Sunday, 20 December 2015

2015: A Wish Granted, But A Dream Lost.

A year ago, I posted on Facebook that I had one primary goal in 2015, which frankly has been my yearly goal since 1997. I repeated my oft quoted remark by the protagonist of the television show, Girls, Hannah Horvath:

I just want someone, who wants to hang out all the time, and thinks I’m the best person in the world, and wants to have sex with only me.

It may have come eighteen years too late, but I finally found someone who fits that deceptively difficult criteria. I met FRG in May, and ever since she has complemented my life, rather than overpowered it. The throughline of 2015 was my chance meeting with FRG, and our developing relationship. Everything since has featured her. She has now moved in with me, and we are planning trips to Bluesfest in March, and to Adelaide in July.

Unfortunately 2015, was also a year of profound disappointment. As one dream came true, another died as I said goodbye to my PhD, and resolved to downgrade it to a Masters instead. Tears were shed, and a profound anger emerged that will never really dissipate. Regardless, when I finally finish the thesis next year, I will not be returning to study again. I need to do something different.

I have had many opportunities to do this. In January I was the lead writer for The Conversation's coverage of the 2015 Queensland Election, which received nearly 200,000 unique viewers to my articles. From this came my first ever television appearance as a political commentator. It also led to a job with Griffith University as I became a weekly contributor to its political blog The Machinery of Government.

I continue to live in the best supported accommodation in Australia with help from Youngcare and Wesley Mission Brisbane. This has allowed me to have an incredibly fulfilling life. I went to the Gabba for the first day of the First Cricket Test, saw my beloved Port Adelaide play in Melbourne, the Gold Coast and in Brisbane, attended four concerts, four films at the British Film Festival, productions of Wicked and Anything Goes, along with going to the movies at least once a fortnight on average. Further, I took a week long holiday on the Gold Coast in September, which was organised by WMB where I read six of my forty books of the year. I am incredibly fortunate to have these opportunities.

2015 may not have been as good as the proceeding two because of the disappointment with my thesis, but perhaps it has been the most crucial. For the first time I am beginning to make long term plans in my personal life. 2016 is already shaping up as a significant year of change. It will be due to the most important revelation of this year.

I am not alone anymore, and I no longer have to wish for that loneliness to disappear.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Best of 2015

There is less than two weeks of 2015 left, so here comes my 'Best Of 2015' list. The usual disclaimers apply. The most obvious thing is that I didn't get to see or hear all the things I wanted to, and thus the lists reflect my personal tastes. 

I encourage you to make your own lists if you disagree with my choices.

Books (I've read, in order of preference)

Tunes (in order of preference)


TV (In order of preference)

Movies (In order of preference)

Internet Articles (In chronological order)

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Moving, Yet Another Barrier.

The day after my 32nd birthday, FRG moved into my apartment officially. Though we had only been dating for a little over 6 months, we agreed that the timing was right. She had been spending almost all of her time sleeping at my place, and the place that she was renting was not at all suited to my electric wheelchair, so much so that I had never been inside.

A casual reader of this blog might assume that this important step may be arrived at too quickly. However, as with all facets of my life there are always external forces at play. Prior to sharing our apartment, my time with FRG was severely compromised, as she lived on the other side of town, meaning that all of her permanent items were nearly an hour away. Not to mention the fact that she was paying (cheap) rent on a room she never used.

We both entered this relationship knowing that we wanted it to last years, not months. We think in the long term.

Yet an important question had to be tackled.

How can an able bodied partner successfully move into a complex specifically designed for people with disabilities, who are expected to live by themselves?

This is why my circumstances are exceptional. Youngcare, who built my accommodation, and Wesley Mission Brisbane (WMB), who provide the staffing to help with my physical support, both agree on the same principle. I am a young person living a young life. Part of a 'typical' young life is finding a long term partner, and moving in with them. This is exactly what we have done.

Just because I am disabled, it does not mean I am incapable of finding love, or that I must find love with another person who has a disability, because we happen to share similar disadvantages.

