to approach interviewing
(The following is the transcript from the launch of Project Open Doors and panel discussions held on 10th July 2017. No warranty is made as to the accuracy of the transcript)
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR SUSAN FORDE: Good morning, everybody. Welcome. It is lovely to see such a full room. Welcome and thank you very much for coming along to the launch of Project Open Doors today. My name is Susan Forde. I will be your MC for today for the launch this morning. I am an Associate Professor of journalism here at Griffith University. I am also director of our research centre, which features a range of media and communication scholars.
Before we begin I would like to call upon John Graham to do the welcome to country. Thank you, John.
JOHN GRAHAM: Thanks, Susan. Welcome everyone. Before I start, I would like to acknowledge all the distinguished guests who are here today and also everyone else in the audience who have come to this important discussion and the presentation today. I think it is important that there will be a lot of good stuff that comes out of the talks today. Gidday, friends. My name is John Graham. I am a saltwater man of the Gold Coast region. I have permission of the local people. I am doing an acknowledgement, not a welcome of the place on which we meet today. I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land on which we meet, the Yugarabul, Yuggera, Jagera and Turrbal, they are the traditional owners of this land and have been so for the millennium. I pay my respects to elders past, present and future. I always say the future is in the knowledge ‑ passing on the knowledge to the young people and keeping the flame burning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. I am very happy to be involved in today’s launch, Project Open Doors. For me personally it is vitally important to note and document the manner in which people are living with disabilities, their families, carers and other support persons are represented. The media has a large and important role in the way disability is perceived, written about and portrayed to the wider Australian public. Please enjoy the presentations and discussions and I wish everyone safe passage and blessings for today and into the future. Thank you.
SUSAN: Thank you very much, John. Can everybody hear us okay, right up the back there? Yes. Thank you. I also wish to acknowledge the people of the land on which we meet today. I acknowledge they are a connection to this land and the knowledge to this place which extends back for years. And pay my respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the audience today. It is fitting to begin here because today we will be talking about issues of equity, discrimination, fairness and hopefully finding ways to think deeply about people with disabilities and the issues they confront daily.
Project Open Doors is an initiative of the Griffith University journalism program. Designed to heighten awareness about people with disabilities and to arm our students to be better equipped, indeed to be reporting leaders in covering the disabilities community. More on that as we go through this launch this morning.
We are honoured to be joined today by true leaders from the disabilities community. The Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Mr Alastair McEwin, the Queensland antidiscrimination Commissioner, Mr Kevin Cocks A.M. we also welcome the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services and the Member for Ryan, the Honourable Jane Prentice MP. And we are also thrilled our own Deputy Vice‑Chancellor, Professor Martin Betts, is also here to join us. We welcome Professor Lesley Chenoweth, Vice‑Chancellor Head of Logan campus. I wish to acknowledge also the Head of Social Science, Professor James Carson, who I saw before, who is here and has supported this initiative from the journalism program. I also welcome and acknowledge the range of advocates, policy makers, mentors, journalists, parents of people with disabilities, and, of course, the representatives of the disabilities community who have joined us today.
I welcome our journalism students who will carry on beyond this launch to undertake a full day induction for the rest of today with some of our guests on the issues to begin their journey on best practice in reporting on disabilities.
I now call upon our deputy Vice‑Chancellor Professor Martin Betts who is a supporter of equity and greater community, to address you.
PROFESSOR MARTIN BETTS: Thanks, Susan and thanks John and good morning all. It is delightful to see so many people in the room on an occasion like this and around a project like this. Can I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. It is a real pleasure to be here with you this morning and welcome you to this Nathan campus to launch this great project. It is a very timely and important initiative that we are kicking off here today and a very aptly named one, I must say, as well. I will not go through all of the people that have already been acknowledged a couple of times but I would like to acknowledge Jane Prentice MP minister for social services and disability services, federal member for Ryan. We are pleased to have your support of many things we do here at the university. To Alastair McEwin, the Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner, welcome back. And Kevin Cocks, very frequent visitor and supporter of so many different ventures of this university, Queensland antidiscrimination Commissioner. We are happy to have all of you here today. To my colleagues, Lesley and James, welcome to you. Can I say to our valued partners from disability advocacy and support services, an occasion like this wouldn’t be possible and a project like this wouldn’t be possible by a university and its students working with leaders in isolation. It really calls upon partnerships with so many organisations. We are delighted with that. I am the first to acknowledge I think the project leader, faith Valencia‑Forrester needs acknowledging too. Round of applause, yes. She would be the first to say it is not only her but her hard working colleagues and students that have made today possible. I would like to thank our interpreters and support workers present today. I would like to acknowledge everyone in the room but if I do I would have far exceeded the time allocated to me. It is important to acknowledge the story of each and every one of us matters. Some of these stories don’t get the attention they deserve. They are often told not in a way that they should be, and I think that’s a very appropriate way of where Project Open Doors comes in. On behalf of the university, I am very proud that this is a Griffith University initiative. Made possible by the support of everyone else in the room. As I think we have all acknowledged, the NDIS is probably the biggest roll‑out of government social services since Medicare was introduced in 1975. And it is monumental and transformative program. Like all big ideas it comes with challenges. One of those challenges is probably how we better tell the stories of people with disabilities. And my sense is to tell the stories better but the first thing we need to do is a better job of listening. And Project Open Doors will see Griffith University journalism and communication students work with partner organisations to produce multimedia reporting that is, I hope, honest, compassionate and informative. I don’t know if that’s the absolute opposite of fake news, as it were, but it is to me something we should all celebrate and seek for.
This is the latest in a series of important initiatives emanating from the School of Humanities Languages and Social Science Journalism, along with our school of journalism, journalism program. Project Open Doors is modelled on Project Safe Space which was launched two years ago and that really sought to give a voice to people who experienced domestic violence. And another recent project here at Griffith that was funded by the Australian Research Council focused on the Queensland land rights struggle through the eyes of indigenous participants, their media and the broader news industry. I also would draw your attention to the reporting Islam project which is leading a discussion on how the media can and should reframe that very important discussion. So like all of those projects and all those that have gone before it, Project Open Doors has got a very important aim, and that is to inform and empower the wider community. I am pleased that it places our students at the centre of that enterprise, and I am really excited about it taking place and initiating here today.
Susan made a number of references to our commitment to equity and diversity at the university, and the university’s disability action plan which we launched last year is unequivocal, really, that we want to encourage the full participation of people with disabilities here at Griffith in all aspects of education and employment. And this project, Project Open Doors is going to play a very important part to facilitate learning and with a greater understanding of how we can all understand that subject.
So I look forward with you to engaging with the outcomes that will come from today, how that will be reported, and how that will be shared in the months to come. I hope you all have a great day. I am delighted to be here and I look forward to hearing from the rest of our speakers. Thank you very much.
SUSAN: Thank you very much, Martin. Something I neglected to do earlier also, could I just point to Maree over here by the door who is here to provide support services to anyone who might need it here today. Please see Maree or flag her if you do require anything.
I would now like to call upon the assistant minister for social services and disability services in the federal government and the federal member for Ryan, the Honourable Jane Prentice MP. Thank you.
ASSISTANT MINISTER JANE PRENTICE: Thank you, Susan. And John, thank you for your acknowledgement and I too acknowledge the first people and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging, indeed any cultures here today. It literally is standing room only today. It is wonderful to be with you for this launch of the Open Doors project, and particularly Professor Martin Betts, the deputy Vice‑Chancellor, to Professor Lesley Chenoweth, Professor James Carson. We do have a cast of a whole lot of people here today which shows how much importance we place on this project. And my good friend Alastair McEwin, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, it is great to have you here in Brisbane to show you what, you know, real good winter weather is all about. Alastair has to live in Melbourne most of the time. Kevin Cocks, in Queensland, Brett Casey, CEO of Deaf Services Queensland, and Brett is literally stalking me. Everywhere I go, it doesn’t matter if it is Toowong, Toowoomba, or Melbourne, Brett is there. So Brett, great to see you yet again. And Nigel Webb, one of my good friends, I would like to think, who was on to me the very soon after I became appointed as the minister for disability services and is there rattling the cage for people with disability in Queensland. Nigel, you do a great job and supported today by Paige Armstrong. I noticed Allan Smith sneak in late, the CEO of AIU which of course has their facility on this campus here. Most importantly to the students and people participating in today. This is a great project. I am really looking forward to you telling the stories that we need to tell, about the possibilities, about the abilities, about the great things people are doing with disability, because we just don’t read about it in the newspapers and in the media. Now, whilst we hear a lot about the National Disability Insurance Scheme, that will only support 460,000 Australians with permanent and significant disability. There are another 3.8 million Australians who identify as living with disability. Probably someone you know. Most people might have a relative or a friend who identifies as living with disability. And these people, like us, want to lead the life that they choose. And we need to do more to support them. Now, I’m embarrassed to say that Australia currently rates 21 out of 29 in OECD countries for employing people with disability. Frankly, that is not good enough and I am determined to do something about it. We have $3 billion in the last budget ‑ we nominated 3 billion dollars towards disability employment over the next four years but we need to tell the story. The people with disability actually make better employees. In many cases they are the ones who appreciate getting the job, they usually turn up on time, they don’t take five coffee breaks before 11 o’clock like most Gen Ys do, they don’t tell the manager how to do their job and make a great contribution to the team. I am working with various sectors and chambers of commerce to try and grow the people employed who have a disability and I have also met with the Australian public service. Now, hand in hand with that is the international day of people with disability. That’s on the 3rd of December every year, as we know, and trying to launch a project this year called aka because they are not too sure what the name of it is yet, give it a go day, this is about trialling work experience for a day for people with disability to understand what the job involves. Because quite often they might get a job and then find out it is not quite what they thought it was but because they are so grateful for the job they don’t speak up and say something. So we are doing this trial, no pressure on the employer, but a message to the employer that people with disability are great employees, but more importantly for people with a disability to understand what jobs are available in the community and what jobs are available for them. And I look around at some of the security companies at the moment who actually actively ring my office and say can you please tell me where I can find people with autism because they make better employees than anyone else in my business. There is actually positive messages out there but it is very difficult to get the message out. This year I am delighted that Dylan Alcott, the basketball champion, just won the Japan cup, he has agreed to be patron this year for national day of disability, and Dylan is a DJ with triple J in Melbourne and also regularly on The Project, once again living the experience of he can do anything and probably better than most people with a disability in Dylan’s case. He is available to promote any ideas or proposals to highlight the importance of employing people with disability. So my challenge to you, the students, being involved in this project, is what sort of message can we put out in the media about the importance and benefits of employing people with disability. We all remember that great yes you can ad from the UK Paralympics. Think of something we can do, perhaps on social media. That’s my challenge to everyone today. When you start meeting people with disability, you will understand how much they have to offer and how they can make the workplace and our community better just given the chance, but we have to make sure they get the chance. So I would now, without continuing on my passion this year, I would now like to hand over to a very special person and that’s to Alastair McEwin. Welcome.
SUSAN: Thank you very much Assistant Minister. We are very fortunate today to have the national leader in disabilities advocacy and policy here, Mr Alastair McEwin, the Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner. At what must be an incredibly busy time at the commission, we thank him for his attendance and I call upon Mr McEwin to make his address. Thank you.
DISABILITY COMMISSIONER ALASTAIR MCEWIN: Greetings, everybody. Firstly I would like to say thank you for John Graham. I would like to say thank you for your welcome to country today. I would also like to acknowledge that we are meeting on the traditional lands of the people and I would like to acknowledge their elders, both past and present.
The importance of the representation of people with disability in all aspects of the media is specifically recognised in article 8 of the convention on the rights of people with disabilities. Known as CRPD or disco as I would like to call it. It expressly states the need to combat stereotypes and prejudice and promote positive perceptions and respect for the rights of people with disabilities. It includes encouraging media, and that’s all types of media, to portray people with disabilities in a positive light. And in the manner consistent with the purposes of the convention.
Some of the most significant barriers that people face are not physical barriers, but the barriers imposed by discrimination, low expectations, and negative attitudes. Education, awareness, and attitudinal change are some of the strongest tools we can have to use to overcome this culture of disempowerment of people with disabilities, of low expectations, about their ability to contribute in society at large and also make decisions about how they would like to live their lives.
We know that until there is an expectation that people with disabilities can participate in schools, in workplaces, in sport, in cultural activities and social and recreational endeavours, and just generally in the community in the same way that people without disability do, people with disability are still likely to continue to face attitudinal barriers to their full participation in the social, economic and cultural spheres of society.
Media truly is a powerful way to change thinking, attitudes and also behaviour. Media can be a tool to effectively and efficiently promote the social inclusion and consequently of that, the greater economic inclusion of people with disability. The positive engagement of the media is critical to the realisation of human rights, for people with disability.
Now, cultural change takes time, and resources, but it can happen. Well focused and sustained community education and awareness campaigns can and have changed very entrenched attitudes and behaviours. Seeing and listening to people with disability in the media accomplishes a few things. It validates and reinforces their membership of society. It Fosters an appreciation of their perspectives. And it also promotes understanding and acceptance of people with disability. Each of those three keys ‑ are key to social inclusion. Now, for children growing up with disability or difference who are developing their individual identities, seeing others who share a similar experience to them portrayed in a positive and inclusive manner in the media can truly provide crucial self‑validation and empowerment for them.
During my national consultations with people with disability, their families, families, carers and the community, people frequently referred to the void. That is the void that has been left by the closure of Ramp Up. People felt that Ramp Up was really the only place where there were authentic representations and voice for people with disability, because that voice is absent from the mainstream media. I am really happy to see that one of the outcomes of Project Open Doors will be an online news site. And that site will be dedicated to reporting issues around disability, and that’s great.
Particularly in this climate where we’re seeing a lot of negative reporting about people with disability around the NDIS, which is occurring through some newspapers, this initiative from Project Open Doors is very, very warmly welcomed. We don’t often see people with disability at all on our screens. The recently released Screen Australia study which was on diversity on television, that study was actually called seeing ourselves, reflections on Diversity in TV Drama. Now, that study found that the percentage of Australians with disability is more than four times the percentage of characters with disability on TV. The study also found that only 4 per cent of main characters have an identified disability, and only 10 per cent of dramas had at least one character with disability. It is quite a powerful statistic. I would also like to share a quote from my predecessor, Graeme Innes. He said we will be shown as neither victims nor heroes, but as agents of our own destiny. He was involved with founding the Attitude Foundation and this foundation has been created with the purpose of relieving the discrimination experienced by people with disabilities. And that is by increasing the inclusion and integration of people with disability into every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life, and by empowering and building capacity of people with disability.
We need to nationally challenge and change people’s thinking, attitudes and behaviour, particularly to stop this cycle of abuse, distress, and poverty commonly experienced by people with disabilities. It is essential to spark conversations, deliver subtle messaging, and also to position people with disabilities as role models, as leaders, and to open the door to allow people with disabilities to be successful in life. For the most part, the mainstream media reflects the perspective of non‑disabled people about what it is like to have a disability. And I feel there are four stereotypes. There’s the disabled villain. Their disability is often framed as the basis of resentment against the world and, therefore, this feeling of a need to destroy, hurt and punish. The second is as objects of pity. People with disability are shown to be social outcasts who spend their whole lives trying to overcome their disability. The third stereotype: objects of total inspiration. Where the disabled person is shown to overcome their disability by doing something truly amazing. This is often the viewpoint taken where people are included in talent shows and their talent or perhaps, you know, lack of talent, is under played. This inspiration stereotype is actually a problem for many reasons. On one level, it reflects low expectations, especially when people who are disabled are praised and praised highly for simply going about their lives, getting out of the house, having a job, or having a family. On another level, though, this stereotype carries an implication, and that is that every person with disability should be able to do the same and failure to reach this inspirational height is cast as an issue of personal character, and attitude, rather than barriers.
News stories about disability will often focus on mountain climbing or endurance testing or marathon running individuals who have become truly super‑human. The fourth stereotype on disability is that disability needs to be cured. For example, another approach news stories seem to focus on is miracle cures, usually helping suffering disabled children, really attempting to invoke pity and sometimes representing rare disabilities but it is implying that this is the common experience for everybody who has a disability. What we rarely see is the other side, the authentic portrayal of people with disability and how they interact with the world around them.
