I would say my mother is one of my favorite things because she advocates for me—I would not be where I am today without her. When I first started in primary school the teachers said that I would always be in the special-education class and that I would never get to year 12, but I proved them wrong. Mum always said we were going to prove them wrong. My second favorite thing would be my dog Molly—she’s my best friend and she’s there for me all the time. When I’m sick she knows it and she tries to make me feel better. My third favourite thing would be my best friend Bronwyn. She really accepts me as me, and we come together on the same grounds—even though I can’t do what she can, she doesn’t make fun of me. I would probably say she’s the least judgemental person I know in Canberra.
I moved to Canberra when I was 19 to study at CIT. Soon after I started I ended up in hospital for two months with issues related to my Cerebral Palsy. I had a bad run with it because I was doing what someone my own age does—drinking, partying, having sex—and I found out my body couldn’t handle it! A lot of the doctors said that as someone with a disability I should be at home with my parents in Bega, that I don’t have a right to function in real life. I had a social worker tell my mum that people with a disability shouldn’t actually be looking to go to university. That put a big shock in my system and I stopped studying for a while. But then I moved into ACT Housing—a disability-specific home—and got back into my studies and I would say that I’ve really moved on from what happened in the hospital system.
To be honest I would have to say the hardest thing about being a woman in Canberra is the many difficult run-ins with men I’ve had who don’t understand that you can’t take advantage of women when they say “no”. Another hard thing is that the health system is very negative toward people with disability. Even when I went to my doctor and said that I’m thinking about having sex, it’s like, “oh no, you can’t do that”.
The best thing about being a woman in Canberra is all the support services for women. And safety I’d have to say—nothing bad has happened to me. I get taxis out late at night and no one’s done any weird things to me yet! Also, Canberra is very friendly.
It’s easy to maintain my health and wellbeing in Canberra now that I’ve moved into ACT Housing—I had a new house renovated for me to suit my needs. I’ve got railings and assistive equipment, like cutlery that I can use, trolleys to wheel my food on, drinking cups, arm braces. I get an amount of money each year that is used towards making my life better.
Compared to when I moved here, I’m quite well. I’m a representative for the intellectual disability group in the Disability Information and Support Hub (DISH) in Belconnen. They want me to go on to organise an event for next year to get more people with disabilities involved. I would also say I’m doing a lot more now. I’m doing a pathways program to get into university to become a social worker. I have a boyfriend now, so that’s a big thing for me because I’ve come a long way from someone who was very shy to actually being brave.
To me being a woman is about being able to have a baby when I’m 25. Getting married and settled down. Be a stay at home mother—I would love to do that.
My perfect day in Canberra is actually every Friday because I get out of the house, I go to the Australian Catholic University at Dickson and I see all my friends. It’s perfect because I know I’m getting into the future and looking at the different things I can do to get where I want to be.
Image created by Josey Carnovale