WMB could have said no. This would have been outrageous to me if they did, but many other organisations would have. In fact, a few months ago the Manager of the Apartments and the Clinical Care Nurse were the people who first suggested that this living situation would be possible. FRG and I had not contemplated moving in together at that stage.

I talked with management again about a week before FRG moved in to see if the option was still viable. They said it was, then we convened a meeting to organise a few particulars. This meeting was not about restricting my options, but rather ensuring my safety and our privacy.

WMB wanted to ensure that if FRG was to do the majority of my physical care (She always wants to, despite my long term reservations) that her, I, and the organisation were legally covered. They also asked us if they could put a lock on our bedroom door, which was to be paid for by WMB. Although I could tell that WMB were somewhat uncertain about these processes, they did them anyway to their great credit. Lesser organisations would have framed these types of discussions as too difficult or inappropriate.

FRG and I are blazing a trail, even though we shouldn't be. WMB haven't confronted this type of thing before. A walkie has never moved in with a cripple in their supported accommodation. It is not their fault. This simply has never occurred before. I'm lucky that the management of my apartment building are so forward thinking. Others are not. Society in general believes that people with disabilities are unable, incapable or undeserving of love. It is not the first barrier we have had to overcome, and it will certainly not be the last.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

An Important Restatement

Increasingly over the past few years, and particularly in recent months I have been criticised, and in some cases vilified, for the attitude I have towards my own disability. Particularly from those who also have a disability, who should know better. The following is something you've probably read from me before in different forms, but this needs to repeated yet again.

My disability does not define my life. I refuse to be known, labelled and identified by my worst physical characteristics. I also refused to be defined by the lack of control over my life (although I do have access to more choice that I had previously since moving into supported accommodation nearly 3 years ago). I refuse to wear my disability as a badge of honour. I am not proud to be disabled, and I never will be. How can I proud of something that has caused so much anger and pain to my family and I over an almost 32 year period?

I do not deserve special attention for simply living my life as a disabled person. For doing this, I am not your hero, inspiration, guiding light, or role model. I am simply a man who has made the best out of a shitty situation. Nothing more, nothing less. I am just doing what I'm meant to be doing.

I have a right to be angry about this situation. Failure to deal with this anger for the majority of my life was a significant factor in triggering my extreme bout of depression. In acknowledging this anger, I have not only become healthier, but it has enabled me to become a more well rounded person.

People who have come in contact with me may not understand or agree with any of the above, but no one has any right to tell me how I feel about my disability. No one can possibly understand, the good, the bad, the ugly, and introspection it has created. I have no right to judge any other individual with a disability, and their feelings about own individual experience, because their journey is vastly different than mine.

I am not disrespecting any other person with a disability because I have a negative attitude towards my own. Lots of people with disabilities have, and will continue to do great things with their lives, but they shouldn't be considered 'great' because they achieve these outcomes simply due to the fact that they have a disability. People with disabilities deserve equitable treatment. I am one of those people. First and foremost I am a human. Treat me as such, whether I have a disability or not.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Master of One: There is No Doctor In This House

On October 8th 2010, I was nervous.

I was presenting a PhD thesis confirmation paper to an audience of political academics, most of whom I had referenced in the document. Normally I am confident. I am usually a good public speaker, and because I can't write with a pen, I usually speak without many notes. But this was my academic livelihood I was presenting. Luckily I did well, and received universal praise. I assumed that it was the first time many had seen an academic with a disability, and so self consciously I figured that at least some of my good feedback was a direct result of simply being surprised that I was there, and that I had performed well. Regardless, I was ready to move on to my next challenge.

The next five years were the hardest of my life in every sense. Away from academia I became seriously ill, just two and a half months after that confirmation day. For a further two years I was still living with my parents, 100 kilometres away from campus, and the city where I wanted to be. And I had a severe mental illness. Then I moved out of home, and began to have the type of life I wanted to live. All the while the earth continued rotating.

There were five different changes of Australian Prime Minister, three different Queensland Premiers, three different Australian Test Cricket Captains, three different coaches of my football team, and three albums recorded by Taylor Swift in the time I took to write the PhD thesis.