Project Open Doors is a Griffith University third‑year journalism program. It is an initiative aimed at transforming media reporting of disability. Working in conjunction with industry partners and special interest groups including disability groups, the main goal of Project Open Doors is to provide responsible and informed media coverage that will include an active presence and voice for the disability community that is guided and also informed by the disability community.
I congratulate all involved in establishing the project and I really look forward to seeing it play a truly vital role in the conversation on how we portray and report about people with disability in the media. Congratulations.
SUSAN: Thank you very much, Mr McEwin for that wonderful address. We will now hear from our Griffith University Professor of social work and a long‑term advocate of people living with disabilities, Professor Lesley Chenoweth AO. In 2015 she was named as one of Australia’s 100 women of influence of her career‑long work. Over to you, Lesley.
PROFESSOR LESLEY CHENOWETH AO: Thank you, Susan. It is a great pleasure to be here today to witness the launch of this project, a truly important and, I believe, inspired project. And also to be in such illustrious company. I am not going to go through the whole list again but I would like to thank all of our distinguished guests for being here today to be part of this wonderful launch. And I would like also to acknowledge all the students who are here. You’re very important in this whole journey. And I too acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we gather and pay my respects to elders past and present, and indeed afford that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And also because this event is what it is, I also want to acknowledge all those people with disability, their families and their advocates who have gone before for many years advocating and working for people with disability who were historically locked up, who were segregated, congregated, abused and punished because they were different. And many people have fought for the liberation of people with a disability, for the fight for people with a disability to live ordinary lives, to be in the community, to be with their families and to be valued citizens and participants in our society. So I want to acknowledge that effort. It has gone on for a very long time.
The history of this struggle has included my own journey over almost four decades. I hate to admit that. Working as a social worker in the 1980s when many people with disabilities were moving out of institutions to take up lives in the community. And being also in that journey involved in many campaigns, many of them with some of you here today, campaigns for human rights, campaigns for family support, for accessible housing, and for people with a disability having a voice. In many of these campaigns, it was journalists who brought injustices, who brought the struggles to the public’s attention. Who could forget Chris Masters and the four corners asylum program of 1996 which investigated the crisis faced by people with an intellectual disability and their families in Queensland. Or, more recently, our own Nance Haxton’s award winning work on reporting on how the South Australian justice system had failed disabled victims of sexual assault. This resulted in the South Australian government undertaking to amend the Evidence Act so that disabled children were not discriminated against in the justice system.
These are examples of advocacy journalism in action. Good journalism has a crucial role to play in challenging the stereotypes and bringing to the public an understanding of what the lived experience of disability is really about. And Alastair, you have outlined some of those stereotypes. Negative stereotypes are firmly embedded in our unconscious and, indeed, our collective unconscious. Perhaps more recently not so unconscious. For example, when one of our federal senators can state that children with autism should be excluded from ordinary classrooms because they hold back all the rest. Clearly, there is still much work to be done.
The stereotypes that Alastair outlined align very much with what an old time disability scholar Wolfersberger called historic deviancy roles and this is where they are portrayed as pity ‑ think Forest Gump, being the victims of violence or being asexual, undesirable or incapable of any romantic interaction. Added to these old stereotypes we have, of course, the more recent ones, and Alastair also referred to this, sometimes called the super Crip, the person despite the impairments makes a super human effort to overcome the disabilities and succeed in life. Stella Young one of our most wonderful advocates, who sadly is no longer with us, used the phrase inspirational porn in connection with internet memes with disabled people who overcome disability and is meant to inspire others. As she said if they can do it despite their disabilities then you should stop complaining about the trivial obstacles you face but disabled people should not have to encapsulate a corny life lesson she said. We don’t exist to inspire other people. We are normal. We struggle on. Sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. We can’t all be heroes.
Tom Shakespeare another disability scholar and indeed a person with lived experience of lived disability says the dominant… one dimensional and simplistic that we simply don’t get the complexities, the nuances, the variations of being human. We just get the person and the impairment. This is where working in partnership supporting and empowering people with disabilities to tell their own stories to be heard, to have a voice is most powerful. We can begin to hear and understand the multiplicities, the complexities, the infinite variations of the human experiences from those very people best equipped to tell us.
In the lead‑up to the NDIS, the story shared through Every Australian Counts and other media were crucial in bringing positive accounts of people with a disability to the public attention. And I believe such stories do change people’s perceptions and attitudes, and in doing so contributes to changes in policy and legislation, like the NDIS. It is the most significant change for people with a disability and families in this country that I have experienced in my life time. And what this is about is, of course, the inclusion of people with a disability in all aspects of ordinary life, in education, in employment, in having a home, in having friends and relationships. This is where Project Open Doors has so much to contribute. And you, as future journalists, in partnership with people with disabilities and their families, have a really key role in making this happen. I want to congratulate all who have been involved in the project. It is such important work, and work that we must keep at. I have learned if one thing I have learned over all this work is you cannot be complacent. You cannot think it is finished and you cannot just tick that box and say, “Well, we’ve done that.”
So can I wish everyone involved the very best for the journey ahead, the very best for your future careers. I know you all are going to make a real difference. Thank you.
SUSAN: Thank you very much, Lesley, and what wonderful addresses we’ve heard this morning. Thank you all so much. Before we conclude this Project Open Doors this morning which is as we’ve heard a wonderful initiative to train the journalists of the future in best practice reporting, we will hear from two guest speakers from the community. Firstly, I would like to call upon Mr Alex Baker who is an advocate and spokesperson for the Endeavour Foundation. Welcome, Alex.
ALEX BAKER: Okay. So good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and distinguished guests. I am Alex Baker. I too wish to pay my respects to the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet today and their elders past, present and future.
I am really excited to share my thoughts on why people with intellectual disability should be included in the media. So I myself have an intellectual disability, and while I lead a really full, rich life, not everyone with an intellectual disability is as fortunate. I would like to dedicate this speech to people with an intellectual disability who don’t have the same ability to articulate themselves as clearly as I can.
Firstly, I wish to talk about how it feels to be included. To be included, it means that you’re welcome, it means that you’re treated fairly and equally. It means that your disability doesn’t stand in your way. In fact, being included, it means that your disability often sits down and lets you go past.
Being included can break down barriers, stereotypes, and even wrong opinions. Journalists have the ability and power to help break down some huge barriers for people with an intellectual disability. So what does it mean for people when they are excluded? Being excluded means that you are simply not involved. It means that people make assumptions you can’t do things because of your disability. It means that often you are not even given a chance. Being excluded is not a pleasant feeling. It means that you’re isolated and, therefore, it can even lead to you being lonely.
It is basically saying you’re not smart, you’re not welcome and we’re not going to give you an opportunity. Being excluded is like being flicked away and immediately shown the door. People with disabilities don’t want to be excluded from the media. In fact, they’re often really keen to be included in the media. When you exclude people with intellectual disability from the media, it is a big loss across the board. It is a loss for people with intellectual disability because it means they’re not given a chance to thrive. It means that they don’t get heard, that they don’t have a voice. It is kind of like they’ve been hidden away. It is a loss for the journalists because you are missing out on good stories. Great, awesome, inspiring, and for the people with disabilities, life changing stories.
It is a loss for the public because they have no idea what people with intellectual disabilities can do and achieve. There are no positives that come from excluding people with intellectual disabilities from the media, just a lot of damage and negatives. To the people in the room who are journalists or might one day be a journalist, you have the power and ability to break down powers and barriers and stereotypes for people with an intellectual disability. People with intellectual disabilities do a lot of really great things and have huge amounts of success. And by showing that to the public, you can make a really big difference. So just for a moment, take your shoes off and put our shoes on. I am aware that for shoe hygiene reasons you may wish to keep your socks on. But we deserve equality, we deserve the same sort of life as anyone. Yes, sometimes we might find things a little hard but we deserve the same freedom and opportunity as anybody else. Thank you.
SUSAN: Thank you very much, Alex. Our final speaker for today is Ms Jill Goodman who joins us as a self‑advocate. She will speak briefly about her experiences of self‑advocating for people with disabilities. Welcome, Jill.
JILL GOODMAN: Good morning, everyone. My name is Jill Goodman and I am a self‑advocate. I am a WWILD management committee member and I have spent a number of years talking about my experiences and issues that are important to me. As a journalist, it is important for you to know that people with intellectual disabilities are the same as everyone else. It might take us longer to process things sometimes. I don’t understand some things some of the time. It’s important to know that you can’t always see a person’s disability. When I was in hospital recently, one of the doctors I saw a couple of times didn’t seem to think ‑ had too much trouble understanding things. It is important for people to be able to ask when they don’t understand. It is important for journalism students to hear from me as the media mostly portrays people with disabilities in a negative way, like they are a burden on society, and this is just not the case.
People with disabilities need to be included in the media more often because it gets people to understand what it is like to live with disabilities and it is not easy. I think speaking to self‑advocates helps the rest of the community get to know what people with an intellectual disability have to deal with. After a number of years with WWILD, they asked me for help with some of their training and presentations. They asked me to speak about my experiences. I have always been good at speaking in front of people. This is something I could always do at school. It was great to have a chance to do that kind of thing again. People have always said that they like hearing from me and give me good feedback. I want everyone to be respected. You have a great opportunity in your role to help that to happen. Good luck with your studies.
SUSAN: Terrific. Thank you very much, Jill and Alex, for your talks today. That brings our formal proceedings for the launch of Project Open Doors to a close. Thank you very much again to our special guests for your attendance. And it is now my duty to acknowledge the many people who have made this event happen today. If you were to walk through the door of Project Open Doors, you would find Griffith journalism lecturer and engagement initiative extraordinaire, Faith Valencia‑Forrester, I wish to thank her very much in her efforts in bringing this together. Also our Griffith journalist in residence, Nance Haxton, who moonlights at ABC radio national as a Walkley Award winning journalist when she is not with us. Thanks, Faith and Nance. I also thank the administrative support from the school Gary Mc‑Sweeney in his efforts in assisting Faith in this event. I also need to acknowledge the organisations behind Project Open Doors. Project team from QDN, the Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association, WWILD, the Endeavour Foundation, SUFI, and the Antidiscrimination Commission of Queensland. Thank you very much for your support and your engagement with this initiative. I have also been asked to thank the models for the website who gave their time over a day or a few days to create great visuals to kick off the online news site that will be Project Open Doors. Thank you very much. We now have a short 15 minute refreshment break while the room is reset for our first panel discussion which will begin the students’ induction for today into Project Open Doors. You are welcome to stay. Those who are not able to stay with us, thank you very much for your attendance and engagement. Thank you everyone.
SUSAN: Okay everybody. We will get started. We are running behind time. It is wonderful to see everybody chatting together and so engaged. But we do need to get moving and we will cut this panel short just by a little to enable us to have time for lunch. We already left a little bit of extra time so we will be fine.
So it is now my duty to introduce the first panel discussion for today. The topic of this panel is why media inclusion needs to be addressed. Journalism students, just a note for you, make sure you are upfront and close and listening and engaged. These panels that you will see today, again to our students, are your opportunity to engage with people from the disabilities community. By all means, listen in to this first panel to get some background information and an understanding of the way the day will operate, but panels subsequent to this, we do want you to and expect you to engage as much as possible. Please listen and think and have some questions ready for your panellists, journalism students. Also just a housekeeping matters, after this panel is over, we will have lunch. Again students, you must return after lunch to complete your compulsory induction for Project Open Doors. We look forward to seeing everyone back. Our panel today, our first panel will be facilitated by the Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Alastair McEwin, thank you very much. Our speakers today on this panel are Mr Brett Casey, Chief Executive Officer for Deaf Services Queensland. Just wave. Mr Kevin Cocks, A.M., Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner. Dr Emma Phillips, systems advocate for Queensland Advocacy Incorporated, Ms Katie Temple, self‑advocate, thank you, Katie. And Mr Nigel Webb, the chairperson of Queenslanders with Disability Network. I will now hand over to the Commissioner to moderate this panel. Thank you.
ALASTAIR: Thank you very much Susan. Hello everybody and welcome. Time is short so we are going to dive straight in. I am very excited to be the facilitator for this illustrious panel. The topic we are going to discuss is why media inclusion needs to be addressed. I might just start with this idea of inclusion and what it means, because there is so many interpretations and perspectives on inclusion. That’s something I might like to start by asking our panel. What does being inclusive or inclusion actually mean and how can we improve our understanding of true and authentic inclusion? I might start with Brett.
BRETT: Why, thank you, Commissioner. Okay. What I am going to do before we start, because I think this morning we heard from the Commissioner and others talking about stereotypes in regards to the media. And the portrayal of people with a disability in the media. So for my stereotype I want to give you a challenge right now and I am going to provide you with a stereotype. Here I am a deaf guy with a female voice. How many other deaf guys do you know with a female voice? Very few. Well, Kevin does but for all of you who on radio, on the phone, you could consider me a transgender deaf guy given my voice. So the challenge is there. Because people what they perceive or think is normal. Folks, if you are talking about a grandmother, when you think of a grandmother, what does that mean to you? If we look on the internet, the portrayal for grandmother, we’re probably getting images of an elderly woman with her hair up in a bun, possibly with a walking stick, with her grandchildren in her hands. So that’s what we think, and that’s the denotation in society, that’s what we perceive to be a grandmother as opposed to the connotation. And that’s my view. My grandmother was spunky, she was great she did things, took us to the park. My perception is very different to maybe what society portrays a grandmother to be. So if we are talking about media and inclusion it needs to be portrayed differently as well.
I will give you another example. I think there has been some studies in the past with the media in regards to the winter Olympics in 2002. Once it was done, the winter Paralympics were there. So the same media team were there but the footage was a lot less. There was a lot of reporting in the Olympics about any controversy that was happening. When it came to the Paralympics, a lot of controversy was happening but only two or three reports on that. So it was lessened. That’s the ‑ how it is different, why that could be shameful or how it is hidden. Now from then on within that study within journalism I suggest you guys look at that article anyhow to give you some innovative ideas.
But when we are looking at media and inclusion, it is really important to drop labels. So I work at Deaf Services Queensland. We have a very simple vision there. It is about deaf people empowered, connected and achieving. And I notice you have copied some of my vision up on your website here of how we are connected to make change. It is about deaf people being empowered, connected and achieving. It is not about assistance, it is not about helping, it is not about trying to lead deaf people, it is about empowering them so they can utilise our organisation as a resource. So deaf community members can come in and utilise us for their own purposes. It may lead them to be more empowered and connected and achieving in what they needed to do in life. So they utilise us as a resource. It is about changing the perception of what a deaf person should be in regards to what the media may portray it to be. And I have done some online research on deafness and what it means, and the terms that come up in your Google search is “can’t hear”, “hearing impaired”, it is all this negative connotation in everything. It is a very negative viewpoint and it is not valuing the deaf person. When I say deaf, I am saying deaf. I am a deaf person first, I am not a person who is deaf. That is my identity. And if you had a deaf person’s view on the internet about the deaf community, it is vibrant, it’s alive, and it is full of social structure, sporting structure, it is a vibrant community. We have a different perception and you need to challenge yourselves as to how you perceive a person with a disability, and how can you change the current stereotypes and stigmas out there. And I don’t have all the answers but hopefully some of the information you will hear today will help challenge your thought process. Is that okay, Al?
ALASTAIR: Thanks Brett for those excellent points you made about challenges the various labels and stereotypes that exist. I would like to add that you have a very lovely voice. It sounds beautiful.
BRETT: I am glad you can hear it Commissioner.
ALASTAIR: Thank you. Just to let you know Brett and I go back a long way. So thank you, Brett. I might go to the end of the panel and I might ask Nigel to respond. Do you have any comments there?
NIGEL: I’ve got lots of comments but not enough time. I am sorry, I have got lots of comments but not enough time.
