Sunday, October 27, 2013

Viva to the Diva!!

Some of you will have heard about the Bolshy Divas and if you haven't yet then I can't imagine that you'll have to wait too much longer...

The Divas are a group of women (there may be a few Divo with honorary membership...not sure about that...) who are...

'...disability activists in the style of feminist masked avengers, exposing and discussing discrimination, unmet need and issues which affect people with disability and their families.

Bolshy Divas use humour, art and passion to talk about the overlooked, the unfair and the subtext behind real issues which affect Australians with disability.

There are no requirements to be a Bolshy Diva, just owning a desire to bring about change, a sense of humour and a tonne of 'bolshiness' - enough guts to talk about the issues openly and honestly.  We could be anyone - we are everywhere.  We rank amongst the almost four million people with disability, plus their families.  We are strong.  We are Bolshy Divas.'

Check them out at

I'm a not very bolshy member of the Divas. In fact, the other night I dreamt that my Diva status was revoked because I was too wishy-washy. Remember the scene in Beau Geste where he is thrown out of the Foreign Legion? And had his epaulettes ripped from his uniform? And was completely humiliated? dream was a bit like that. It made me cry...
I told one of the Divas about it the next day (one who had been involved in stripping me of my status)...she counselled me and we decided that it was probably just the effect of the mojitos from the night before She assured me that my pale pink Diva status is still intact.

Anyway, this is not to the point...

The Divas are extraordinary women. Tireless advocates. Creative, innovative and sometimes just plain rude campaigners. They are funny. The use the 'F' word...a lot...
They are not for the faint hearted...
Their passion for the Australia that works for visceral...their delight is sparkling and effervescent...their despair howling and raw. 
They mostly have some 'skin in the game' and so this is real life for them, not a theoretical or philosophical interest. The work they do is about their real lives or the life of someone in their family. 

Sam Connor is the Diva who doesn't sleep. I'd swear that she hangs upside down in a cave for part of the day except that she has such a phenomenal work rate...e.g Starecase magazine...produced in a day...


Sam has her eye on everything. She's been involved in highlighting the abuses of people with disabilities that occur within institutional care. As a society, our tolerance for this sort of abuse is very high.  Reports of people with disabilities being murdered by their parents and the derisory sentences handed down to them fail to move most of if somehow it just doesn't matter so much...the life of a person with a disability is worth less or the strain that families live under is somehow so great as to justify or even excuse the most heinous of crimes. 

We KNOW that life in an institution is one of the least safe options for people with disabilities and the tolerance for casual cruelty or neglect is high. People live with other people they are afraid of...with staff who sometimes don't like them very conditions so stripped down bleak and brutal that most of us would find them intolerable. 

Some of our most distressed citizens live in places and with people who offer them no comfort at all. Can you imagine that?

Today Sam posted some details about an organisation being set up in Queensland, I think, called 'Shouldering the Journey' (put your SRV head on and deconstruct that name!)

Read it and really, feel your blood run cold...
Read it and ask yourself questions about how likely it is that a Board can operate objectively when 50% of its membership all seem to be part of the same family?
Read it and wonder how it can be that a segregated, farming community - a sanctuary, no less...for people with Autism...can be a 'truly inclusive community'?

Y'know doesn't matter how pretty the farm will is an institution.
Y'know doesn't matter how much we intend to safeguard or how much care we take...people will, one way or another, be abused.
Y'know what...people will know about it for a long time but nothing will be done until A. REALLY. BAD. THING. HAPPENS.

Devalued, vulnerable people + 'behaviours' that seem to justify some rigorous form of control + isolated, remote, congregated living conditions = a disaster waiting to happen

To quote Dave Hingsburger...'You can't make a chicken sandwich out of chicken matter how much mayonnaise you add...'

All of this despite everything we know about the risks to people from institutional living.

All of this despite the rhetoric of the day. Jeez, Australia...what's going on? 

Institutional living...PLEASE BE AWARE...the Diva who doesn't sleep has you in her sights...and even the pale pink, wishy washy, scaredy cat diva can feel her brave getting up...

'Somebody around here's got to do something...

it's just a bloody shame it has to be us!'
Gerry Garcia