In all that time I kept writing draft after draft of the chapters of my thesis, which was to be 100,000 words long, and comprised of 6 chapters. Between 2009 and 2015, I submitted 43 draft chapters. I still have them all. Yet when my two wonderful supervisors would come back with the comments, none of the drafts were anywhere near perfect as final copies. Some were of higher standard then others, and each time my supervisors would do everything in their power to make the drafts better.

Without getting too academically technical, each draft would have a variation of the same fundamental flaw. Each time I would submit a new draft, the same problems would emerge, and between my two supervisors and I, we could not solve that problem. As hard as we tried, and as skilfully as we tried the problem had become insurmountable.

On October 8th 2015, I was nervous.

I knew the dream of obtaining a PhD was over. What was once a very possible dream could not be achieved. After asking for three extensions, I had used up all my chances. I am not going to become a Doctor.

In reality, I knew this the week before. When I received my feedback on my last draft, I knew I could not finish it. I knew I had run out of time. I spent the week trying to work out ways I could possibly finish in the time allotted. It was like a giant math puzzle in my mind of which there was no solution. My supervisors had sensed the same thing, at the same time I did.

I spent an hour in their office, the sole topic of discussion was what I could salvage out of my nearly seven years of work.  I have worked far too long and far too hard to come away with nothing. For now, my supervisors have told me to take some time off, rest and recharge, before I redesign it into a Masters thesis due some time next year.

I am devastated. I've put all my energy into achieving a PhD, only for it to never materialise. I wanted to become a Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science more than anything. You may not see this as a failure, but I do. Being disabled I have to be half as crippled and twice as good to succeed in life, and I am just not good enough to do a PhD.

However, I have enough perspective to know that I am in a better place in every other aspect of my life. I have freedom, I have choice. I am healthy. I am loved. I am in the place I am meant to be.

I just won't be a Doctor. And that hurts.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Peter Singer, PWDs and the Elite's Approval of Murder.

A few weeks ago some friends with a disability registered a muted protest on social media during the Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) expressing their outrage at the festival's inclusion of Peter Singer. I joined them in expressing my disapproval, but living in Brisbane, I couldn't do much. Then last week I discovered he was invited to the Brisbane Writer's Festival (BWF) too. Then, I got really angry.
For those of you who don't know where this outrage stems from, Singer is a man who believes all foetuses that show physical abnormalities (re: disabilities) should be aborted in ALL circumstances.  Not only do I find his views offensive, but I'm deeply disappointed that an institution that I love is endorsing these views. In putting forward this view Singer advocates that the lives of people with disabilities should be terminated, and are not worthy of life. This is selective genocide. Singer's views are not a matter of promoting diversity of opinion, this is marginalising and actively shunning people with disabilities. 

As the late Stella Young wrote in 2012.
In his book Practical Ethics, Singer argues the case for selective infanticide. He deems it unfair that "At present parents can choose to keep or destroy their disabled offspring only if the disability happens to be detected during pregnancy. There is no logical basis for restricting parents' choice to these particular disabilities. If disabled newborn infants were not regarded as having a right to life until, say, a week or a month after birth it would allow parents, in consultation with their doctors, to choose on the basis of far greater knowledge of the infant's condition than is possible before birth." His perspective also takes account of a disabled child's place within their family.  
"The birth of a child is usually a happy event for the parents. They have, nowadays, often planned for the child. The mother has carried it for nine months. From birth, a natural affection begins to bind the parents to it. So one important reason why it is normally a terrible thing to kill an infant is the effect the killing will have on its parents.  
"It is different when the infant is born with a serious disability. Birth abnormalities vary, of course. Some are trivial and have little effect on the child or its parents; but others turn the normally joyful event of birth into a threat to the happiness of the parents, and any other children they may have. "Parents may, with good reason, regret that a disabled child was ever born." 
If you some point in your life you need reading glasses, should doctors abort you in the womb because you will not have perfect vision?