ALASTAIR: We have to be conscious of time
NIGEL: I am aware of that. Look, the comments I would like to make around the media is the media tends to sensationalise a fact or bias about an issue. For example, a man is suffering from cerebral palsy but he wins a gold medal. I may live with pain but I am not suffering. For those who are playing along, media can investigate policy change and explain to the public the benefits and/or the limitations for vulnerable persons, and it is important for the media to seek out alternative perspectives. Media must dispel the myth of other, being seen as pity or charity, I am a contributor. The media must embrace success stories with the same vigour as they will sell tragedies as this lifts people out of the shadows and demonstrates the power of possibility and positivity for everyone.
ALASTAIR: Thank you so much, Nigel. I thought you would have a lot more comments. You were so succinct and to the point. Thank you so much, that was great. There was a specific point too about this whole idea of sensationalising, and that’s a really great point you made. Thank you for that. I might now head to my left and we might ask Katie to respond now.
KATIE: The importance of inclusion ‑ in being included is that we all feel equal. We’re all no different than anyone else without a disability. There are people with disabilities that can read and write, and they’re out there. Some are actors or models. And, yeah, we suffer with a lot of different limitations of our lives. There are people that can’t walk, can’t hear, can’t see, and there are people who can see and then we think about “we’re lucky”, and by having a disability doesn’t make us any different. We’re just human beings.
ALASTAIR: Thank you, Katie, for your excellent points, especially reminding us that we are ‑ we do have a state of equality. Now I might go to the very end of the table to Kevin. Would you mind making comment now?
KEVIN: Sure. Thanks, Al. First, I think in the media I want to start with a point: our stories define us. And for people with disabilities, we do not get to tell our story. It is someone else who has a vested interest to tell a story to promote their vested interest, and the media is the facilitator of these ‑ that telling of the other or othering people with disabilities as something that is ‑ we’ve heard I think eloquently ‑ Al eloquently put it in his four points and Wolfersberger often said people with disabilities are mad, and sad. That is the obligation and responsibility of media to change stereotype. So the media is a very old institution. And one of the greatest barriers we have to break down is the institutional discrimination about people ‑ held about people with disabilities, and the media is part of that institution. And institutions can be large, but they’re made up of individuals. And as young journalist students here, you can begin tearing down the Berlin wall of the media institution. I forgot to bring my little piece of cement that was part of the Berlin wall that symbolised the greatest barrier between the north and the west, between capitalism and communism, between the uttering of each other. So you as media students of the future, and the journalists of the future, have an obligation and a responsibility to tear down the wall of apartheid, people with disability are homogenous and other. You have to promote impairment as part of the human condition. From the time we were born to the time we die we all need some support. No one is an island. We are interdependent. This dichotomy that is portrayed about disability as dependent or independent is a false bastardry of the reality of life where everyone is independent. If everyone was an independent they would be a hermit on Green Island. With regard to inclusion, I will draw upon a quote by George Day: inclusion is not welcoming people into what already exists, it is about creating new spaces so that it’s welcoming of new opportunities and new experiences.
ALASTAIR: Thank you, Kevin for such wonderful points you’ve made and that important topic about the other, and othering. Thank you very much for that. Now, our last, definitely not the least, Emma.
EMMA: Thank you very much, Alastair. I would just like to make a couple of points and I will just start by speaking about inclusivity, because through our work at Queensland advocacy which is a community… inclusivity is a theme that really underpins the work we do across a whole range of different areas in housing, in employment, in vulnerability and abuse. And so the way we see inclusivity is really about supporting people to have an ordinary life within the community, and that’s going to look different for everyone. And so I think that’s a really important point to keep in mind when we consider how ‑ why media inclusion needs to be addressed, because the media is in a position of immense power in shaping public opinion and in enforcing, reinforcing or changing stereotypes about people with disability. And often that can be based upon very specific examples that might be chosen or a very specific way of reporting about something. And we have had some concerns ‑ this has been mentioned earlier ‑ particularly with the roll out of the NDIS about some of the media reporting around that and the way in which that can be influencing community attitudes. There was an article that prompted us to write, actually, just last month The Australian Press Council it was an article that was run in the daily telegraph but it was picked up by a number of different media outlets and it was titled National Disability Insurance Scheme funding going to animal whispers, soul counsellors…. some of you may have seen that article. Similarly we’ve also put out media releases on articles such as with the headline team with 15 page rap sheet allegedly set fire to $100,000 worth of K Mart stock. Which was about a young teenager with a physical disability and some mental health issues. These are a couple of not great examples but important examples of the way in which the media can use its power to create and enforce negative stereotypes and we think there is really a need for some stronger guidance and regulation of the media, particularly insofar as reporting of people with disability, because they have traditionally and historically been subjected to some of those stereotypes as we’ve discussed today. In fact we have made a call which has been quite widely supported for the development of a specific standard which there are already a couple of specific standards which supplement the general principles that the press council has developed to help to guide the media in their reporting of particular issues, and we have made a call just last month for the development of a specific standard or standards that should help to regulate the reporting of matters pertaining to disability and mental illness. So we’re really excited by this project and we’re really ‑ we think it is a really important initiative. Thank you.
ALASTAIR: Thank you so much, Emma, for summarising those points, and I would like to pick up on one of those comments you made. And that relates to the reporting of NDIS issues, and I have seen some very concerning headlines. For instance, the NDIS is failing or there’s a cost blowout, sensationalised words and titles. I would like to ask everyone else on the panel if anyone would like to comment on this idea or if you have other examples where you’ve seen adverse reporting, the type of reporting. Is there any comments that you would like to make or any adverse examples that you would like to share of reporting you have seen recently? Anybody?
Come on Nigel, get up there, mate. Do it for QDE.
KEVIN: Yes, the media and politicians included in the media are always talking about the cost, but we must remember when the productivity commission did the initial analysis, it said that by the year 2050, the return on the $20 billion would be $50 billion which would be an added increase ‑ added monetary economic gain to Australia 3 per cent of our GDP. And that return is because of better use of money, empowering people to participate in the workforce, and also then empowering families who once were denied the opportunity to earn money to be participating in the workforce. So no one ever talks about the economic gain in contribution over time, but it’s not all about economics; it’s about the social gain and the capital building of individuals and communities.
ALASTAIR: We might go to Nigel first and then Brett can follow up.
NIGEL: There are some other points I was going to make and this is a nice segue what Kevin started the conversation, I talked about what are people getting into because in the last 40 years people with disabilities have been coming out of institutions, out into the community, and more importantly, out of the shadows of difference but I would like to just point out a couple of quick things. What are people getting into with the advent of the NDIS and other instruments. Mainstream education at each level, a home setting that supports their independence, sport and recreation activities that stimulate and ensure enjoyment for people, holidays to different places, spaces that stretch the imagination. And employment opportunities that can empower and improve their economic participation. So that’s what’s really happening and that’s what’s driving that economic benefit that occurs for people with disabilities. And these are the things that I think we need to focus on as people with disabilities engaging in the community, because that’s what’s going to allow mine and many others social and economic participation, and that’s what makes me and many others a valued citizen in the community that we call Australia.
ALASTAIR: Thank you very much. Might head over to Brett now and then I think Katie would like to make a comment too.
BRETT: We’re going male to female again. Great, awesome. Just to add on to what Kevin was talking about, and the benefits of the NDIS and the economic and social benefit for the wider Australian community and enhancing the capacity of the lives of people with a disability, but the highlights that we’re seeing in the media and the public domain are the negative ones. So people are now associating the NDIS with disabilities. And then they are hearing the word “disability” and it is becoming a negative connotation again. It is being reiterated in different ways. Let’s say an interpreter comes with you, the interpreter becomes just as important as my appearance. If I have got an interpreter in shorts and a singlet and thongs and I am here to speak at this type of event, you would have that perception on me and you would see everything quite differently. We need to challenge thoughts and how we can think differently or talk differently about people with a disability. And report on real stories rather than on negative connotations and things that other people may perceive.
ALASTAIR: Thank you very much, Brett, that was excellent. Now over to Katie.
KATIE: That was a very good speech before. I agree. There is a lot of negative comments about the prices of the NDIS, of how much the cost for people I myself with a mild intellectual impairment. I think it is great that people like myself and people around us that can get the normal lives that we deserve, and I think it is fantastic. We all should be heard and we all have a voice. And there is a lot of negativity out there. We’re no different. Thank you.
ALASTAIR: I am just conscious of the time. So I think we will need to wrap up the panel discussion. But I would like to give anyone or the panel an opportunity to have some final concluding comments, if you wish. Perhaps starting with Nigel and we’ll progress down the table.
NIGEL: It is always dangerous to go first when you are told you are going last. I just wanted to quickly point out some other things, what are some of the catalysts for the transition that we’re experiencing. Changes in the healthcare practices for people with disability, changes in legislation, government policy at each level, important ‑ improved access to places, spaces and information for each stakeholder, how important is information and how many of us can access it? Many individual and collective success stories that happen in and often because of the community saying it needs to be done and celebrated, and lastly a significant attitudinal adjustment within communities which says if you are willing to get involved with each or some of the above, you are a welcome and supported member of community where any difference is embraced. I think these are important things to ponder and consider in your journalism careers.
EMMA: Thank you. I would just like to add on to the conversation about the NDIS that we’ve just been having. I think, as Lesley said earlier, this is a really ‑ this is a huge development. It is a really pivotal moment in Australian history. And I think the press is a very important player in the conversation in terms of how the NDIS is being and will continue to be received, and it can be portrayed in very, very different lights, as an opportunity or as a burden on taxpayers, and we see all the ‑ a huge range of different ways that it can be presented through the media, and so to the emerging journalism students, I think this is a really important issue to be embracing for the opportunities. It gives individuals and society and our economy as opposed to potential fears of cost blowouts, who is going to fund the NDIS, and those type of issues.
KATIE: For the advice for the journalists, is just be patient as to how you come across to people with disabilities. If we are not sure what you mean we will just ask. We’re not that shy. And I thank you personally for the journalists that are studying. You are giving us a fair chance and I really thank you. And I hope you do really well.
BRETT: I guess now you’ve been confronted with a few different issues with regards to journalism and disabilities, and I am just going to put one comment, is I want you to start thinking and reporting and doing your stories. Don’t think disability, think differently‑abled.
KEVIN: My final comment is to be investigative journalists, not some journalists who just copy what is being played out there in the media or plagiarism, like I do, and you have to ask what are the unintended consequences of something that’s happening, and let me share with you the unintended consequences of Uber. For ‑ in 1985 there were five accessible taxis in Brisbane. In the next six to eight years the worst case scenario, if Uber keeps going and government is not regulating, there will be no accessible taxis left in Brisbane. Same with Airbnb. We don’t have a building code that make private housing accessible. When we look at the lost amount of money in tourism because of inaccessible tourism, it is worth billions of dollars to Australia each year. So start to dig a little deeper than what is put on Donald Trump’s local tweets, and be brave and be investigative and be questioning and be a journalist. Thank you.
ALASTAIR: In closing I would also like to remind you of the large responsibility that you future journalists will have. Use your skills and your knowledge wisely. Make sure you include the diversity of viewpoints. The panel has spoken about the ideas of difference and those perspectives. Make sure the voice of disability is in the conversation. So it has been a great pleasure for me to be a facilitator of such an esteemed panel. Congratulations again to you students for being a part of this today and we look forwards to seeing what enhancements will be made in the future. Thank you.
SPEAKER: Thank you. Thank you so much ‑ thank you very much Alastair for chairing our panel and thank you to as you say our esteemed speakers today. Thank you very much Kevin Cocks for speaking about something so close to my heart investigative reporting. That’s what we will be doing this afternoon. Thank you our beautiful panel, thank you Kevin, Brett, Katie, Nigel and Alastair. And thank you for the really insightful words you have given us today. I want the students to come back at 1 o’clock. We have more panels and those panels will speak directly to the feature story that you will be writing for this project. That will be assessed on. Definitely come back. And Dr Emma Phillips, thank you very much for participating. Sorry. I just want to thank everyone for coming. It is great to see such a crowded room for such an important event. We will see you all at one o’clock, hopefully.
FAITH: We have relevant parties from industry here who are going to talk openly and frankly with you about areas around disability. So I want you to actively engage with these panels and ask questions. So when you are going to ask a question, I want you to stand up and identify yourself as you would in any other Presser. For example, if Tom, you’re going to ask a question, you are going to put your hand up, you will be acknowledged, and then you stand up and you say, “Good afternoon”, let’s say John here, “Good afternoon. Tom O’Brien, student journalist. John Catania, I have a question for you.” And then you will ask your question. Things to be aware of in this scenario is we have interpreters who are interpreting for some of our guests who are hearing impaired. So you need to speak loudly to allow the rest of the room to hear you. If you have a microphone, you don’t need to speak as loud, but what you also need to do is you need to speak slowly to allow the interpreters to interpret what you are saying. Okay? So John and Geoff are going to be on our panels this afternoon. John is actually a journalist and Geoff Trappett is very experienced in doing interviews, and he is also on the panel. So I am going to task them with challenging you today. So if you don’t get up and speak loudly, they are going to go, “I’m sorry, what?” So it is best that you ‑ and this is part of your learning process. Has anyone gone to a Presser and asked a question? What was it like?
It was very informative. He was doing a press run‑through a few years ago ‑ ‑ ‑
FAITH: If you are in a formal press opportunity, sometimes when you are dealing with the press it can be quite intimidating when you have got a lot of political state reporters in front of you and they are all after positions. Any other questions before the panel start arriving back?
Will we have an opportunity to ask questions at the end or is it just during ‑ ‑ ‑
FAITH: Grab those people. John and Geoff, do you think it is appropriate if students say I would like to do an interview after the event.
GEOFF: I would be doing both. They are going to have to learn to interrupt anyway.
FAITH: While you have got John and Geoff here to guide you. This is the nuts and bolts part of your assessment. This is where you are going to learn how to do your assessment well. In case you haven’t noticed, there is going to be quite a lot of attention on the work that you are doing. So this is an opportunity for your by‑lines to be contributing to reporting around disability. We have Leanne Edmistone, Geoff, engage with them, ask questions, don’t hold back. The thing I want to charge you with is this is a learning process, and once I started engaging with this area, my ‑ oh my learning curve has been massive. So remember what I said to you, in radio journalism, when I said the first couple of weeks are going to suck, because you have to change the way you think in terms of what you are doing in terms of engaging, I am having a learning curve, engaging in this area, some of the things I have learnt, some of the things I have never considered before, now I actually have to factor them in. So I want you to get up and ask the questions. Don’t be afraid because this is a safe space for you to actually learn. I have made many mistakes, as my dear friend Jenny has helped and guided me through this area, just saying to people ‑ anyone here? No I asked somebody does he need an interpreter through the telephone. And the response was, “Well, that’s for him to decide.” It is kind of tricky. Unless you actually dive in and engage, you are not going to learn. Don’t worry about offending people or asking the wrong question or using the wrong terminology today. Hopefully from today moving forward you will be better prepared to do some really good reporting in this area. Do you have anything you want to say to them before we put the panel up? Geoff?
GEOFF: Probably… I say with all the love in the world but you need to understand ‑ I am quite serious ‑ you need to understand that sometimes you are not going to be the most liked person in the room just because of the questions you ask. That’s a sign you are a good journalist, not actually a bad one. You have had the guts to ask a question no one else had.
FAITH: Massive effort. Thanks for actually taking the time to come up today. It does mean a lot that you have travelled. The fact that I made it compulsory. I know some people didn’t show up but you will be better prepared. Nance is going to come in and facilitate the afternoon sessions. What I want you to think about for next week, when you have to pitch a story that you want to do, right, so if there is people here that you ‑ maybe you have had something go off and go, “Hang on that’s the story I want to do” and there is someone on the panel, grab them. Say, “Can I get your contact details and get you for an interview”. Alastair McEwin is probably not going to be as accessible as he is today, go out and get your phone and get a quote or a comment. The other thing to think about, when you are going to submit these stories, work them into your semester schedule. Nance, you are going to pitch them. I won’t be here next week but Nance will take your lectures next week, you are pitching for her. Professor Lesley Chenoweth mentioned that Nance has done some amazing things with her reporting in South Australia, she effected some change in legislation. This is something maybe if you do a good job you can possibly be involved as well. Before everybody comes back, the one thing I want to let you guys all know is to be open to what might come out of this experience for you, both on a personal level and on a professional level. Because you are the next generation of journalists. Whatever insights you are taking into your jobs can filter down because there is definite change happening in the news rooms. If you can change the way you approach certain issues, then hopefully that will spread. The story I am going to share about what I learnt in this process of putting this project together is I went and interviewed Kevin Cocks last week just to get some insight into what he wanted to get out of the project, and the thing that I was left with after we finished recording the interview he was talking about structural violence and I did not have an idea of what structural violence was. He explained the structure of our society is set up to either isolate, incarcerate people. For instance, Geoff and John are my new best friends. We got on, we had a chat, worked together on this project.
