Posted by: Lisa Hill | February 12, 2021

Author event: Growing Up Disabled in Australia (2021), edited by Carly Findlay at the Geelong Library

This event at the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre was live-streamed and subsequently available to view at this link, and the sheer delight in being ‘in person’ at an author event was palpable.

This is the blurb for the event:

One in five Australians has a disability. And disability presents itself in many ways. Yet disabled people are still underrepresented in the media and in literature. ‘Growing Up Disabled in Australia‘ is the fifth book in the highly acclaimed, bestselling Growing Up series. It includes interviews with prominent Australians such as Senator Jordon Steele-John and Paralympian Isis Holt, as well as poetry and graphic art, and more than 40 original pieces by writers with a disability or chronic illness. Led by Editor, writer and appearance activist Carly Findlay, and featuring a number of Victorian-based contributors, this panel discussion event explores some of the most pressing issues faced by those living with a disability.

Editor Carly Findlay OAM was in conversation with contributors Alistair Baldwin and Lucy Carpenter.  Carly began by inviting Alistair and Lucy to tell their stories.  Alistair’s is called ‘Hippotherapy’ and is about a childhood experience with riding for the disabled.  Carly says this story is very funny, and the subsequent reading proved it (which might not be what you’d expect).  Lucy’s is called ‘This is My Song’ and it’s about living with albinism and impaired vision.

Lucy also talked a bit about the importance of disabled people having control of their stories: she disagrees with the common representation that disabled people are unhappy about their lives and would like their lives to change.  But this is not true, she says, disabled people can and do enjoy their lives just like anyone else.  Knowing this can empower young people and people who are newly diagnosed. It will give confidence and comfort to them to see disabled people out and about and in the media, she thinks…

Alistair expanded on this: it’s not just about agency, it’s also about quality because disabled people are best placed to write their own stories because they know what it’s like.  Alistair (who is also a comedian) delivered some very funny one-liners, which are impossible to reproduce, just watch the video!

What’s the biggest barrier being faced?  Alistair says for him it’s access to an audience. Disabled people do a great job advocating for themselves, but if they can’t get into a room, they can’t get access.  The pandemic has meant that abled people have needed live-streaming just like disabled people do, and he’s hopeful that this will remain in place as life opens up again.  Accessibility is a hackneyed issue, he says, but that doesn’t make it less true.  For Lucy, it’s subtle discrimination: she thinks that non-disabled people think they’re more accepting than they really are.  Every now and again something is said that reveals this, but she thinks that increased exposure will change it.

What’s the most ridiculous micro-aggression ever said to you?

Alistair says that complete strangers come up to him and ask what his leg braces are for, and he replies ‘Attention, and he’s glad it works!”  And then there’s the weirdo who kept stressing that magnets that would fix his problem.  (Carly says that she’s found magnets touted as a cure for everything).   Lucy told about being at the train station one night, and a very drunk man came up to her and said that she was walking better than him, and he could see. Carly said that it’s often on the train that these things happen: she was once if she was asked if she’d been smearing lollies on her face.  (She has a skin condition).

There were readings, and also questions from the audience.  The first one was interesting: it brought out how a visible disability can bring out discrimination, but having an invisible one means you don’t get the help you might need. Another interesting question was ‘how do you decide what is, and isn’t disability” and Carly replied that she used a ‘social model’ of disability which included ‘physical, mental and social disability’ and she was keen to ensure that the book comprises such diverse situations.  Not everyone ‘grows up’ recognising that they are disabled, because they never ‘see themselves’ as part of that community.

It was, as was noted in the thanks to the participants, an insightful session.  Thanks to the Geelong Library for making it available.

Please note: the event was supported by Auslan interpreters, but unfortunately the video doesn’t show them on screen.

PS The video begins with 5 minutes of PPTs.  But do not press the play button because that will take you to some other totally irrelevant You Tube video!

Editor: Carly Findlay
Title: Growing Up Disabled in Australia
Publisher: Black Inc, 2021
ISBN: 9781760641436

Growing Up Disabled in Australia is available in print and as an eBook from Black Inc and from Fishpond: Growing Up Disabled in Australia


  1. thanks for this notification. I am disabled and will watch the presentation and have reserved the book at my local library

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s great, Helen, I’m happy to be able to share like this.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Although I am not disabled with my MS to any great extent except fatigue in the heat, I cannot tell you the number of times I have been told I could probably be cured if I allowed bees to sting me. There was something in the media awhile back that mentioned bee stings might work. All you can do is adress it with humour while shaking your head.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL I’ve had the magnets too when I had a crook back…
      But seriously, you have to wonder what it is that empowers a complete stranger to offer advice like this on public transport? Are they people whose mothers did not quietly insist that they not stare or ask unwanted questions, so they grew up thinking that what was forgiveable in small children, was still ok in adulthood?


  3. I have this book on reserve at the library as well. Thank you for sharing.


    • All the books I’ve read so far in this series have been excellent. It’s the authentic voices of lived experience that make them so good. Compulsory reading, IMO.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You might like to know that Alistair’s piece was published in The Guardian last week. My interest was piqued because in my Horse & Hound days we always did stories about Riding for the Disabled.


    • Thanks for that… I’m a proper Guardian subscriber but I rarely see their interesting book stuff because I get irritated scrolling through all the sport and rubbishy lifestyle stuff and close it down. I should be more patient, I know…


      • I’m a paying subscriber too, but I use the phone app, which is excellent because you can select what you want to look at…


        • LOL I think that you and I have a different attitude to phones…

          Liked by 1 person

          • LOL. I use my phone for practically everything these days and rarely touch the laptop! The WordPress app is brilliant – that’s how I read and comment on everyone’s blogs and compose most of my blog posts. Means I can do it sitting in a park on a lunch break or in a coffee shop having my coffee; I don’t have to be at home in front of the computer (which feels too much like what I do between 9 and 5 every week day).


  5. […] may recall that I reported on an author event about this book in which I mentioned that the book is based on ‘the social model of disability.’ […]


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