When I found out that Singer was going to present at BWF, I decided to put my money where my mouth was. On Friday, I wrote an email to the BWF director Julie Beveridge echoing the above arguments. This morning, I got a lengthy, thoughtful response, the beginning of which read:
Thank you for your email, and for bringing to my attention this particular view point of Peter Singer, it’s not one I was familiar with.  
I empathise deeply with your position...   
Peter Singer has been engaged at the festival to discuss this latest book The Most Good You Can Do, a call to action for individuals to live a life of effective altruism that involves doing the most good possible. Altruism is a topic that is extremely popular amongst Brisbane audiences and Peter’s Good Thinking lecture is a continuation of a discussion BWF has been having over a couple of years on the topic. Previous conversations in this area include Inspire Happiness, with Matteiu Ricard who discussed holistic giving.   Festivals like BWF are made up of hundreds of writers with different viewpoints on a variety of topics. It’s my job to program thought provoking content for audiences, and the topics discussed in Peter’s book The Most Good You Can Do are reflective of broader conversations about living more meaningful and connected lives. By programming a particular individual BWF is not endorsing any or all views held by those individuals, but providing a platform for conversation, debate, inspiration and entertainment.
The rest of her email recognised the lack of content regarding disability in the festival program, and to her great credit Beveridge invited me to establish a session specifically regarding disability and writing. I am going to take her up on the offer.  I wasn't expecting it, or for her to take Singer off the festival program at this late stage, so the response to my initial correspondence far exceeded my expectations. Beveridge went as far as she could go, but it still doesn't address the larger problem.

As a friend of mine, ASN, posted on her Facebook yesterday:
If any other minority in Australia was targeted in the work of this man he would be shunned! Could you imagine if he suggested selecting against children with 'gay genes'? He would be accused of genocide of the gay community! Or what about race? He would be Hitler reincarnated. Not one of these groups or their allies would stand for it. It would be called unacceptable and rightly so. 
To believe that an entire group of people have no right to life is sickening. Human variation is normal. If he targeted these people so many people in the community would be outraged, they would have boycotted these events. They would have publicly complained and the man would have been asked not to come. Just like when the American's were invited to preach hate speech about women at Hillsong here. What he preaches is no different. It is hate speech about disability and it is just as wrong as if he was sprouting that we should select against gays or race...
How is this possible? It is a really shit time to be disabled in Australia right now for many reasons, but to have this man allowed to publicly discuss his eugenic ideas has taken it to a whole new level. Before you tell me he has a right to his opinion please tell me how you would feel if this was your gay child they were discussing, or if someone was advocating for the eradication of your different genes? You remember how the holocaust happened? It happened when the good people allowed bad things to happen to those who were different to them. We already have doctors who advocate the termination of disabled children, or the pulling of life support for people with disabilities...

Forums such as BWF and MWF are designed to be places that act focal points for cultural debates in this country. In allowing Singer to participate they are condoning his opinions on selective genocide. These festivals represent a reflection of the political and cultural classes in this country, and their participants regard themselves to be 'intellectuals'. If these 'intellectuals' willingly support Singer and his murderous views, what hope have we fourth class citizens got? It is indeed a shit, shit time to be a person with a disability in Australia. 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

I Am A Fourth Class Citizen

This week 94 years ago Franklin Delano Roosevelt was first diagnosed with the polio virus. So began a history making period of reflection and perseverance that would change the world. Less than twelve years later he would begin his term as President of the United States while being unable to walk and instead utilising a wheelchair for movement.

Every day I and my compatriots with physical disabilities are treated as fourth class citizens. We are shunned, ignored, bullied, forgotten and constantly undervalued.

The most important figure in modern history and I share comparable movement of our legs. Because of this, our brains were forced to compensate. A society that underestimates the more than 1 million physically disabled Australians, is a society that undervalues the crucial values of human life: courage, tenacity, fortitude and a sense of realism. Our nation not only disregards these assets, they wilfully ignore them. If the progress of our community is judged by how we treat those who are disadvantaged, then it is truly a cesspool of self interest and greed.

If only the majority were forced into an compulsory period of reflection so they could truly know what it is like to struggle, maybe those of us who have physical disabilities would gain the respect we are entitled to. Instead most equate 'struggle' to menial day to day concerns that are based upon economics and social standing.