JOHN: I am on the fence.
FAITH: So you are sitting down, doing the interviews as I did with Kevin who was a lovely, engaged, intelligent man. At the end of the day he said to me, “Would you be able to invite me to your place for dinner?” And I was just absolutely struck that, “No, here is my new friend and I can’t invite him to my house for dinner.” That’s something I haven’t thought of. The people you are going to interview and engage with, they have some amazing stories. Talk amongst yourselves, be prepared. Our guests are coming back. I am not here next week to kick you in the butt but just know metaphorically I am.
FAITH: Thank you very much for coming back. You have two panel sessions this afternoon. Now I would like to introduce Nance Haxton who is our Griffith journalist in residence and she will be facilitating this afternoon. Thank you.
NANCE: Thank you, Faith. Of course it is not me who is the star of the show, it is our wonderful panel. Thank you for coming back, some of our panel members and for some new ones. We have also ‑ we want you to be listening, students, for story ideas, taking notes, making sure that I always call them little stars from heaven. When they come you have got to catch them or they will disappear. You will hear plenty of them from these amazing speakers to give you some story ideas. So let me introduce everyone first. Firstly we have Kevin Cocks, thank you, who spoke before, discrimination Commissioner. Also we have Brett Casey again. Chief Executive Officer of Deaf Services Queensland, and Geoff Cooper, who is a community animator, a peer leader and mentor for Queenslanders with Disability Network, we’ve got Donna Best down the end who is a self‑vat. John Catania, journalist and advocate, and Jen Kyriacou, parent and advocate for the foundation for Angelman syndrome therapeutics Australia. Please welcome. And Jill Goodman, who gave one of the most beautiful speeches in the last break. Sorry, Jill. And welcome Jill. Thank you. And I have to say how wonderful it is that self‑advocates have been part of this process today. It was really important to have your contribution as well as the organisations that represent you. Thank you for coming. So this panel is about we don’t all speak with one voice. And I think actually on that note, it would be good to speak to our self‑advocates first about what their views are on this. Is this something that frustrates you, perhaps, with some media coverage that there is labels put on people with a disability? What’s your perspective on that, Jill, that we don’t all speak with one voice. Have you found sometimes in media coverage it has been a little bit limited, or ‑ ‑ ‑
JILL: Journalists seem to put disabilities in a negative frame and I think that it is really important that journalists see people as a whole person, not just their disability.
NANCE: So that’s something you would like to see in the coverage from the students that it includes the whole person?
Could we have a microphone, please.
NANCE: Could we boost the microphones a little bit. Thank you. We might need to put the mic over towards you as well. They are the desk mics. What’s your view on that, that we don’t all speak with one voice. Is that something you have found when you have had anything to do with media in the past or in coverage that you have seen?
DONNA: I just think that the media make out people with intellectual disabilities, “Oh, they are poor people.” We’re not poor people. We’ve got the same rights as everybody else in Australia.
NANCE: So it would be good to get that across in the stories, the breadth of people and their experiences?
DONNA: I also have in the back of my mind a young lady who was a Paralympian. She went over to the 1992, had the basketballers, they were normal people. People with disabilities had to get retested so they could go to the Olympics.
NANCE: And that really hasn’t had the amount of coverage it deserved. And the ramifications of that, how did it feel for the broader
DONNA: Can I just say something, I think the ABC do do a lot of good stories about people with disabilities. I just think that most of my members from my group listen to the ABC because the ABC do give people with disabilities a fair go.
NANCE: And how does that come across? What’s a fair go, do you think?
DONNA: They will listen to the person and not make them out to be, “Oh, that poor person.”
NANCE: Listening is really important?
NANCE: I was speaking with our good friend Denver before who was part of one of our training videos. He said that too. He said sometimes when he’s done videos he feels he hasn’t been listened to, the notes weren’t very accurate, they were really simple mistakes. I think that’s something we can learn from as journalists.
DONNA: I also think journalists shouldn’t have their own agenda. If they just listen to the person with the disability, yeah.
NANCE: Great. Thank you.
And don’t put words in their mouth.
NANCE: Very true. Thank you, Rob. John, that’s something ‑ you have got the perspective from both sides of the fence, you were telling me before, as a journalist yourself at times and also having been interviewed.
JOHN: From my perspective, I think that it is very, very important for journalists to recognise that it is what Alastair was saying before, to me I see disability framed in the media as various stereotypes or various boxes, categories in which people are put. As Alastair said, the victim mode is one, the aspirational mode is another, and it is fantastic that there are people in society that achieve to very high levels but we are looking at these ‑ these people with disabilities have achieved at athletes just as athletes, as any other athlete is. So we want to look beyond the fact that they’re an athlete with a disability, and see what actually motivates them as human beings to strive and achieve that level of excellence, which other athletes achieve. So what’s the deeper issue? What are the deeper issues in terms of their drive, their goals, their aspirations that motivate them. And people with disabilities are not one or the other. They are not victims, nor are they inspirational figures. There are people with disabilities that I engage with every day at Sporting Wheelies in the gym. We all come from ‑ pardon the pun ‑ walks of life, and I think as journalists it is important to engage with the issues or with the circumstances of a person’s humanity more than simply their disability
NANCE: John, have you found sometimes with interviews that there’s been assumptions made that you feel perhaps the journalist has come with, or ‑ ‑ ‑
JOHN: I think especially in today’s day and age with the internet and digital media, social media, I have heard the phrase “content is king”, a lot. And it bothers me. It is not quality is king, it is not depth in king, it is not investigation is king. Consequently, I am probably a little more old school in the sense of I am an advocate for longer form or investigative kind of journalism but I think the days of Bernstein are probably well past us.
NANCE: There is some hope
JOHN: There is some hope. But I think the ‑ I have to feel some sympathy for journalists, when that kind of pressure is exerted upon you, it is almost inevitable and it is certainly very easy to fall into the predefined stereotypes, the victim, the aspirational focusing solely on challenges overcome as opposed to the issues of this person’s life.
NANCE: And how can journalists avoid that? What would be your advice, do you think?
JOHN: I definitely think listening is part of it. I also would like to say that what Kevin was saying before about framing things in the negative connotation. I definitely agree with that. I would also say, though, because we’re all human beings and we’re asking for the same level of equality, as anyone else, we can’t be insulated. So if there is an issue that, you know ‑ there might be something that’s not good, that still needs to be addressed in the media, obviously, it can’t be insulated or forgotten about, or obfuscated, I am not talking about that, but I am talking about your sensibilities as journalists is to look deeper. It is important when there are unintended consequences portraying stereotypes, or portraying or perpetuating stereotypes and negativity, there are unintended consequences, that it is important to look deeper at a negative issue and actually see as investigative journalists whether there are mitigating circumstances or whether there are issues around that that need to be explored to give a much more rounded view of that issue, and that person’s role within that issue.
NANCE: Jen, as ‑ with your perspective as a parent as well as an advocate, can you tell us what you found perhaps some of the frustrations have been with media coverage and how that could be better handled?
JEN: Yeah, I think there needs to be a sense of ‑ so we talk about people with disability in the media, but I think we also need to be careful about how we talk about their supports, because quite often we hero Worship the supports around people with a disability and I don’t like to see that. Again, an example of that type of story might be you see on Facebook quite a lot, “I am going to share this story because Joe took sue to the prom and sue has Down’s Syndrome. Wow, isn’t he a hero.” No he is not a hero, he is just an average everyday guy. We need to be really careful about the way that we talk about the support networks that people with a disability have, children with a disability have. When we constantly talk about parents of children with disabilities as being heroes and going the extra mile, they are doing the best that they can, but hero Worshipping those support networks around what I feel as a parent when we do that, we increase this imbalance of power between people with disability and don’t who don’t have a disability and I don’t want to see that imbalance of power when we are holding people up to be amazing just for being pretty average, really. Being kind to someone with a disability or being their mate. I think those stories absolutely frustrate me as a parent.
NANCE: What are the stories that you would like to see celebrated more, do you think?
JEN: I would like to take away the hero Worshipping of anyone who is kind to someone with a disability. If a local men’s shed has brought in some people with disabilities, do we have to talk the story about how wonderful the local men’s shed is. Perhaps we could turn that on its head and say how wonderful the people with disabilities are to come in and bring a different perspective to the work they are doing in the shed. For me I just find that ‑ you know, there is a whole lot of things that stem from an imbalance of power, horrible things that stem when we have an imbalance of power between people. If we continue to perpetuate this myth that we are doing people with disability a favour by letting them in, we increase this exclusion, we increase this terrible imbalance of power. As a parent, that’s what I would like to see the end of, sainting people.
NANCE: Geoff you have an interesting perspective as well. Your career development was interrupted due to losing a significant amount of your sight. You have had some interesting experiences when that’s been reported as well. Could you perhaps tell us ‑ you are very passionate about getting people with disability better engaged with the digital world too. Is there a perspective there on this that we don’t all speak with one voice.
GEOFF: I suppose digital technology has just become interesting to me because it is one of the ways that helps all of us, you know. So I am passionate about our community being more creative and more real. And so before I go to what you were mentioning, so I think that people with disability can speak with one voice. That’s when they organise themselves and when they apply strategies and when they come to agreements and they speak in an organised way about what they have agreed to, just like every other person in in the world. That means we can also as humans speak as one voice if we choose to, if we’re disjointed and not conversing, we are not going to speak with one voice. A lot of people with disability may say the same things because we do sometimes experience disadvantage, and we may express similar experiences, but we’re the same as everyone. If we want to speak with one voice we have to organise ourselves to do so.
And I think that the big problem is that thank God we’re actually becoming ‑ the good thing is we’re actually becoming more familiar with each other, slowly. But for myself, I am a fairly ordinary looking guy. Some people tell me that since I grew the grey beard I am not so ordinary looking but I stand at a bus stop with a white cane and bus drivers don’t know what that means and complain that I don’t hail them. I actually called the complaints line once and said, you know, I am trying to do everything I can to stop the bus. What else can I do. Hang on, so what do you do when you wave to your bus and the bus comes do you wave your cane at the bus? She went oh sorry, sorry. So we’re not familiar with being with each other. And people with disability are just people who happen to have disabilities. I think it is important that we do have some understanding of some disadvantage, but I think disadvantage calls for strategy rather than sympathy. It is just the reality of life is that ‑ real life is that we’re all very different and we’re not experiencing real life unless we acknowledge the difference and celebrate that.
NANCE: So some of those issues aren’t getting out into the media, I suppose the practicalities really in some ways.
GEOFF: The difference with sympathy is that I was in an article once where I told the person that I had 10 per cent sight. And she reported me as being 10 per cent blind which sounded like the opposite for me, and I’m thinking, “Poor me, I’ve lost 10 per cent sight.” So accuracy, listening. I suppose rather than just this sort of quick line to bring some sympathy, as we’ve been saying, engage with the person, what’s happening here. I think people with disability can be inspirational, so can people without disability. Get to know them and find out what’s inspirational about them. The fact is I know lots of people ‑ I think I’m actually inspirational in some ways. I’m just starting to learn how to say that, but that’s because, you know, I’ve been sort of feeling like I’m lost and I can’t go anywhere, and I found my way through. I know lots of other people who despite their disability have achieved a lot and they are inspirational because they have achieved a lot. But as sorry the woman who did the inspirational porn ‑ when someone came to her mum and said I would like to nominate your daughter for this award, the mother said, “But why, she hasn’t done anything.” I think that was lovely that the mum was so at tuned to the fact I am treating her as my daughter, just because she has a disability doesn’t make her special just for that. But if she does apply herself and become inspirational, she was inspirational because she applied herself
NANCE: Make sure you take good notes. When Denver was talking before, I wish they had tape recorded what they had just said. Make sure you are getting everything accurately. Your perspective on this as a deaf person, Brett, when we speak with one voice and a female voice sometimes too, what is your perspective on that.
BRETT: I do, I do, I do. I actually agree with the majority of the panellists here. People with a disability come from different walks of life. They have needs just like you do. We have families, we have careers, we go travelling. We do just as much as everyone else does. We just happen to do it differently. How we get there is a little bit differently. So I think, yes, sometimes the media reports people with a disability as a collective as one category. And as my learned friend next to me was saying, people come together and advocate for one voice. At the same time I think it’s common issues and the issues and the agenda that we’re looking at is what brings people with disability together and creates that force for advocacy. That doesn’t mean we’re all the same. I think Kevin before lunch was talking about investigative journalism. For example, Uber, the example he gave and possibly you may not understand. Uber is great, it is a new way of getting a taxi. But with taxis, they’re licensed and a particular percentage of taxis need to be accessible for people with a disability, especially for physical disabilities. Uber there is not the same requirements. So if an Uber takes off and the company grows, potentially there could be less taxis available and public transport for people with a disability is a major issue as well. For me as a deaf person, it is great, Uber, because it is done through an app. It comes, I don’t have to talk to the driver, I don’t have to work out how I can communicate with the driver. They know where I am going. Everything is done automatically for me and it is brilliant and it is lovely. So we all have different needs. So one person with a disability thinks one thing and I think the opposite, because we are at opposite ends of the spectrum on that particular issue. So investigation in your journalism is really important. And we are all different. And I have a very different perspective to what Kevin has. And we call that or in the deaf community we call it deaf hood. What that means is that my views would be very different to your views because we’ve got a different lived experience. So if I am interviewed for a job, my contribution to the organisation and why they should give me the job will be different to everyone else. In the interview, I can provide them with a different perspective. And investigation is really integral
NANCE: From a journalist perspective, I think perhaps there is some fear from journalists that they don’t want to offend, particularly if they haven’t met a deaf person before, certainly have not interviewed a deaf person. How would you advise them on the practicalities of doing an interview? How do you refer, for example, to an interpreter in the story? What would you advise?
BRETT: Sometimes the interpreter gets more attention than me. How did you learn how to sign. It is like hello, I am over here. But the reality for all of you to understand is that people can be quite panicked about terminology and what terminology they utilise. So 10 per cent was the example that was given, can only see 10 per cent and then the report was saying he is 10 per cent blind. It is the complete opposite. I am deaf, I am not hard of hearing, I am not hearing impaired, I am deaf. And I have nothing wrong ‑ I see nothing wrong using the word “deaf”. That’s community identity for me. That’s who I am. So terminology point of view, that would be quite offensive for me if you said hard of hearing person Brett in your investigations because you didn’t investigate appropriately and see what I identify as. And I think people do get quite panicked by terms and what to say. And quite often people go to me, “Tell him this and tell him that.” Talk to me. Talk directly to me. Look to me. And we all have different ways of how we will give you tips on the best way to interview us and how you could interview me as a person who happens to be deaf. Or a person who happens to be in a wheelchair or may have a different type of disability.
NANCE: Thank you for that perspective. So Kevin is Queensland’s discrimination Commissioner. I am sure you have heard much of this before but what can you add to ‑ it is that full gamut of points of view, isn’t it? We don’t all speak with one voice. What’s your perspective?
KEVIN: Well, that’s right. We don’t speak with one voice because we are diverse. Each and every one of us is diverse. I could stereotype journalists are saying heavy drinkers, heavy smokers and never leave the pub and are always inciters. That’s partially true but you as journalists, I don’t see you as female but is that your gender identity? Are you Christian, Muslim? Agnostic? Hindu? What is your sexuality? What is your relationship status? What are your values? What are your other interests?
