Electronic Graffiti

28 January 2015

Isn't it fantastic to be in the midst of an Australian mainstream television series where people with disabilities tell our own stories.  New Zealand has had one for a decade, and we are finally catching up.  I'm loving the "electronic graffiti" discussion about the series, and with your continued support we can help change attitudes.

I first found Attitude Pictures when seeking tenders to make the Twenty Years Twenty Stories series for the Australian Human Rights Commission.  We wanted twenty Australians with disabilities to tell their stories of how a DDA complaint changed their lives, and the lives of hundreds of other Australians.  We did this in five minute films.  Attitude Pictures made ten of those films, and they are great.

Attitude Pictures is an internationally recognised company specialising in television and digital disability content.  It has a ten year history of making high quality documentaries for a mainstream global audience, where people with disabilities tell our stories. Attitude Pictures employ a majority of staff with various disabilities across its work.

The stories it tells are real life experience - the positives and the negatives, the frustrations and the joys.  It follows the "nothing about us without us" mantra.

Across a series, the stories reflect the diversity of disability.  They also reflect the journey from first dealing with disability to the greater awareness and pride we gain as we understand that disability is part of the human condition.  They show that it is people's attitudes towards us, and the barriers which society erects, which limit our opportunities to be fully included in society.

A further huge benefit of Attitude's work is that the programmes do not disappear once they have gone to air.  They are available on the accessible web platform Attitude Live, with closed captions and audio descriptions on much of the content.  This platform is an ongoing resource for people with disabilities, our families, service providers and the broader community.

Attitude Pictures makes the New Zealand Attitude series with the support of a grant from New Zealand On Air.  A group of us in Australia wanted to see similar programmes aired here.  We also wanted Australian programmes to be available as an ongoing resource.  We decided to start the Attitude Australia Foundation to raise funds for the programmes, and partnered with Attitude Pictures who would make them.

The ABC agreed to air seven of Attitude Pictures programmes, as a way of introducing the concept.  The programmes were gifted to the ABC, and selected for some Australian content.

The Attitude Australia Foundation commenced a crowd-sourcing campaign to fund the first programme of the planned Australian series.  The foundation will, once we have those funds, approach governments, corporates and philanthropists to fund further programmes.  ANZ are already on board, providing the Foundation with a full-time seconded employee.  What we are able to raise will determine how many programmes there are in the series, planned to go to air in the second half of this year.

As Chair of the Foundation, I have spoken about Attitude in numerous media interviews.  These, and the electronic graffiti about the programmes has been very encouraging.

The foundation asked well-known bloggers and columnists, from inside and outside the disability sector, to write about the programmes. Others have written of their own accord, which is great.  We asked outside as well as inside the sector because our aim is to change attitudes towards us in the broader community, and you can't do that if the sector just talks amongst itself.

Samantha Connor took us on her journey from concern to support.  El Gibbs challenged us in the way "a great story" was told.  And Jacki Brown in Daily Life expressed her disappointment, and the need to show people with life-long disabilities.

Jacki asserts that "Amanda's is not the only story of disability", which of course is true.  But the stories are an honest account of where the narrators with disabilities are at that moment in time.  We will see a range of disabilities, which include people who have lived with their disabilities all of their lives as the programmes continue, and in a longer series.  We will also see pride in our disabilities play a major role.

The way a story is told on television can be impacted upon by many factors.  The programmes reflect a balance of the main characters, and a representation of relationships.

The various views expressed, and the responses, are genuinely appreciated by the programme makers and the Foundation.  If a television series such as this is not challenging, and is not challenged by some of those who watch it, then it's probably not up to the mark.

We have plans for some great blogs in the next three weeks.  Watch your social media!

As well as seeking funds, we are also seeking your suggestions for stories, which Attitude Pictures will consider when they make the Australian series.  When the series is made here, Attitude Pictures will follow its "nothing about us without us" mantra, and its employment policy, so many on the production team will be Australians with a disability.

We will continue to seek support for this series because we know that changing attitudes changes lives. I know that from my own experience, and from the experience of many with whom I have shared my advocacy in the disability sector.  Because we are using the voices of people with disabilities, and those close to us, from various places in our journeys, we won't always speak from the place some of us have reached.  But because the stories are real, and told by us, they will change attitudes in the broader community.

This series is the best chance we have in the next few years to get our stories, told by us and made by us, in Australian mainstream media.  Please help us to change attitudes.


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