Humans cannot truly empathise until they have been through pain and emerged stronger from the experience.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Russell Ebert: Not Just A Champion Footballer

At the age of 6 in 1990, I remember playing Balloon Soccer at Regency Park Centre (commonly referred to as a 'special school') when I saw a middle aged man off to the side. He had a mullet with a slightly grey tinge. You could tell the older kids knew who he was, you sensed that they loved him.

"Who's that?" I asked

"It's Russell Ebert!"

Russell Ebert, as even a passing fan of South Australian Football would know (and I would find out just moments later), was my home state's best, most consistent and is its most decorated player. On Saturday a statue of him will be unveiled at Adelaide Oval​. He was not only a champion footballer, but he is champion human too.

Russell turned up to my Electric Wheelchair Sports Awards Ceremonies every year and presented all the trophies to us. My favourite year was 1995, when I picked up 9 trophies, including sweeping all of the junior categories. At that awards night I was 11. I had surgery 3 weeks before to lengthen my already tight hamstrings and was forced to wear splints with my legs outstretched. I was in pain and despite my successful night, still not very happy. As I collected my last trophy Russell shook my hand and said something I will never, ever forget.

Now you've got more trophies than I have

All my pain was gone.

If you're wondering why I follow Port Adelaide Football Club​ so passionately look no further for a better example. The club's greatest player ever gave his time, and more importantly his respect, to us. We didn't ask him to come. He wanted to.

This was long before footy players were posting all their good deeds on social media. He just did it. No Camera crews, no promotions, he just cared.  

Friday, 19 June 2015

Two Killings, One Show.

Over the last two weeks, The ABC has aired the first two parts of a political documentary series The Killing Season, which purports to focus on the last two Labor Governments, but is in actual fact a portrait of the two leaders of these governments Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. On this blog I documented the first Rudd Government in some detail. Initially I was not going to post a blog on this series, but after watching the second episode of the series late on Tuesday night I posted a rather detailed rant, and given the events are contemporaneous with this blog, it seems appropriate to share my thoughts here. 
While some may view the ascension of Kevin Rudd with a sense of fading nostalgia, I've been researching the period covered in the first episode almost since the events occurred. 
With this in mind, Killing aspires to be the offspring of the far superior 1995 ABC documentary series Labor in Power, but lacks the real wisdom and analysis to achieve it. While Rudd and Gillard have Keating and Hawke's pomposity in abundance, they lack their predecessors clarity of thought and candour. All 'Killing' really does is highlight the hypocrisy of 'The Leader and his Loyal Deputy' (the title of the first episode) with hindsight in an ironic and clunky fashion. Much of the important aspects of the 'Kevin 07' campaign were overlooked, and the section on the importance of Rudd allocating the Ministry is valid but entirely wrongheaded.
The second episode comes the quote We just killed ourselves' 
So says Martin Ferguson, old school Labor Warrior and Minister of the first Rudd Government about two thirds of the way through the second episode of the series. You can see the utter contempt in his face and hear the disgust in his voice. We knew full well no one came out of the Rudd coup looking good, but the constant thoughts coming to my mind throughout the episode were questions addressed to all participants of the program in the Australian Labor Party?

'How the fuck can you do this to my country?'
'Why do I deserve any of you to represent me?'
It is clear that Rudd displayed poor behaviour towards his colleagues across the board during the last six months of his Prime Ministership. It is purely subjective as to whether you think that this behaviour warranted his dismissal. It is something that initially I believed was not worthy of a coup, but as time passes I think that if a majority of his colleagues believed they couldn't work with him, sacking him might have been the only thing they could do. However Rudd has every right to feel aggrieved at how events played out.
I never believed that Gillard was telling the truth and this episode only solidified my view. Every single word she uttered I believe to be a lie. Rudd is only just barely better at telling the truth, and he did not do it much either. Their collective behaviour is a disgrace to the Australian political system, its history and the office of the Australian Prime Minister.
It's a good thing that only 'the political class' watches The Killing Season, because if every voter watched that compelling, intriguing, despicable, deplorable hour of television, Australia would have a Liberal Government for the next three decades.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Part of 'The Machinery of Government'

A few weeks ago I was asked by the Griffith University School of Government and International Relations (at which I'm currently completing my PhD) to contribute to their new blog The Machinery of Government (MoG). The conveners of the blog had seen my coverage over at The Conversation during the recent Queensland State Election campaign, which consistently ranked in the top bracket for both page views and unique visitors amongst contributors from Griffith University. Based on these results, I was asked to write an analysis of the UK Election, a week after results had been finalised.