When you start to think about you as an individual, and break that down, you are very, very diverse. And that is what makes us as individuals. And even though you might all be journalists, you will have a variety of voices on the way that things should be done. You could interview Brett and I and have 43 different stories. I am not sure if there are 43 different students here. What I did forget to say when I was damning Uber, what they did do ‑ I am not saying the taxi industry didn’t need some disruption because they have been a monopoly for 130 or 40 years in the world, but what they did do was disrupt the way you engage. Now, Uber is a taxi provider. Cannot just act as pilot and wash its hands of the is service delivery. They are a call centre. And the way that we understand in the distribution, if you call a centre, you get a service. And that is a vehicle. And they have got a problem because now they have a class action in America under the ADA because of failing to deliver services, and which comes under our transport standards. So not only are obliged to deliver a service in the same time as I ring up as somebody without a disability, you are obliged to provide an accessible service at the same cost. And what they have shown America where they have researched, they are taking a lot longer to deliver a service and it costs a lot more because it is the old economic argument supply and demand. So let’s forget about Uber. But it would be blood I boring if we all spoke with one voice. What makes the world evolve is diversity, diversity of opinion and diversity of ideas, and that’s why people with disability have been treated at homogenous. Every one of us on this table has a very different story through our lived experience and the way that we experience impairment, the way that we experience life, and the way that we experience everything else that goes along with life.
I have two stories. One living life without a disability for 21 years, and one living life with disability for 36 years. Within months after my accident, I was told I would be better off living with my kind of people. And when I asked who my kind of people were, they said, “Other people with spinal injuries.” And I said, “Rack off. My kind of people are the people I play football with, go to the races with, drive fast and slow cars, back fast and slow horses and try and pick up nice girls. They’re my kind of people, not” ‑ and there might have been other blokes in wheelchairs who, you know, wanted to drive fast and slow cars and back fast and slow racehorses but it is about our commonality that will bring us together not some false stereotype. I think I have made ‑ ‑ ‑
NANCE: Thank you. Yes, Donna.
DONNA: Can I say something, with me doing the ready to go project which is giving people with intellectual disabilities an understanding of the NDIS, I have got some wonderful stories and some of the people in this room know some of the stories. I would like to share a few of the stories with you. We had a young man in Cairns. His mother he had an intellectual disability. He had a physical disability. And his mother said that he wouldn’t understand what you were talking about. When we came up to choosing control, he chose to take issues on. So he knew what we were talking about.
NANCE: So the importance of speaking to people with an intellectual disability and not just their carers or their parents
DONNA: Yes. Also there is another story, which is we had a young lady we did a workshop in Maryborough. She used a communications thing. If we typed the questions into her communications board she was engaged with us. But before we typed the questions into her she wasn’t encouraged. And I can also say another story that I love, and Alex was involved with a story with me was a young man who had Down’s Syndrome that wasn’t engaging with everybody. As soon as we mentioned the doctor, doctor who, all the doctor whos, I had to think of all the doctors
NANCE: Finding the way to communicate, that your interviewee is perhaps most appropriate and comfortable with.
DONNA: With the ready to go project, we have had a lot of difficult communications, we’ve had to do workshops with two interpreters for most of the people that I have worked with have never had to do that before. So that was an experience
NANCE: Wonderful. Thank you very much, Donna, and thank you for adding that. These are important perspectives. I am hoping we’ve got time ‑ time pressures that we have ‑ for a couple of questions. I would love it if the students could perhaps go from their notes and give a couple of questions to our panel here. If you could say your name, that would be great.
QUESTIONER: Hi, guys. I am Haydon. Journalist for Project Open Doors. I just wanted to ask a question. You keep on talking about communicating with one voice but also individually. I just want to know has speaking with one voice given you guys the opportunity to speak to government to effect changes and policies but has that also been detrimental to other members of the community, so let’s say there is more focus on deaf and blind services as opposed to ‑ Jen, with the Angelman syndrome. I have never heard of that before. Has that been your case.
JEN: I guess you could say there is no funding for it whatsoever. In order for that to happen, parents need to come together to create a foundation on top of looking after her children. In terms of speaking with one voice, there has been times when it has been very advantageous for the community to come together and speak to politicians, when the better start funding initiative first started, it was based on I think about five disabilities which did not include Angelman’s. So didn’t receive the funding that autism did. In order for that to happen, we need to go to the media and use the media to get that message across as well as connecting with politicians. We do actually sometimes need to speak with one voice. And sometimes we know that the story that we’re trying to get across is not the story that’s going to be written, but we go with it anyway. So for example with Angelman syndrome, we know the article will be written with Jill suffers with it, the pain hides the procedures. We know that’s what it is going to look like but we have to ‑ it is a means to an end. So we just do what we have to do. So in our case, yes, speaking with one voice, but if you look at the community as a whole, we all have very different ideas on what inclusion are. We are all ‑ the kids are all different ages so they are at a different stage. So I can’t even say there is a homogenous voice for Angelman syndrome. There is not. Each individual disability or each individual age group will all have their own voice. And some parents are very much geared towards inclusion and others are not interested at all. Even within that you will find different voices from different families and different individuals.
NANCE: I think there was another question just up the back.
QUESTIONER: Hi. Pauline Hanson recently argued against letting people with autism in schools. She would never go after someone with a physical disability. How come people who aren’t physically disabled, what makes them an easier target.
KEVIN: She said people with autism and other disabilities. And I could be cynical and say why she didn’t say physical disability is because you can’t get into most schools anyway because they are inaccessible but she was talking generally. There’s a danger of whether it is about autism or plucking out any disability is you are starting to send a message that reinforces the other, and that people with disabilities should not be included in society in any general way. And we should just put aside the crumbs of the pie for them to fight over. And I was going to go back to the earlier gentleman’s question. One of the things most of you journalists won’t remember Joh, Sir Joh. One of the great favours he did for people was with disability, was he never funded anything. So when we needed some funding in 1987, Queensland advocacy was the first advocacy voice funded in Queensland. And it represented all people. Its first mission statement was to empower all disability so people with different types of disability got together because of that commonality of being excluded and shut out of society.
I am not sure if I have answered your question, but I think you have got ‑ that’s what you have got to look at. When somebody says something, it has often overflowing consequences for all. So that’s where we will speak with one voice, and we need to stand up and take her and call her for what she is.
NANCE: Well I am very conscious of our time and that we do have other panels. One more question.
QUESTIONER: Hi, my name is Tally. I am a student journalist from the Gold Coast. My question, I suppose, is predominantly for you, John. Nance, you might be able to add as well. We talked a lot today about what kind of stories we would like to see. Maybe in the future we will all be senior journalists and have control of the news rooms. But in the meantime do you have any advice on how to get these stories over the line with chief of staffs and how to make these stories seem more attractive.
Listen to the person.
JOHN: Definitely. How to make them seem more attractive? I think the breadth of humanity is inherently attractive. I don’t think you necessarily have to try to pitch in a way that is going to be more sentimental or more emotionally charged than just telling an authentic story. I think that is the thing that’s most attractive, is telling an authentic story in an authentic way. That’s as simple as I could put it, really.
NANCE: I agree. It is a powerful human story, pitching it that way. I think for me it was vital to get editors and chiefs of staff on board early and to explain to them what I saw the story as and to take their feedback. If theirs was a bit skewed to try to bring them back to what you are trying to make. It is a constant process. Chief of staff, giving them a piece of paper and then they go off, some people see it that way. It is not. It is toing‑and‑froing and you are trying to improve the coverage all the time. That would be my advice, I think.
KEVIN: Can I add one thing. I worked with journalists for over 40 years in my advocacy role, and one is to get to the top and make ‑ if you have trouble getting your chief of staff or editor, get them to meet the person and get them to build a relationship with the person. Once you build relationships, then you can transform the world.
FAITH: We have more time we are waiting for the catering to come.
NANCE: What would you like to add today?
JILL: This is about my disability and having an intellectual disability and also mental health stuff. (Isn’t about) but the disability, they range from mild to severe. So everyone is different in their disability. I think that’s important to know.
NANCE: And to express that in a story, how different people are, yes.
QUESTIONER: Journalism student. This is a question for John. I just want to know what role if any does gambling play in disabled sports and how does that affect media coverage?
JOHN: Gambling ‑ Geoff would have a really good perspective on this later on. Well, I am not an Olympian. But in all walks of life, people will ask me do I play sport. I think no, do you. That’s my question back to them, “No, do you?” There is an assumption that’s made but that’s by the bye. As far as gambling is concerned, I could imagine that when you’re at that elite level trying to strive and you are that kind of competitive personality, that kind of competitive mindset, that it applies equally to people with disabilities and everybody else in terms of gambling, performance enhancing substances, you know, trying to get ‑ trying to gain, trying to fix the system, game the system. I think that’s an inherently human condition and it applies equally to people who have ‑ who are trying to gain an edge in whatever field.
GEOFF: It might be a litmus test as to how people are aligned to sport. If there is no… perhaps it is not as broadly aware as it should be, people are going to gamble on stuff people know about:
NANCE: Geoff, thank you. He is the founder of inclusion moves. Geoff. Could you give us background.
GEOFF: Sure. Just as a ‑ I have a former athlete. I can certainly say if the ‑ first of all you say that I am completely anti‑sports gambling. But if gambling is ever to be taken seriously in an Olympic sport context I would be the happiest man alive because it would mean true inclusion has actually taken place in para Olympic sport. Would I be over the moon. I have got the opportunity to speak a little bit more freely given I have retired but I know a few of the guys who are still competing would completely agree with me. The same thing as drugs in sport. It is amazing how many journalists ask me or tell me, “So I assume there is no drugs in sport in para Olympic sport. Again because I have retired I can tell you that’s completely false but don’t expect me to go any further with that answer. But just to reiterate my point, true inclusion is actually when a sport is being taken seriously no matter ‑ whether there is disability context there or not. I would be the happiest man alive if there was people betting on the IPC championships that start over in London in a couple of days’ time.
NANCE: Thank you. Faith, I know we are waiting on our caterers.
GEOFF: Can I say something ‑ there was something about whether ‑ the comment about children with autism. And in fact it wasn’t about not wanting to bring them in, it was about wanting to kick them out, really. There are people with autism who are successfully engaging and adding to school environments. I think the thing is we have got a history of separation and exclusion around unfamiliarity. So we have always separated people and I think ‑ I think that the way people get around in their mobility has been sort of a bit more of an easier thing ‑ like we’ve started to get used to the fact we get around in different ways. It is not as easy to separate now. So even though there is poor access for physical ability sometimes, there is ‑ I remember a person who was a para Olympic who was patted on the head as they come out of the plane in a really condescending way simply because they were in a wheelchair. But still now I think we’ve dealt with the physical stuff a bit but behavioural stuff is a step up again. If someone is behaving differently they are going to be again separated and excluded but we have to learn that we all behave differently. You know, and sometimes those behaviours are good and bad. Even people with autism have amazing strengths, like someone said before. And so easy target, I suppose, and lack of experience ‑ lack of, you know, yeah, something said and it is assumed to be true. In fact, children who don’t experience, say, autism, are probably going to learn about unanimity if they engage with people with autism
NANCE: Was there one last question.
QUESTIONER: Hi, I am a journalism student. My question is aimed at Donna. When you said you were working with the ready to go project to help the people with living with a disability to understand the NDIS, one of the things that I read up on when I was reading it earlier was that you get to select the supports that you want to engage in with the program. So with the ready to go project have any practices in place to help people selectively make those choices because one of the challenges they were facing is how much control they are giving the people. Are you enabling these people to have this level of control in choosing ‑ sorry, choosing the support (how are you enabling)
DONNA: My understanding of the NDIS is that when you go to your planner, you sit down and you say exactly what you want in your plan. And you specifically say what you want in your plan. So that’s choice and control. Everybody has ‑ can have a choice what they do in their life.
QUESTIONER: Sorry, I feel like I might have worded that a little bit wrong. What I was trying to say is that when it was mentioned earlier that, like, some people have more trouble communicating what they want and they are often inhibited by other people saying that they might not be able to make that choice for themselves, does the program have practices in place that are overstepping that boundary making sure that they are getting their choices put across and what sort of communication techniques would be used there?
DONNA: In our workshops that we have done, everybody has had a fair say in what they want in their plans. And some of them take along the carers or their support person or their families to our particular workshops, and they sit down and say what they want. For argument’s sake we had a young man that I did a workshop with that had ‑ he was in grade 11 at school and he had a wishing tree of what you want to do in your life. And he was very upset that his mother wrote on his wishing tree and he turned around and said in front of the group, “Mum, I don’t want you to do that again. It’s my decision what I want in my life.” So everybody has under the NDIS my understanding has a choice.
QUESTIONER: With regards to minors, would they be given the same level ‑ ‑ ‑
DONNA: I don’t know about minors because we only deal with 18 to 64, and ‑ no, 64 and 11 months. When Paige comes on to the next thing she might be able to answer that question for you
NANCE: Did you have a perspective for younger people. Thank you, Donna. Jen, did you have a perspective for minors.
JEN: Effectively parents will step in and make those decisions on behalf of the children, but I’m really big on communication pathways for children with disability I am making sure they are included and have the same opportunities. For parents it is working out what it is their children want to do. My children are non‑verbal. She has complex communication needs. It is my job as her mum to work out what she wants to do, and if that be with an alternative communication device, we will go through that process when the time comes to help her to make those choices. A lot of parents I know will be going through the process. It is great if you can have a greater community around so that someone can tap me on the shoulder and say, “Actually, I don’t think that’s what she wants to do. I think she wants to do something else.” Creating the community around you, keep the parents in check a little bit so parents can step out, other people can step in and her community have a say in communicating and supporting and empowering her as a child up to an adult with what she wants to do with her life
NANCE: We have one final question from Robert who is one of our fantastic collaborators.
QUESTIONER: I have from QDN in Brisbane. I have heard the word disability 168 times today. We’ve got a disability but we can’t always focus on the person with the disability because we are human as well. All right. I was going to tell you an instance back in the 70s, if you had a disability you were put in either an institution or you were put into a special school, which I could say, what, 98 per cent of those kids who went to my school just had a learning disability. No in a wheelchair walking stick, one leg, but we were all classed as a disability because we couldn’t read or write. If we could educate not just the people with the ‑ with society now, like the police, right, they need a huge lesson in dealing with people with disabilities, the same with the hospitals. They are not ‑ we haven’t got a choice. And this is where the NDIS will come in and say, “I don’t want to get bathed at 5 o’clock in the morning, I want to get it at 8 o’clock.” And that’s our choices, what we can have when we’ve got the NDIS.
NANCE: Thank you, Robert. And thank you to your panel. Thank you, everyone.
FAITH: Hang on, I have one more question.
QUESTIONER: My name is Maddie. I have been given a chance to work with the Commonwealth games and had an opportunity to chat to Mr Kurt Fearnley. He has been announced as an ambassador and quoted as saying this is the importance of recognition of para sports. This comes across as his identity. He says his disability is why he is here today. You guys mentioned heroism and feeding into that stereotype. However like in my opinion that’s how he views himself, he is not fitting into any stereotype. So ‑ ‑ ‑
NANCE: How do you report that
JEN: But he is a hero. What he has done is quite exceptional, able‑bodied or not, it is what he has done is quite heroic. What we’ve been talking about here in terms of heroism or at least what I am talking about is when you do something very average, like someone to a dance who may have a disability and then you are hero worshipped for being kind to someone with a disability or stepping outside of your comfort zone to be with someone with a disability. So probably from my perspective around heroism that’s where I sit. When you are just doing something that’s very average and you are hero worshipped for that. But there is the Kurt Fearnley, who I take my hat off to.
DONNA: Also the Commonwealth games, people with mild disabilities have been elected to be volunteers at the Commonwealth games at the Gold Coast.
NANCE: Excellent. Thank you.
KEVIN: I agree with what you said about Kurt. If you know Kurt’s story, if you watch brush of family with Ahn Do. He grew up in a small town of 200 and because his great grandparents went to that school, his parents and brothers and sisters, the headmaster showed leadership and said Kurt is coming and not going anywhere else. So Kurt from that time was raised by a village. Which meant that’s a thing that I think I used that quote before, it is not welcoming somebody in what already exists, it is creating something new that’s better for everyone. And I think Kurt is an amazing athlete. But he is also an amazing leader and he has such a strong sense of social justice. So when you talk about diversity, you just can’t isolate Kurt’s athletic ability, you have to look at him as a whole human being.
