Vale Stella Young

The ABC online reported today on the death of Stella Young over the weekend at age 32. Stella passed away with her family and friends around her. 

Comedian, performer, writer, editor and disability activist, Stella was well known and loved by the Australian community. She will be sadly missed.

From the ABC report:

Ms Young was born in Stawell, in country Victoria, with Osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder that causes bones to break easily.

I want to live in a world where we don't have such low expectations of disabled people that we are congratulated for getting out of bed and remembering our own names in the morning.

Her advocacy began at the age of 14 when she conducted an access audit on the shops on the local main street.

She was an ambassador for Our Watch and has been a member of various boards and committees in the disability sector.

Ms Young proudly described herself as a "crip" despite objections by others.

"People get all up in arms when I describe myself as a crip because what they hear is the word 'cripple' and they hear a word you're not allowed to say anymore," she told 720 ABC Perth in 2012.

Also from the ABC report:

Stella Young was 'incisive, challenging and provocative'

ABC managing director Mark Scott described Ms Young as "an unforgettable communicator and a passionate advocate".

"As a writer and broadcaster Stella was sharp and incisive, challenging and provocative," he said in a statement.

"She was very warm and generous, the first to laugh and to make us all laugh.

"Stella helped us understand disability issues by sharing with a raw honesty about her own life and forcing us to reconsider how we think about disability and create an environment where those with disability can best get on with their own lives.

"She took great delight in challenging conventional wisdom and lazy thinking."

Ms Young was a member of the Victorian Disability Advisory Council, the Ministerial Advisory Council for the Department of Victorian Communities, the Youth Disability Advocacy Service and Women with Disabilities Victoria.

She was a two-time state finalist in Melbourne International Comedy Festival's Raw Comedy competition and hosted eight seasons of Australia's first disability culture program, No Limits, on Channel 31.

She had been a regular contributor to ABC's The Drum since 2011, writing about issues for disabled people in the wider community and the disability services sector.

Ms Young also wrote for Mamamia and The Punch.

She campaigned hard against the idea that having a disability made her exceptional or brave.

"I want to live in a world where a 15-year-old girl sitting in her bedroom watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer isn't referred to as achieving anything because she's doing it sitting down," she said in April this year.

"I want to live in a world where we don't have such low expectations of disabled people that we are congratulated for getting out of bed and remembering our own names in the morning.

"I want to live in a world where we value genuine achievement for disabled people, and I want to live in a world where a kid in Year 11 in a Melbourne high school is not one bit surprised that his new teacher is a wheelchair user."

"Disability doesn't make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does."

Ms Young studied to become a teacher, before beginning a career in journalism.

In recent years Stella spoke out in very clear terms about her opposition to euthanasia & assisted suicide. In her last article on the subject posted on the ABC's Ramp Up website, Stella gave a personal testimony in reflecting ont he recent case of Brittany Maynard in the USA.

I'm a white, middle-class, educated, informed woman who would likely be able to engage in end-of-life discussions as articulately and clearly as Maynard. But I am loathe to give doctors any more control over my life than they already have. In a context where disability is viewed as deficit, it's important that we do not lump disability and terminal illness into the same basket.

Doctors are not fortune tellers and neither am I. Having lived with disability since birth does not afford me immunity from illness. Of course, when the time comes, I would like a dignified death. But while I'm alive, I also want a medical profession that is just as willing to keep me alive as they are to assist me to die.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Stella's family and friends at this time.

Articles by Stella from the HOPE website:

Dying with dignity: let's focus more on the latter
A Different Take on World Cup Opening Kick
Dead is not better than disabled
International Day of People with Disability
Choice in euthanasia & assisted suicide - nice idea but dead wrong
Disability - a fate worse than death