A person or a number of people in the department must have been impressed with the content of the blog and/or the traffic it generated. On the back of the first piece, I was offered a part time job as a regular contributor to the blog. Since then I have written two further posts: one on the dilemmas of public service officials trying to combat terrorism and another on the role that smaller or 'minor parties' play in the federal governments of Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada.

MoG only launched a couple of months before my recent arrival and has already accumulated 1000 subscribers worldwide. At the pace I'm going at now it looks like I'll be contributing to the blog on a weekly basis. I would encourage readers who like my political writing to head over to MoG and subscribe to regular updates.

Monday, 1 June 2015

My Private is Not Your Private

Everyone who needs to know this, already knows this. Or so I think.

But after literal years of searching for the right girl to date, I found a girl, and she found me. It's early days, and in certain circumstances some might not feel the need to tell people. But the nature of living with a physical disability that requires 24/7 care means that lots of people already know by now. This is not through my own choice, but because I have needed to tell them. Those who don't understand the burden of relying upon someone all day, every day for the most basic tasks do not realise that these kinds of things are never truly private, no matter how much I might wish they could be.

I also can't share all my constant failures with dating, without showing you that sometimes it may work, beyond all my frustrations and battles with low self esteem. I don't know how long it will last, but I hope it is for a long time.

I've learnt from my mistakes of the past and won't be documenting our relationship at all on this blog. I will, when appropriate, mention FRG because she now is a part of my life, as this blog will be.

Monday, 25 May 2015

'And While I'm Away...'

Someone asked me yesterday: Why aren't you blogging much recently? There are several answers to this.
  1. Perhaps the most important of these is that I use the blog to constructively sort through my shitty negative emotions. Lucky for me I haven't had much of those recently. In the past week my mother and I shared the sometimes unbelievable journey that my family has been on since my birth, in front of an audience of women for Youngcare. When I hear my parents tell the story of my diagnosis it always makes me emotional, hearing the pain that my parents went through, and the despair they must have felt. It has nothing to do with me, it's like they are talking about a different person. Hearing the story once more made me so overcome with emotion that I couldn't finish telling my own story. I started to break down and cry. It made me realise that I will never be comfortable with my disability, but I've reached a point that my feelings on my disability are as good as they are going to get.
  2. I've not had the time recently. One of the main goals with my PhD thesis this year has been to have a quicker turn around between drafts, and therefore less dead time where I'm not productively working, which means there is less time to blog. It's working.
  3. This productivity has flowed into other areas as well. I'm currently working on a journal article for Social Alternatives about the 2015 Queensland Election. Last week I was also offered a long term part time job by Griffith University writing and researching for their political science blog: The Machinery of Government based on my analysis of the recent UK election. Make sure you visit MoG if you like my political writing
  4. There's not been many events to write about. Nothing has ignited my passion, and I write best when such passion is ignited.
  5. I have not felt the need or want to write about the things that help me understand my emotional intelligence. There are several positive reasons for this, but I'm not ready to write about them yet, because I want to see if these positive reinforcements last in the long term and don't resemble a passing fad. I've learnt through past experience I need more time to process things in my mind before writing about them.
In the meantime enjoy some tunes I've been loving recently.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Youngcare Turns 10 But There's More To Do.

10 years ago today on April 21st 2005, Shevaune and David Conry with the support of close friends established Youngcare. Shevaune was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in her mid twenties, and by the age of 33 was forced to live in a nursing home, because as hard as her family tried no one could provide the physical support that she required. Two and a half years after Youngcare was founded, in December 2007, Youngcare opened a two level fifteen room complex in Brisbane's Southwestern suburbs: the very building I live in now.