NANCE: So context is important. Essentially, journalists need to be careful in their selection of words. Would that be good advice?
KEVIN: Yes. Yes.
FAITH: I just have one question. Hello. This is a question for all the panel. We’ve touched a lot on disability and how to report disability and how to address disability and be inclusive. But I guess my question for all of you is what is missing. So what are the stories that are not being told that needs to be told? So we’ve got an opportunity to produce a whole body of work. So what are the stories that are not being told that these students can look at addressing?
JOHN: I think that because a lot of ‑ many disability stories in the media are framed around those four boxes that Alastair was talking about earlier on, there is quite a lot of stories that are missing in the community, and they revolve around people with disabilities volunteering, they revolve around people with disabilities achieving academically. They revolve around people with disabilities raising families, as remarkable as it is to be a Paralympian and to have achieved in those areas, the aspirational concept, I still think it is equally remarkable for a person with a disability as anyone else to be achieving academically, to be achieving as a parent, as a role model in their society, as a volunteer. I think those stories on a more broader level need to be foregrounded. Just to tie up the autism debate, I think it is very ‑ what Pauline Hanson is suggesting is the dangerous step toward segregating people who for their benefit the segregation is particularly dangerous because they are not being exposed to all elements of life and society if you segregate them. On the same token, I think as journalists, you are also missing out on ‑ you would also be missing out on a huge opportunity to learn from all kinds of people. So if you begin by segregating, you know, one element of society, well then that leads on to another, who makes those value judgments and what are we denying society as a whole by doing that.
KEVIN: I would argue about looking at revisiting the shut out report that was written in 2009 by the men… national disability advisory council of Australia. What I am talking about the vulnerable people who are shut out of society for a variety of people where they’re labelled as dangerous or as challenging behaviours which justifies government, service providers, families, everyone, to deny them their liberty and use a quote which is restrictive practices and shut them in jail which are called specialised housing. And there are thousands of people with disabilities who are being exploited because of their vulnerability, and made heaps of money out of. In 2000 in my role of director of QII and in partnership with SUVI and a journalist called Margaret who also won an award for her journalism over six months we exposed abuse and neglect of vulnerable people living in boarding houses. We provided evidence of people being bought and sold between ‑ and the corruption going on between bank managers, accountants and lawyers, and there was that evidence was given to then the police and they were talking about exhuming bodies. Of course the government for the first time regulated the residential services act in Queensland which regulated hostels. But these people have gone to ground. There is much money to be made out of people. And just to give you an example, it still exists today in Herston a nursing home that no longer met the nursing home standards in 2000. They had 42 people living in that nursing home. People with ‑ some were refugees, some were alcoholics, some were drug addicts, some were vulnerable people with intellectual disabilities and mental illness. No one was paid. They had a $600,000 interest only loan and to cut a long story short, those owners of that hostel were making $125,000 net profit per year out of 42 people, taking their pension. Now, this is a story that’s still alive today. If you really want to do some good investigative journalism, look at the way that vulnerable people with disabilities, the institutions, our legislation, our government agencies, our service providers ‑ and I am not labelling everyone ‑ but there is corruption, and there is ‑ whether it is designed ‑ corruption by design or corruption by default, but it’s corruption through exploiting vulnerability. And the denial of human rights. And when you’re reporting, you have to report through the lens of a human rights framework, because, after all, we’re all human beings, we’re all born equally and we should be treated equally, and just look at the CRPD to use as a guide when you are doing your analysis in exposing the exploitation of vulnerable people with disabilities living in Queensland, right here today, right now.
NANCE: Brett, would you like to wrap up this panel. What stories would you like to see reported.
BRETT: Sure. I think sometimes what’s missing in regards to stories is a little bit of understanding, understanding what you could be reporting on. And I will give an example, and it is just quite a simple example. But you will see a 38 year old man charged with ‑ sorry, a 38 year old Mount Gravatt man charged with murder. And sometimes people with a disability it is more about a 38 year old deaf and dumb man charged with murder. So where is the ethical responsibility and behaviour in the journalism there. It is very far stretched. So where the reporting needs to be fair, needs to be understood, and needs to be investigative. Where it talks about a deaf and dumb person coming into the whole issue, if someone’s being charged with murder it is not because they were deaf they were charged with murder. Sensationalising that deaf person has been charged with murder. So how could someone do that. So it is deviating from the angle as to what actually occurred in that situation, or whatever the reason was, and I am just using that as an example. I am not saying all deaf people are murderers, just putting an example out there. We have seen articles like that from time to time when reading the newspaper, I don’t listen to radio, so I can’t comment about radio, but what we read we just need to understand is it fair, are we being ethical in the way we’re reporting this. And it can be quite hit and miss from time to time, especially when we see the stories that we’ve seen so far.
DONNA: Can I just say something, if it wasn’t for my hot topics group we would never have got this project off the ground because we were the one that had Nance Haxton come and talk to us and we were the ones who said to her, “How about you go and do this sort of stuff.” And if it hadn’t have been for a few of the ladies from my hot topics group, wild women would never have got off the ground or community projects got off the ground
NANCE: We will be hearing in the next panel about the important work they do.
DONNA: If it hadn’t have been for me jumping up and down we would never have a person with a mild intellectual disability on the board of ASSET. So, you know
NANCE: It is good. The importance of listening can’t be under stated. Thanks for the questions, guys, they were really good. Really good questions. Let’s have a coffee and come back in two minutes. Okay, that’s a very quick coffee. Have a quick coffee and we will be back with our next panel.
NANCE: Thank you, everyone. Hopefully you have all got your refreshments in hand while we grill our panel on their views on issues affecting and impacting the disability sector, and how to approach interviewing we will be looking at after ‑ I think those two will tie in very well together. We touched on that in some of the questions, what is the best appropriate way to interview our subjects. And it was great to talk to a couple of students in the break and hear how excited you are about your ideas. Let’s hone that a bit more with some issues that perhaps you’re not aware about.
So if we go through our panel, firstly we have Mick Cherry, who is a self‑advocate and who will be giving his perspective today. We’ve got John again, thank you for joining us again. Simon, thank you for joining us. It might even be best ‑ he is the manager from specialist behaviour service at Endeavour Foundation. Endeavour Foundation is one of our key partners and will be working with you on possible stories. Thank you. We’ve also got Paige Armstrong who is the CEO of Queenslanders with Disability Network, and Donna best is involved with them, so there is a bit of a link there. Also we have next to Paige Leanne from senior writer, news Queensland, who has written some incredible stories on disability issues. We will be finding out her perspective on how to do interviewing later. Jenny Frowd from the Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association, she is community engagement and education manager. And we heard a little bit from Geoff Trappett before, the founder of Inclusion Moves and we will be hearing more now. Also we have Leona from WWILD, the fantastic group that works with people with intellectual disability who have been victims of domestic violence. And it is a very important area there too.
Firstly, issues impacting the disability sector. Simon, could we hear from you on what you see as these important issues that are perhaps really flying under the radar for the media at the moment.
SIMON: Sure. I guess I premise what I say is my area of interest and expertise if I’ve got any is around intellectual disability and concerning or problem behaviours. On the one hand I am not particularly well positioned to talk for the disability sector as a whole. On the same token, intellectual disability represents about, you know, one and a bit to two and a bit per cent of the Australian population. So I don’t know what that works out to these days, there is about 600,000 people or thereabouts of which about 10 or 20 per cent will engage in behaviour at some point in time that could harm themselves or others. So whilst on the one hand I am interested in a really small area of disability service provision it is still 50, 60, 70, 80,000 people. Intellectual disability has a practical definition, and that’s folk who as a result of significant cognitive impairment have real difficulty learning new stuff, problem solving the way you and I problem solve, and, you know, perhaps as a result negotiating the world around them. It is not surprising that if that’s one of the difficulties you experience in life that you will at times knowingly or unknowingly transgress social boundaries and sometimes that even extends to transgressing legal boundaries. So the effective support of these folks for both their own quality of life and for, you know, the risk to people around them who might be impacted is really sort of significant.
Few, if any, academic programs, certainly undergraduate programs and postgraduate programs that I am aware of address in detail how clinicians might best meet the needs of people with intellectual disability. None that I’m aware of deliver the requisite level of graduate work around supporting people with intellectual disability and challenging behaviour. So we have this big chunk of folk out there, 90,000 people and a clinical group of people who haven’t been trained effectively on how to meet their needs. That’s policy issue number one to my mind. The other thing which is a bit different but related is the indefinite detention regime we have in some areas across Australia and particularly Queensland which is the area I’ve got most knowledge of. About 20 years ago the academic literature identified that people with intellectual disability as a result of cognitive impairment are really vulnerable in the criminal justice system, and there was a cry for and a subsequent development of a range of diversionary judicial responses to this particular group of people. In some states like Queensland, access to those diversionary options necessitates an indefinite sentence, and that’s an option that is not reserved for the severity of the crime, or the potential risk of recidivism. It is an option reserved simply for whether you have an intellectual disability or a mental illness.
I was asked to give evidence at a senior that the inquiry about indefinite detention a little while ago and I was asked if Australia was in breach of its obligations under the convention of rights for persons with a disability as a result of our indefinite detention regimes. And my answer was ‑ because you have got to be careful when a Senator asks you if Australia is in breach of its obligations rights, but my answer was I am not sure I’m okay with the fact that a society would ever embrace indefinite detention but I get that it might. I’m not okay with the fact that we would reserve that type of sentencing only for people with disability, and particularly only for people with particular types of disability. And I guess those two issues to my mind, the delivery of high quality academic training for clinicians supporting these folks and the way our indefinite detention regimes have ended up focusing in particular on people with intellectual disability and mental health I think is an issue.
NANCE: It reminds me ‑ thank you, Simon ‑ of a couple of stories I’ve done, if I can be a little bit self‑indulgent here but also not equal before the law report from the Human Rights Commission will be really good to refer to. I did an interview with Mr McEwin who was kind enough to come here today about that only a couple of months ago and he said it’s still the case that people with a disability are not equal before the law. It is a very rich topic for investigations, and you reminded me of an interview I did just last year, I think, perhaps a couple of years ago with the parents of an intellectually disabled woman who was about to go to jail because she kept stealing pretty cards, she was obsessed with pretty cards. So she would steal them from newsagents and things. She had no sense of the wrong in that. But it took an awful lot to stop her from being sentence to jail for that. So there is a very rich area. Thank you for highlighting that, Simon. Appreciate it. Paige, for you Queenslanders disability network, what are some of the issues you think impacting the disability sector as well.
Paige: you have had some members from Queenslanders with Disability Network speak in the room today and our organisation, just to give you an overview, is an organisation that represents all people with disabilities so we cover people that have physical, intellectual, sensory, psychosocial ‑ you name it ‑ disabilities, and only people who are ‑ who have a disability can be a member. So it is a member driven organisation. If you’re asking what our members are telling us about the big issues for them, the big issues for them are the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and we’ve been speaking about that a bit today, but basically because it is the best show in town for another 45,000 people in this State to get some form of funded support that have never previously gotten any funded support because of the historical underfunding. That’s the support that people often need just simply to get out of bed, have a shower, have something to eat, get dressed and actually get out of their house. And then to participate in the community in either paid jobs or contributing to the community by spending money that local businesses absolutely love because it generates more business.
So for our members, the rollout of the national disability scheme, big thing. But the other thing that is just as important for them is the implementation of the National Disability Strategy. The strategy was introduced to complement the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The National Disability Strategy actually covers all of those other things that people with disability in Australia and in Queensland need, those additional supports around. That strategy is so important because as good as the NDIS National Disability Insurance Scheme is, in Queensland someone said earlier today, but 90,000 people on average will get some funded support. There is over 360,000 people with disability in this State. So there is another great significant number of people with disability that want all of the ordinary things that most of us or all of us, I would say, in this room want. We all want some form of ‑ people want affordable accessible housing. They want affordable accessible transport. They want to be able to actually get out of their house, get down the road, go to a shop. If you look at kerbing and channelling around most of our communities, even urban areas around this campus today, it is often impossible because of all the different heights and widths, etcetera. People also just want to be able to get the same access to medical care, to education opportunities, etcetera. So when they were talking about what needs to happen, when the Australian governments, all the state and territory governments were talking with the federal government about what needs to happen, the big show in town wasn’t just this thing called the National Disability Insurance Scheme it was a thing called the National Disability Strategy that has been enacted and covers how those things should happen. How we get affordable accessible transport so people can get out and about, how we get affordable accessible accommodation so that those people that actually need something that is accessible, that is affordable for people on very low incomes that have additional issues because it costs them $1,000 a week in their power bill because of all the powerised equipment that they need in order to be able to get out and about, that the National Disability Strategy was a way of making sure that transport, that health, that everything else was also delivered in a way that’s accessible to all Australians. So whether it is at a Queensland level or a national level, if you are asking what our members are telling us, they’re telling us that one thing is about the NDIS, but the other thing is people want accessible affordable housing, they want accessible affordable transport, and the other ‑ and as part of doing all of those things, if you’re journalism students, what I can’t stress enough is what we know is that the individual story actually leads to that kind of systems advocacy. It is the individual stories of many people and the commonalities amongst those stories that actually make the big changes when it comes to how do you actually make those things happen.
So in Queensland, from a Queensland perspective, if there’s anything else I’d add and I will put a plug in, if anyone wants to do a story about mobile phone contract rip‑offs, IT rip‑offs or short‑term lending loan leases for people with disability in particular, we would love to talk to you, because beside all the other things that you heard about in the room today, I can tell you they’re some of the great injustices that are currently taking place every time a person with intellectual cognitive disability, mental health issue is conned into signing some of the new contracts that exist for especially those mobile phones.
PARTICIPANT: And voting.
Paige: yes, I forgot the voting issue as well unanimous than thank you for your participation today. I think this is a good point to talk about with your role as a self‑advocate and with community living association, what are some of the issues that you would like to see more ‑ covered in the media.
MICHAEL: I think they should cover more mental illness in the media. I have had a mental illness in the past where doctors have told me there is no problem I don’t have a mental illness, I basically don’t need to be on medication, I don’t hear voices and I think the government need to do something about it to get the message out there to tell these people that just because we’ve got a disability doesn’t mean we don’t have a mental illness because mental illness is an important thing out there. People don’t understand what it’s about. People are getting ‑ the police don’t know what it’s about. Even the youth out there have got mental illness and, you know, they basically just get pushed away and pushed aside because people just don’t want to handle that kind of thing, and I think the media really need to actually talk to these people and say, “Hey, we hear about what these people are going through. What are you ‑ what can we do to help those people with a mental illness and with a disability, and to get the message out there?” Because, as I said, I went to a meeting with a couple of doctors a couple of years ago and I told them I had these voices in my head and they wouldn’t let my… in there they said we don’t want you in there we just want to talk to Michael. It was really bad. All they said over and over again you don’t have a mental illness, you don’t need to be on medication. They repeat something over and over again, it frustrated me, I couldn’t have my own wife in there to tell them that she spends ‑ because I have told her how it is for me. I’ve been in and out of hospital a couple of times, you know, I can tell you that mental illness is a big thing. And people don’t understand that. They should ‑ it is a very hard thing for me. And I think for journalists, I think it’s important to really talk to people about mental illness and get it out there.
NANCE: And how would be the best way to do that, do you think? To talk to some of the organisations that you’re involved with, and find stories from there? Would that be, I suppose, a respectful way to do that, to see who would like to speak about this story?
MICHAEL: I think talk to… or WWILD or anybody who has a disability, talk to them or their worker about it and see if they want to talk to the media or talk to somebody about it. If they want to speak out about how it is for them with a disability because people with disability have just as much right to speak out about it as much as anybody else does.
NANCE: Jenny, I wonder if this is a good time to bring you in as well from your perspective. Thank you so much, Michael. From the Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association, and some of the different disabilities that you’re representing, what are some of the issues that you see that are affecting the disability sector that could be the source of some stories for us, do you think?
