There was a huge reaction to the death of Stella Young.
News sites, both here and internationally, carried stories of her achievements. There were heartbreaking memoirs from dear friends. Social media did what it does best in sad times – gave a voice to all those who had come to know Stella, either as colleagues or as those with a disability who felt she spoke for them.
On Twitter she received accolades from both Education Minister, Christopher Pyne and the Managing Director of the ABC, Mark Scott.
So if even the great and mighty will sorely miss Stella’s skills as an advocate and communicator, there’s just one thing to ask… why did Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews cut funding to the ABC disability website Ramp Up in June this year?
Ms.Young lost her job as its editor. The site was mothballed. What plan does the ABC have to restore that voice that’s so vital to many millions of disabled Australians?
Bring back Ramp Up! Bring it back NOW! Do it for Stella Young!
Today I’ll be contacting Christopher Pyne @cpyne ; Kevin Andrews @kevinandrewsmp and Mark Scott @mscott and using the hashtag #stellaforever when I ask that Ramp Up be revived.
There is a petition which you can sign here. (I’ll be writing too.)
When the website was axed this June, there was an uproar from its many readers and contributors. Activist George Taleporos was escorted by police from the Melbourne premises of the ABC in a rowdy protest.
On the day Ms Young said: “For many years we’ve been really downtrodden and disempowered, and it’s really nice to see people fired up and objecting to our voice being taken away.”
Writing in The Guardian, Taleporos said: “Our discussion space will be gone. The voice of people with disabilities, a voice the ABC has nurtured for the past three and a half years, will be silenced. While it is expected that Stella Young will remain employed as an ABC writer and broadcaster, the forum that successfully captured the rich diversity of the disability community will no longer be a part of the ABC.”
When I spoke to George yesterday he asked the very good question: “Now that Stella’s voice is no more… what happens next?”
A crowdfunding campaign to replace the site was, sadly, unsuccessful. (And should such a site have be crowd funded? NO.) I know that the ABC is cutting it’s cloth, but slashing Ramp Up is tearing at our social fabric.
When changes to the Disability Pension are causing uncertainty and it’s rumoured that the government is also about to defund a whole raft of advocacy organisations, seems to me there’s an even greater need than ever for Ramp Up. It was a place where those with a disability could speak plainly.
As activist Carly Findlay explained here: ” It was a place for necessary, intelligent commentary about disability. And its readership was not limited to the disability community. It was an integral part of Australian media, giving people with disability an amplified voice – and a small income.”
Perhaps Kevin Andrews just doesn’t care to listen? Is that it? I hope not.
In a call to the ABC, it was confirmed that the national broadcaster is incorporating disability issues across its digital services in an “integrated” way – meaning that stories that are pertinent to the disabled will be in the general mix. There’s no special home for them as there are for Indigenous, kids, education, parenting, sport, arts, religion and ethics issues on the ABC homepage. (Ramp Up is there, but you’ll see it’s all but abandoned.)
Now you may think that “disability” can be served across all those existing sites – but that’s not how many in the disabled community- who make up 20% of the population – see it.
They want a place to call home. One written and shaped by the disabled themselves. And let’s face it, the commercial media won’t provide it.
It’s written in the ABC charter that it must “contribute to a sense of national identity”. That identity was so enhanced by the much admired Stella Young and all she brought to the table. Where will we find our next inspiring voice, if there’s no public meeting place?
Board member of the NDIS (and disability policy wonk), Rhonda Galbally says: “Ramp Up was a very important media presence for people with a disability and their families. A place to share their experiences and really connect. It was also a place where you could get contemporary and immediate messages of the impact of government policy. It’s a huge loss .”
“We could honour Stella by re-establishing Ramp Up. We could even rename it in her honour,” she suggested.