Youngcare first came to my attention back in 2007 when both Shevaune and David were profiled on Australia's 60 Minutes program. I can remember watching it with both my parents so vividly, because there was absolutely no way that anyone could possibly forget that story. The love and respect between the couple was so genuine and heartfelt. I remember thinking "I wish I could live there, but I don't have an acquired disability, so I have no chance."

Turns out I was wrong, although I didn't know it until five years later. Unfortunately, Shevaune passed away before I arrived, so I never had the chance to thank her for creating an organisation that has saved my life. Although Shevaune's story and her experience was the initial impetus for Youngcare, the creation of the organisation was the ultimate unselfish act. Youngcare is no longer just the basis of one story, but a vitally important organisation that is designed to change Australian society for the better.

At the moment there are currently 770,000 young Australians between the ages of 18 and 65 who are living in places that they should not be in, either in aged care, or with the support of a carer who has insufficient resources. For the past two and a half years I have made it my mission to share this important statistic to anybody who would listen.

In an environment where the NDIS is (unfortunately) government policy, it is great to give people with disabilities and/or their carers access to funding theoretically, but there are questions that arise in terms of infrastructure. In an ideal world, the NDIS would aim to provide independence to those 770,000 people, but even if they were to supply funding to half of those people, what accommodation do you provide so they can use their funding appropriately?

There is a clear shortage in this country of accessible housing for people with disabilities. Although Youngcare has another complex open on the Gold Coast, two more to come in Brisbane's northern suburbs, and a further one being developed in Western Sydney, these sites only go a short way to addressing this housing shortage. Though Youngcare will always continue to do fine work, and I will continue to push the cause for as long as I live, the larger problem of the overall shortage is one of the central public policy challenges in this country, and both State and Federal governments have not even begun to address the issue.

Now that I am safe, secure and happy my next quest is to continue Shevaune's legacy. Like she did I realise that now my dream has been achieved, my job is to ensure that others can live their dream too.

Thursday, 9 April 2015


Have you seen Whiplash?

It's the story of a young guy who spends his entire college life attempting to pursue his dream of being the best jazz drummer in the world. The majority of his time is either spent practising in front of a teacher who abuses him at every opportunity, or practicing so this student can win the teacher's approval.

As an audience member watching this movie you slowly begin to realise that the student will never ever receive the teacher's approval no matter how hard he tries. That is until the student realises that winning the teacher's approval is no longer necessary.

Whiplash, I've come to realise, is a broader metaphor for my dating experiences. I spend hours and hours trying to project the best version of myself that is not really even me, and no luck. I've tried an honest and direct approach by telling girls exactly what I've been seeking, still no luck, I've tried not to get attached to girls: no luck. I've even had what I refer to as 'dick brain' (which is exactly what it means): no luck. Through each of these iterations, each girl, and through each bad experience J.K Simmons may as well have been throwing a chair at my head.

I've had a notion I've been kicking around for a few months now that I articulated for the first time to a friend last week.
I'm in a different space than any of my contemporaries. Though this space might be influenced by my disability, I don't occupy this space because of the disability. A thorough examination of what my friends are doing, and based on the women I'm attracted to on dating sites (brains, looks, political awareness in various orders according to the individual) say that they want, the majority of women around my age want kids (No, just no), travel for exploration purposes (Too difficult, too expensive and never will be of interest to me anyway), and active people who "want to do things on weekends" (Give me my books, my TV, my movies, my music, and my football and/or cricket, and I'm happy, unless I am seeking out more of these things)  They might just be after one of these things or all three, but they are always the deal breakers.  
While I've been desperately searching for a relationship, I've learnt that I'm not willing to compromise on these aspects. Especially since I've been living on my own.
So, now I've learnt that unless something akin to a miracle happens I probably won't be in a relationship for at least another decade. By my reckoning, the potential mate would have already travelled, would have already had kids, or decided not to have them, and quite possibly would have gotten all her adventuring out of her system. She will come to value me because of my (seemingly) admirable qualities and they are ones that she has actively sought out: my hyperactive intellectualism and my dependability, chiefly. It's taken a long time for me to realise that girls in their late 20s and early 30s simply don't want the things that I offer.
So now, its just a matter of enjoying the freedom I fought so hard for. However this freedom, at least for the foreseeable future, comes with the caveat: it is destined to be fulfilled alone. It doesn't mean I have to be happy with that, or that I will stop chasing the women who interest me, it just means that I have to learn to be content with wishing that I could be with that friend of a friend, but realising intellectually that it will never happen.