JEN: Thanks, Nance. I will just explain quickly what my role is. I work primarily with the community role directly with people with disability. My role is really about helping the committee to understand the benefit for them in welcoming and embracing people with disability in what they do. In our forum it is sport and healthy activity. I would like to highlight some of the issues I see, I would like to draw upon some of the words of people earlier on. Brett mentioned people with disability come from all walks of life, they have aspirations and goals for education, employment, family and friends and relationships, spending their leisure time, for spending their disposable income out in the community. Because we know that about people with a disability, what the community needs to understand is that they need to be ready for people with a disability who have all of those different goals to be coming to them in their businesses, in their ‑ you know, in their volunteering time, in their clubs, their social activities, their friendships and relationships. One of the strong principles about the NDIS is that the community, we talked earlier, I think it was Kevin, said it takes a village to raise a child and that people who are welcomed and embraced are ‑ like Kurt for example, embraced from an early age, they are part of the community and that’s just part of what that community sees. I think the media has a real role here to play in helping the community to understand the importance of their attitude, their thinking and their behaviour towards people with a disability. So we can actually realise this goal of inclusion and realise the goal the NDIS is trying to achieve by helping people with a disability to get the right supports that they need to actually have real choices and real control over where they want to have their ordinary life. So I will just refer back to a story that’s been very powerful to me ‑ not from the sport sector ‑ there is a lady ‑ her first name is Fran. A well-known personality in the disability sector. She said something a long time ago to the productivity report, back in 2009, I think it was, she was speaking on a panel similar to this. She is a lady who requires some support in her life to do things that we would consider part of our ordinary lives. One of those things is to cut her toenails. She told a story that was really powerful and I would like to share it with you. Because of the way that the service system was sorted and Fran was a recipient of disability funded services, to get her toenails cut Fran had to spend her disability services money with a provider to get someone to come to her house to cut her toll nails. That cost her $45 an hour to have that done. Fran’s argument with the NDIS is she will finally be able to spend the money that she needs to spend to get her toenails cut to go down to the local beauty salon and sit there like everyone else in her community and get her toenails cut and painted and filed and have a night chat with the beautician at the same time like every other woman in her community. That is the opportunity that you have in the media to portray the real stories of the differences it will make to the lives of people with a disability.
NANCE: Thank you. That is a very good point. And I think linking, as you said, it is linking those topics. I mean, I am amazed I haven’t heard some of those background stories about Kurt. As you illustrated that’s actually in many ways what’s important about his story. It is not just he is an amazing athlete, it is what helped him get there. And what is that that needs to be told that we’re not doing elsewhere that’s enabling people like him. Geoff, this might be a good time for you to come in from inclusion moves from this very important sporting perspective from wheelies. Can you tell us about some of the issues that aren’t being told or could be told better.
GEOFF: Sure. Just to do the typical talent thing when you are talking to a journalist I am going to ignore Nance’s question and I am going to talk about what I want to talk about. I am actually going to talk a little bit ‑ I didn’t get the chance to talk about before, I obviously grew up with Kurt playing sport. I roomed with Kurt in Sydney. I won gold in Sydney he won silver. Let’s not forget that. He’s gone on to bigger and better things. That’s beside the point. Talked about whether Kurt should be shown as a hero. To me and this is where perspective comes into it. To me he’s not. To me he’s the guy I grew up drinking with, he is going to love me for saying that, by the way. But I didn’t realise until I had kids that they see him as a hero. I went down and I took the kids down to ‑ we have three kids at home ‑ took them down to watch him when he was training in Brisbane one time a couple of years ago and they just wouldn’t stop talking about him. I am thinking this is just this guy I used to hang out with. And then just to make it worse my wife gets his book, reads his book overnight in one go, makes me feel like an absolute champion. So ‑ and I tease Kurt a lot but I say that to illustrate that it really is perspective that defines whether or not you see someone as a hero or not. To me he is not but to plenty of other people he is and he should well be.
Now, as far as issues affecting the disability sector, I am going to go a little bit broader than disability sector and talk about a concept of whether a disabled life is seen as valued as an able‑bodied life. Now, we all remember a month or so ago, maybe six weeks ago, the terrible tragedy with the concert in Manchester. Arianna Grande concert where there were a number of tragic deaths as a result of terrorism. Think of the publicity that that tragedy ‑ my daughter has tickets for the Brisbane concert so I am not trying to minimise that, the impact of those deaths whatsoever ‑ but think about the number of media articles that were written about that, and then think there was actually a story back in late 2016 in August 2016 where over in Japan there was a congregate ‑ I am going to use the term congregate living facility, otherwise known as an institution. Where a number of people with disability were living. And a staff member ‑ former staff member of that institution murdered 19 of those people with disability. Just straight out decided that their life was not as valuable as able‑bodied lives. He decided of his own intent that, you know what, people ‑ society and the people ‑ families and friends of these people would be better off without them. And that story hardly ever rated a mention in the media. When we talk about reporting authentically of people with disability and their stories, how can we do that if we’re not reporting on those big picture stories that actually define? Are we taking people with disability and their lives as seriously as an able‑bodied person?
NANCE: I think that brings us how to do the interviews for the subjects very well. Thank you, Geoff. Leanne it is good to have a journalist with us here. Thank you. We had an interesting question from one of the students before, I am not sure if you heard it, about how to get these stories over the line with editors who may not be really open‑minded, perhaps, about some of these issues, because you’ve done some incredible work in this area. I wonder if you could give us perspective on that as well, how you have approached that story when you get an idea perhaps and how to approach interviews.
LEANNE: I’ve been a journalist for 20 odd years now and I still don’t know how to get a story past an editor if they’re not interested. So that’s the bad news. The good news is a good story is a good story is a good story. It doesn’t matter who is pitching it up, if your story is good it will stand up. You might have to argue a bit harder or do more research to show why it is relevant to your readership, why it is relevant to events of the day, why it is relevant to your sector or the message you’re trying to get across. And if you don’t work it first time, then you put it away and do whatever other thing they want you to do and then you bring it back another time when it might be ‑ something might happen in the news that’s more relevant. A good story is always a good story. It just might not be the right time to tell that story
NANCE: I think of one of the stories that I love ‑ recently elephant whisperer. It brings up interesting issues and we will try and bring that up as a link. We have it. Faith is going to bring that up. It is an amazing story. What are some of the practicalities of doing that, Leanne, how do I fairly represent this person who doesn’t speak very well, clearly, yeah, how do you negotiate those boundaries, how do you do that?
LEANNE: So I guess the elephant whisperer this came about because his father Brian has long worked in the community development sector. I have done stories with him in the past. I guess that illustrates the value of a contact. That’s just somebody I had always worked with. I guess with telling Alex’s story, I had the luxury of time with that. So I spent a lot of time with Alex and his dad, I spent a lot of time ‑ I went to the drumming workshops that he attended. Probably two or three times, I spent an hour or so interviewing Brian. I guess, you know, I had a few points with this, there is a lot of, I guess, uniform ways ‑ uniform things to think about, no matter who you are interviewing no matter what or where there is a couple of uniform principles but I guess people with disabilities or people who live in a situation that’s outside what we might consider normal, you have got to talk directly to the person who has the information you want. So I spoke ‑ while it was difficult with Alex to speak directly to him but I engaged with him and I participated, if you like, with him. So that’s a point I would always like you to remember. If you are interviewing somebody who is living with a disability or living in a situation that’s considered outside the mainstream norm, they are the ones who can best tell you what that’s like or best answer your questions. You might need a carer or a guardian or a parent or a translator or somebody to help you understand what the point or the ‑ what that person is physically saying to you, but still you’ve got to address them. You look at them, they are the ones who are living in that ‑ living that life, they are the ones who know absolutely what that life is about. So with Alex, I spoke to his dad, obviously, but I interacted with Alex. So I guess that’s a big point I wanted to get across. So I guess in terms of differences, the only thing was that took a lot more time than it would. And time is a luxury you don’t always have in journalism
NANCE: If students can do that, it shows they should take a bit more time with some of these tricky topics. You are not going to get this done in an interview or in an afternoon
LEANNE: No, time is something you have to take, time to do the research, time to know who you’re talking to, time to research the issues. The more you know about the person you are interviewing, and the issue you are interviewing them about beforehand, the better your questions will be, the better your rapport will be with the person because you have shown them the respect to research the issue, to know as much as you can about the issue before you get their point of view, and it shows that ‑ yeah, it basically comes down to respect. You come off ‑ it is far more professional in your own ‑ to yourself but also to the person and the issue that you are writing about is to take that time as much as you can to do that research and then take that time to spend with them, to make sure you fully understand the message they want to get across, the life they’ve lived, the issues they want to raise.
NANCE: Leona, perhaps it is a good time you could add to this. With WWILD and the work you are doing with people with intellectual disability and media coverage, has that been a difficulty, I suppose, having ‑ with that particular intellectual disability, that type of disability to be heard and to be treated properly in the media? What are some tips you have.
LEONA: Some tips would be having understanding around intellectual and cognitive disabilities, things are very common amongst a lot of people so difficulty with abstract concepts, so being really concrete in the words that you ‑ and the phrases that you use, and if you are building rapport well, you will hopefully make it okay for someone to ask you if they don’t understand what you are asking. The second thing is that something that’s really common is that because of people’s experiences, they’re not ‑ some people won’t identify as having an intellectual disability or might not choose to identify with whatever their disability is, so that can lead to what we call masking, which can be that someone will go to great lengths to cover up their disability and they might have learned some really excellent skills over many years around how to get by, how to pass, and because that can afford people assistance, protection, it cannot make you stand out and be a target of violence or bullying, or all those sorts of things. There is real practical reasons where people develop these skills, and I would look out for what we would call acquiescence. Agreeing generally with whatever you ask or say either because I am not entirely sure what you are asking or perhaps because I am ‑ you appear to be in a position of authority and it is probably the safest thing just to go along because, again, a life of possibly being subjected to violence and people abusing their power, people will sometimes learn the skill to nod, go along, find the easiest path of least resistance to navigate a situation without, I guess, exposing themselves too greatly. So I guess to develop the skills of self‑advocacy to be able to talk to your issues, hot topics and community living association, and while it can take, you know, quite some time to develop those skills to be the person to talk about the issues that are important to you, like the general community there are people it comes to very naturally as well, but allowing people ‑ you can’t underestimate being allowed to offer people more time because you will get better information and more authentic engagement from that.
NANCE: And I think your website actually as a part of that ‑ we will have to put that on our list of resources ‑ WWILD has a great website that is both in ‑ what would you say?
LEONA: We’ve re‑done it recently. We used to have a plain English and easy English. We have re‑done it to try and do as much in plain English as possible. Writing is English, it is not an easy thing to do, and there is no perfect science to it either, but it usually ‑ the very least being aware of when you are using language that’s inaccessible is a really good place to start, just hearing yourself doing it and going, “Okay I need to try that again.” In respect of that respectful list, owning it. I think I said that go, can I give another go at putting that which makes more sense”, kind of owning it
NANCE: That would be a good technique in an interview, own it
LEONA: For those of us who have been working in this area for a long time, we’re not perfect. You can hear yourself doing it. Half the trick is hearing it and going, “I am going to give that another go”, finding a way to use more concrete language. Anything that’s abstract, anything you can’t feel, touch, hold, so a lot of the issues that we’ve talked about today like big disability insurance schemes, like justice, like mental health, these are all abstract concepts that ‑ ‑ ‑
NANCE: You have got to think about how to break it down.
LEONA: It can be useful communicating, asking them to put those things in their own words if you are wanting to check understanding. So I have asked this: what does that mean to you? Can you tell me what we’ve just talked about? Getting someone to talk back to you about what their understanding is of the interaction that you’ve had, can be enlightening. If a person can’t tell you, you might need to give it another go.
NANCE: Keeping questions simple which is a good interviewing technique always, trying to avoid the double banger questions keeping it to the point
LEONA: The only thing I would add, it would be useful just to do some real crash course on common stereotypes and language to really steer away from, you know, there is some really horrible language that can still float around but I guess related to that as well there’s this kind of almost two conversations around language happening at the moment which I guess speaks back to asking the individual how they would like to be described or how they would describe themselves but you have got the person first, or it is the person with the disability and another school of thought coming out at the moment which is no I am this disabled person with this society disabling me. You know there is conversations that go on about that and again ‑ which probably speaks back to not speaking with one voice panel which happened earlier, but asking the person how they would like to be described is also respectful practice
NANCE: Finally, when I used to do interviews before, the issue of permissions is always an interesting one to negotiate. Would you advise always when interviewing someone with intellectual disability it is good to have an advocate that they know or it is not a simple yes and no
LEONA: It is not a simple yes and no. I think if the person is invited to have somebody they feel comfortable with, that can be a way for somebody to be supported. Really keeping in mind for any unintended consequences. You don’t want to increase the risk, particularly when someone is talking about issues related to violence, particularly where they are currently living or a justice issue they might be caught up in, you would really hate to increase that person’s risk by, you know, accidentally talking about things that might increase their risk, but, again, balancing that with giving people an opportunity to talk out about horrible things that are ethics.
NANCE: I think I did find it helpful when you were there to help with those decisions, even if you can’t identify someone because it is a legal issue, talking to the interviewee to the person about do you want to use a different name, do you want to not have any name. How would you like to handle that. And you could explain that sometimes a bit better ‑ ‑ ‑
LEONA: I guess I would add to that, you know, part of that thinking of unintended consequences is helping someone think through okay if we use your name and somebody hears that on the radio, they might go, “Oh, I know Sally.” And that might be your family who hears that. Are you okay with that? That might be, you know, the service provider might hear that. Is that going to be okay. What would happen do you think if they heard it? So taking it that step further around the concept of informed consent is really helping people understand exactly what it is that they are agreeing to, and a good example of that might be with images that we might have on our website we will say so WWILD is funded to provide sexual assault counselling for people with intellectual disability. But also broad victim of crime services. If we put this photo up of you or if we include it in your annual report, some people know that WWILD helps people who have been raped. That may or may not have happened to you. But are you ‑ some people might see you and might think that that’s happened to you. Is that okay? Are you comfortable with that? So really taking it that step further to help tease out what the consequences might be.
NANCE: John, coming to you again as journalist, so coming from that perspective of ‑ from your perspective, perhaps different to intellectual disability, what are some of those issues of how to approach interviewing, how to do it respectfully and get the best story that you would ‑ ‑ ‑
JOHN: I thoroughly agree with the majority of what you were just saying, in terms of respect but also in being professional and showing that respect, it is doing your homework on the person that you are interviewing prior so that you get to understand ‑ you might find out beforehand what way ‑ what are some ways in which I can communicate that might be most effective in establishing rapport, in framing my questions, and then again, like you were saying, if that doesn’t go quite according to plan, having the ability, the confidence and just the responsibility, I guess, to say ‑ to reframe that and to find another line of questioning or another way of delivering the question that that person can respond to in a ‑ in the way that you are looking for but also in the way that is conducive to the way that they communicate. I think that’s the key. I think vulnerability is a really significant issue, and as much as it is important to be objective and when there’s an issue that may not be, you know ‑ it may not be particularly positive but at the same time recognise that there is a human being that you’re addressing here, and just to be very mindful of that person’s vulnerability is something that’s really important.
NANCE: Just on practicalities too, John, for a person in a wheelchair as yourself, I think I was talking with you before or some of the language around being bound to a wheelchair
JOHN: Wheelchair bound and that sort of stuff. Yeah, for me it is not just an issue of semantics. Like some people would say, “Oh yes it’s just semantics.” But for me personally a set of stairs in my handicap but I’m not handicapped. I have a disability. And I still keep that in the media sometimes and I still see that in parking signs where it is handicapped zone. I am like is there something wrong with the parking space. So ‑ ‑ ‑
NANCE: You are not bound to your wheelchair, your wheelchair is your freedom basically.