I'm just tired of chairs being thrown at my head. I know that at least for right now no one is ready, not even me, to satisfy the want that will always be there but is so difficult to explain.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Last Five Years: The Musical as Emotional Realism

Virtually every year since this blog began I've chronicled my feelings on Valentine's Day. In recent years sadness has turned into frustration, as I've moved past the need to be in a relationship for its own sake. Instead, the source of the misery concentrated on February 14th has been my failure to form a suitable connection that leads to the emotional intimacy I need, even it is brief.

At the end of the last year, I watched the trailer of The Last Five Years and discovered that it would be released in the United States on Valentine's Day. From that moment on I resolved to track down the first copy I could find on the internet, and attempt to watch it on that horrible day. I downloaded the movie on Friday the 13th, because sadly there is not yet a release date for the movie to premiere in Australia. The next day I had my first wonderful Valentine's Day.

As a devotee of the musical I knew that this movie contained something special. For me, the beauty of The Last Five Years is that the movie subverts the conventional musical, both in plot, and in tone.

I adore the classic movie musicals of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, which were all about emotional uplift. Most of them followed the same basic plot pattern. Boy meets girl: cue the 'meet cute' song: girl crushes on boy: cue the longing ballad, an obstacle emerges: cue the song that restates the purpose of the protagonists' love affair, finally girl wins boy: 'LET'S PUT ON A SHOW'.  

The Last Five Years is not a musical about the boy and girl getting together. It is about the boy and the girl getting together, falling apart, reconciling briefly, then falling apart once more: forever. 

The Last Five Years is only about a single relationship (told entirely in song), between Cathy and Jamie. The story is told through alternate songs from each character. Cathy's perspective of the relationship is heard in reverse order, while Jamie's version is told in chronological order. The song are fractured and biased, with the true perspective of the entire relationship only becoming clear once the movie is finished. The genius of this structure lies in the fact that each characters' point of view only up matches once: for the duet in the middle of the movie.

Not only does the viewer understand why Cathy and Jamie fell in love, they also understand why their relationship was toxic for both of them. It tells the audience why they need the power of human connection to survive, but it also tells them the damage that this power can do. It demonstrates to me everything that I have been scared of for my last five years. I want the first blush of love, and the euphoria that it provides. But I am not prepared to feel the devastation that occurs when it all ends.

The Last Five Years perhaps represents the apex of musical sub-genre that I've become attracted to in recent times that does not conform to the traditional plot of a movie musical. Whether it be God Help the Girl or Begin Again, the three best musicals of the past 12 months tell its audience that a few delightful songs cannot cure emotional devastation. This conforms to my worldview wholeheartedly.

Yet, my favourite movie of all time, Singin' in the Rain, is the pure opposite of this archetype. Seeing Singin' in the Rain for the first time was a revolutionary experience. I saw the movie at the beginning of 2011, right in the middle of my darkest depressive episode. Gene Kelly's unbridled optimism in the midst of loneliness helped convince me that I could become well again.  That feeling ignited my passion for musicals. Seeing The Last Five Years for the first time both reminded me of, and surpassed, my experience of watching Singin' in the Rain four years earlier.

I can only speculate why this is so.

Perhaps it is because The Last Five Years was the kind of empathetic musical I was waiting for?
Perhaps it gave me an insight which allowed me to forgive myself for the horrible mistakes I've made?
Perhaps it normalised those mistakes?
Perhaps it represented kind of rational argument I needed to allow myself to fall in love again?
Perhaps it is telling me that I've moved on from the idealised version of love I've held on to?
Perhaps I can't explain why I connected to The Last Five Years at all?

Perhaps that is beauty of the movie?