JOHN: Very much so. When you are interviewing a person with a disability not necessarily having the assumption that that disability is holding them back, is a barrier to them, is something that is a cause of suffering, and that’s part of being a journalist when you’re talking to anybody, is actually understanding what any human being’s experience is and not making assumptions about what you think their experience might be and kind of leading with that assumption. So not seeing a person as your agenda or what you think you want to portray from the outset of an article, but actually being prepared to really authentically engage and develop or take that time, be very patient in reframing your questions, if need be, to really understand and really listen to how that person experiences their disability as opposed to the way that you think they may be challenged or they may experience barriers or may be suffering, or those clichés or stereotypes that you often see misrepresented quite a lot in the media
NANCE: As a student journalist would it be okay for me to ring you up and go, “Where is the best place to do an interview that is accessible to you?” Do you know what I mean? I think students sometimes are nervous and they don’t want to offend. Basically be upfront. You know, is that your house or is there a cafe you live near that you feel comfortable in, that is not a problem for you to get to.
JOHN: I think ‑ I think the issue of being scared of offending people is something that as a journalist you need to not have regardless, or the person you are talking about ‑ or talking to really is ‑ because you want to actually engage with them and help them to feel comfortable with you in the first place, regardless of who it is, the person with a disability ‑ Andrew Denton did it beautifully in the way he talked to everyday people with disabilities or any walk of life, and he would just have this intuitive but I suspect it is not just intuitive, I think he did his homework and really understood that person before he went in and actually started speaking to them at all, about what conditions they would like to speak under, what are some of the issues ‑ what are some of the communication styles that would need to be addressed for this person. So I think, yeah, it sometimes doesn’t serve the person with a disability or yourself to be too scared of offending, because how often are you going to establish a rapport with somebody if you don’t ask them the question. You know, put it in a really simple term, if you want to go up and ask a woman out and you are too afraid to do that, well, then, you know, how are you going to have a relationship
NANCE: That’s true. Same thing.
GEOFF: Can I say one ‑ put a little bit of a different context on things. Both in my sporting career and in my professional career in the disability sector I have actually been ‑ the articles that have been written about me and been done that I’ve had a part in, the articles that I’ve received that I’ve seen as the best ones have been the ones that don’t actually mention my disability whatsoever. In my sporting career I would have been cranky with the journalist beyond belief if my disability took up any more than one or two lines of the article. If it was about me breaking a world record or winning a particular event. It shouldn’t take up any more than one or two lines. And the same in my disability career. I work a lot currently in government relations. So I can be advocating or in an activist role or political lobbying role against Queensland Government and I can be speaking on behalf of a group of people with a disability. Now, my disability in that is actually irrelevant. Now, I am speaking on behalf of a group of diverse ‑ people with diverse disabilities from intellectual impairment to physical disability, deaf, hard of hearing, vision impaired, to blind, and everything in between. But the journalist only writes about my disability my God they are going to get a phone call the next day because that’s just not the context that they should be looking at the conversation. I am there as a professional, the same as any other political lobbyist would be to speak about an issue. If Adani happened to have a political liaison officer who had a disability you wouldn’t report on their disability, you would report on whatever they are saying about Adani at the time. But I sometimes need to remind a journalist that the conversation I am having with you isn’t actually about me, it is about other people
NANCE: So context is everything.
NANCE: I have seen some hands going up which is great. So we might go to some questions from our students to our fantastic panel. Where was that hand that went up a little while ago? Sorry, we will come back to you.
QUESTIONER: I am from Griffith, I am a journalism student. Someone mentioned earlier about somewhere you can go to find the language that is appropriate when writing stories. Is there somewhere in particular to find that information or is it just, you know, you find it, you just talk to the people themselves and see what they prefer?
GEOFF: There are resources available. Like a way with words is something the Department of Communities in Queensland has produced a long time ago, but that is couched in that first person terminology, that western with disability language and as we’ve talked about, that language is popular amongst a certain group of people with disability. I myself kind of sit halfway in between, which is really annoying to people. It kind of just seems to be one of those ones where you’re supposed to pick your side. To me I haven’t quite picked my side yet. And to me that’s okay. So it is always best to talk to the person themselves about how they would refer to themselves.
NANCE: And we are putting together a resource as part of this project, aren’t we, Faith, on that very topic, Madeleine. If you see some good ones, keep them in mind and let’s figure out how to improve them as well. We want to get them out to a lot of different news rooms and get everyone thinking about appropriate language. Okay. Some other questions from our students?
QUESTIONER: I am Ralph from Gold Coast. I just want to ask a broad question to everybody on the panel there, because since panel 1 and 2 there has been a variety of requirements with respect to the word “disability”. We’ve had one person say we don’t want to be called disabled, we want to be called different to disabled or differently abled. Differently abled is like everyone in this class. Universities have GP A which show how differently abled students are. When it comes to disability and the term disability and how we as journalists apply that term, can I maybe ask all of you with some sort of way what is the definition of disabled.
MICHAEL: I think disabled would be someone ‑ that person just because they are in a wheelchair means that they’re disabled. I think they’ve just got a disability and they’re proud of it, you know. They are going on with their lives and they are doing whatever they want. And they don’t want to be judged as a person saying you’re in a wheelchair and you should be disabled, you can’t do knowing, you’re hopeless, you’re no good. You can’t do anything. That’s just rubbish. People in a wheelchair can do just as much as anybody else can. They can work, they can cook for themselves. They can basically do their everyday life just as much as anyone else can.
FAITH: Jeremy wanted to answer that question, if that’s okay
PARTICIPANT: I work here at Griffith University, Jeremy. Just in relation to language and terminology, there is a long history on language and terminology about the way people with disabilities want to be referred to and how they’re referred to, and if you really want to look back at the language where it has come from, if you want to know. It is different to the way it was 10 years ago, 20, 3040 years ago. It is driven by people with disabilities themselves and it has changed over time. So we refer to ourselves as people with disabilities in certain contexts, in certain environments where we believe that that is the most appropriate type of language to use. In other environments we might refer to ourselves as whatever we want to, depending on who is listening to and who is going to use it in that context. In the UK, the disability community over there refer to themselves as disabled because we’re disabled and we’re here and we’re proud and we’re not going anywhere. In Australia we haven’t quite got to that because we don’t believe the able bodied community is ready for that.
FAITH: So you are discriminating against me.
PARTICIPANT: Just saying when you are looking at language and terminology, look at the history of it and look at why first person is used and then why it may not be used. And then why people use it themselves. It comes from the social model, the definition, around how my impairment ‑ my spinal cord injury, I use a wheelchair to assist me with that, my handicap is society.
PAIGE: Technically there are definitions. If you look at international, national, state, legislation, human rights stuff, it very much talks about a person that has a physical sensory, social, psychosocial ‑ I am sure there is something I have forgotten that someone is going to tell me about, impairment that significantly impacts upon their functional abilities to undertake a range of things. And those range of things are defined generally as being able to, around the areas of their own personal care, which includes anything from getting out of bed to getting ‑ to actually, you know, getting a meal, dressing, etcetera, to getting out and about and participating in the community. Because some of those things that people have significant impairment are around the issues of communication and thinking through how you’re going to do things, as I think Simon and a number of people on the panel have said. But that’s basically the definition. And if you are asking, like, how you ‑ why people are so sensitive about the language, well, it’s about how ‑ it really comes back to the treatment of people with disability over the last 200 years ago, people in this room may not be aware but in the middle ages people with disabilities were actually put on boats and set to sea and never allowed to land in ports. It was a way to get rid of them to die out. People were then circus freaks. That’s where they came from. They were different and that was a way of displaying people. Let alone a number of other stories we could tell you about the history of disability as it has transpired. I grew up in a state ‑ I have a sister with an intellectual and so called psychosocial disability. She has schizophrenia. When we were kids growing up, you could actually ‑ it was that the mental health legislation in this state was such that she was held for a long period of time without any kind of legislative detainment or any base for that because if you were bad and mad in those days you got sent to places like Wolston Park where you lived for the rest of your life. That’s why there is a lot of sensitivity around the word “disability”.
NANCE: Simon, you wanted to add to that before or ‑ ‑ ‑
SIMON: Not really. You know what, though, my one ‑ one of my majors is intellectual disability studies and I did my honours here in the division of inter
Intellectual disability studies and I am sitting here shaking my head.
LEANNE: The question as a journalist how do you refer to people who are living with a disability. It really comes down to context, like the example that Brett from DSQ raised before, 38 year old man charged with murder. Doesn’t matter if he is deaf or dumb. If you are doing a story about the NDIS you might want to say that such and such an advocate for an organisation, and then the next sentence who has lived with a condition for a certain amount of time, because that gives it context. They know best about what that sort of life is going to be about. And you can get into even more specifics. Like I did a story about people in Queensland living with dwarfism. That’s a point I wanted to ‑ you be specific. I am just trying to remember the name of the people. And they each had a different ‑ Coby had a specific type of dwarfism so I named the type she had. Then grant, he had a different type. You be as specific as you can. It is not about a disability so much but a medical condition they live with, and it allows them to do this but it doesn’t impact on anything else. So it is about the context of the story you are writing, why you are writing the story, what’s the point of the story, what message are you trying to get across. So in terms of a definition of disability in a journalistic context, how long is a piece of string. It depends on the story you are telling and how relevant it is to the story you are telling. Like with, you know, with the story about Alex, the elephant whisperer, I didn’t say he had a disability, I said that he lived with autism and Asperger’s, and Down’s Syndrome. You can be specific. It is not about ‑ you use terms like people living with disability for really broad issues where it might be about NDIS ‑ I am happy to be corrected on that too, but also your journalistic ‑ so your organisation that you work for, they will generally have a style guide as well. Often, which is put together in consultation with specific sectors of the community. So how we talk about mental illness, the language we use, we have a style guide that’s dictated or advised ‑ it comes under advisement by the people we are working with, the same with disabilities or those sort of things. I guess in bringing back to a point that was raised earlier, never assume and don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions because there is no such thing as a stupid question. If you are in a crowded room and there is a person you want to talk to who is sitting in a wheelchair, like I have done this. Are you happy for me to stand or would you like me to kneel down while I talk to you. You are on a face‑to‑face level. Same with Coby, she is smaller in stature than a prep student. I said to her how do you want to do this. I met her at her home, we sat at the kitchen table. Let them tell you, they have agreed to the interview, they want to educate you, educate the wider community, be educated, don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions or what feels like a stupid question. Makes yourself vulnerable. It built a rapport. It shows how willing you are to learn about what they want to tell you, or what message they want to get across or the life they lead, the realities of the life they lead. And I guess that’s the same with anybody, because it is not just people with disabilities who want to teach you about the life they lead, it could be ‑ well, it can be anyone living a life different to what you have experienced. Basically, that’s what journalism is. You are learning about lives different to the ones you are experiencing and you are putting that story out into the world so your readers or viewers or bloggers or whoever is looking at your content is learning about a life that is different to the one they are living. That’s fundamentally it. If you make yourself vulnerable you are building a rapport, you are showing respect, you are showing your openness and willingness to learn
NANCE: Thanks, we are getting a perspective from both sides of the fence, I think.
PARTICIPANT: Sorry. Just one of the things that I found useful to think about when you are trying to conceptualise this ‑ I have been working in the disability sector for about 12 years or something. I think it’s useful to talk about disability if you are examining ways in which society or government is not doing what they need to do to address people’s needs. In other contexts it is really helpful to think about diversity, just as, you know, there is all kinds of diversity in the world, often disability is about genetic diversity.
FAITH: I have a question for you, Leanne, and then I will open it up to you and Nance. Do you have a family member or do you yourself identify as having a lived experience with disability, or do you come to the sector without any kind of attachment?
LEANNE: I have never thought about that before. I grew up in Rockhampton and I have a cousin who lives in a disability. I couldn’t ‑ both intellectual and physical. I can’t tell you what it is. I don’t remember all the details of it. And he would attend horse riding for the disabled every Sunday and I became a volunteer there, so I would go and work ‑ volunteer, help the clients, the people with their riding and supporting them while they ride their horse. Carmel ‑ she has ‑ spinal dystrophy. There was a really good TED talk she gave. I was going to raise it today based on something Geoff said earlier. Carmel Liddle spoke. She spoke of the idea of life with a disability is less than. And ‑ she talked about it in a sense of, you know, when people ‑ when women are pregnant, everyone says, “Oh, you know, what are you going to have is it a boy or a girl. The parents to be will say we don’t care as long as it is healthy. Normal definition, Carnie was born an unhealthy child even though she has gone on to live a successful life in both sporting, education, every facet of life. She wants everyone ‑ she did a great talk about how getting people to reframe the question. What are you having a boy or girl. I don’t care as long as the baby is happy. Having a happy child as opposed to a healthy child. Because a healthy child, that is so subjective to what health is. You know, her heartbeats fine, her brain works fine, her lungs work fine. It is just her spine that doesn’t work as well as somebody else’s. I think I’ve gone off track but certainly go and listen to Carnie’s TedEx. I did a story, Frances Whiting did a story recently, about her raising a son on her own. She is a single mother. She never thought she would be able to have children.
FAITH: I am familiar with Nancy’s background. I understand that informs Nance’s inclusive and I guess supportive way of reporting around these issues. I was just wondering coming from your background do you have that kind of training or awareness within your news room? Is it something that news rooms should be incorporating because someone for me, for example, who doesn’t have any exposure or awareness how do you bring that to your reporting if you don’t have that exposure?
LEANNE: I deserve journalist will have their own lived experience of something. Nobody is going to have lived experience of disability or mental health illness. I have that very small and very, I guess, distant lived experience of disability. I have got ‑ I have written extensively about mental health because I have a lived experience of mental health. I have written extensively about postnatal depression because I have a lived experience of postnatal depression. I had that with my second son. I was hospitalised for six weeks. I have lost a friend to postnatal depression. So that’s a very big passionate area for me. I think as a journalist, the one thing you have got to learn is empathy, you have got to have respect for other people, have some semblance of empathy. You don’t know what it is like. It is that whole thing of walk a mile in another man’s shoes. The way to best get stories or get the best stories and build connections with people is have that empathy, respect. Show them dignity, be professional in your own way, and, you know, people will ‑ that’s how the stories come back because people like to deal with you, they know you are going to treat them and their story or whatever they’re bringing to you with respect and dignity.
NANCE: So, yes, just briefly I do have an intellectually disabled brother. That’s been a massive influence on my life and probably massive influence on this project but I wouldn’t say that necessarily makes me the best person to always do these stories. It’s not that simple. I find it interesting, even with this ‑ the story that I won a Walkley for on the case of the 70s literally disabled children who were sexually abused, it was so traumatic and difficult to do. I think in many ways having the lived experience almost made that harder. My mum raised concerns with me about whether I would be able to cope and that kind of thing. Don’t think it is a bad thing if you don’t know anyone with a disability. Because it shows you’re open‑minded and a better journalist, I think, to go into it fresh.
LEANNE: I concur with that, that it can be a detriment to have a lived experience because you have got a whole lot of emotional baggage. You can be second guessing yourself as to whether you’re ‑ am I biased in pitching this story, is it because of my own stuff that I am pitching this. So I fully agree with what Nance has said. Just because you don’t know or haven’t lived that life doesn’t mean you can’t tell that story just as well as anybody else.
GEOFF: Can I just say ‑ so I agree if your skill in listening allows you to communicate with a person who has got a very different experience to you, that’s great. But a part of journalism as far as I understand it is an element of studying society and people. If you don’t know an experience of humanity, then it might be good to find a way to get some experience, you know. So there is ways to get to know people who live different lives. Someone here is doing sociology with journalism. I think that’s a great partnership to study society, look up the word psychological imagination. It is something that a lot of people don’t know about. It is a good term to incorporate into how you are educatively do our work.
NANCE: I think that brings us to the end of this amazing project, Open Space Launch today. I want to thank you all for taking part. Thank you so much for our panel and for our speakers who thank you for contributing from the floor because everyone’s perspective was really valuable. Thank you so much to everybody. I have brought up some of those stories that I referred to, the elephant whisperer is here. I have got a mouse that is not cooperating but I will kind of move through those and you can have a look through them at your leisure. I think Faith has emailed them as well. See you next week with your story ideas.
(End of event)