This collection of oral interviews regarding disability and the disability rights movement in New South Wales was a collaboration between People with Disability Australia (PWDA), Louise Darmody and the State Library of New South Wales.
It follows a 2017 project of the same theme.
Since PWDA was founded in 1981 our members have tirelessly advocated for a socially just, accessible and inclusive community. The five oral histories in this collection cover a wide range of topics, including fight for the Convention of the Rights for Persons with Disabilities, disability activism, accessibility campaigns, and all stand as a reminder that progress for disability rights in Australia is hard won, and not done.
In this collection are:
Heidi Forrest grew up in Kurri Kurri, in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales. She started volunteering at the Handicapped Person’s Alliance in Castlereagh Street, Sydney in the 1980s and eventually worked for 39 years with the organisation, which later became People with Disability Australia. Forrest was the President of the organisation for four years, 2002-2006. She significantly contributed to the Convention of the Rights for Persons with Disabilities, which was the pre-cursor to Australia’s National Disability Scheme.
Heidi Forrest talks about her upbringing in a small country town, Kurri Kurri, the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales. She discusses her family background of her father’s German ancestry and her mother’s Aboriginal ancestry. Forrest talks about her illness at 13 years old when she had a cerebral aneurysm in her brain stem and her rehabilitation process.
Forrest recounts her 39 year involvement with People with Disability Australia (PWDA) from 1983 onwards, including being President from 2002-2006. She also discusses her involvement as PWDA’s delegation to the United Nations in New York, drafting the Convention of the Rights for Persons with Disabilities, and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Forrest also talks about her studies during her work with PWDA, completing a Bachelor of Social Sciences and Bachelor of Law at University of Newcastle.
John Moxon experienced a spinal cord injury when he crashed his racing car at Oran Park, Narellan, southwest Sydney in April 1970. He studied a Bachelor of Arts at Macquarie University and assisted in establishing the Macquarie Association of Disabled Students. Upon graduation, Moxon volunteered for the Handicapped Persons Alliance at the Disabled Person’s Resource Centre, in Castlereagh Street, Sydney, which later became People With Disability Australia.
John Moxon describes his family background and his early upbringing in Sydney and rural New South Wales. He discusses his interest in Formula Vee car racing and accounts his accident in April 1970, which resulted in Moxon breaking his neck and injuring his spinal cord. Moxon talks about his recovery and rehabilitation process, the struggles he experienced in a wheelchair, and the lack of public accessibility.
Moxon talks about his Bachelor of Arts studies at Macquarie University, establishing the Macquarie Association of Disabled Students, which advocates for people with disability, and producing and presenting a weekly university radio program called ‘Wheeling Free’ and later titled, ‘Freedom Bound’.
Moxon talks about his volunteer work for the Handicapped Persons Alliance at the Disabled Person’s Resource Centre, in Castlereagh Street, Sydney, which later became People With Disability Australia. He describes his work with the New South Wales Public Service from 1988-2006, and establishing Moxon, Green and Associates, a consultancy firm that carried out access auditing for the government and private sector. Moxon discusses his views regarding disability advocacy and euthanasia.
Margaret Moxon has worked as a librarian and as the Information Co-ordinator at the Handicapped Persons Alliance at the Disabled Person’s Resource Centre in Castlereagh Street, Sydney, which later became the People With Disability Australia. Due to a complication at birth, she required resuscitation, which damaged her vocal cords and has resulted in a speech impediment.
Margaret Moxon begins her interview explaining her condition of breathing and speaking simultaneously, a result of vocal cord damage when she was resuscitated at birth. She describes her family’s background and her upbringing in Carlingford and surrounds in northwest Sydney, New South Wales.
Moxon talks about her career as a librarian from 1966-1981. She describes her career change working as the Information Co-ordinator at the Handicapped Persons Alliance at the Disabled Person’s Resource Centre, in Castlereagh Street, Sydney, which later became People With Disability Australia. She then describes her work for the New South Wales Public Service from 1984-2000, working across various disability and ageing positions in a range of portfolios, including her role as Policy Officer for the Disabled Policy Unit.
Moxon shares her views about the National Disability Insurance Scheme, her involvement in supporting the scheme and People with Disability Australia.
David Abello was born in inner-west Sydney and became involved in the gay and lesbian movement in 1975. He advocates for the disability and LGBTQIA+ communities. Abello helped organise the first Mardi Gras Parade in Sydney, 1978. He was a member of the Gay Liberation Quire and the Gaywaves Gay Radio Collective in the 1980s, and was a founding member of the queer disability activist group, Access Plus – Spanning Identities. From the 1980s he worked in the Commonwealth Department of Employment and Education in West Sydney as an Employment Counsellor and then became its state coordinator of disability employment.
David Abello discusses his family background and his upbringing, and the impact of growing up being queer on his schooling and career. He talks about his work supporting the disability and LGBTIQA+ communities for 30 years with various organisations including Gaywaves Gay Radio Collective, Active Job Services, People With Disability Australia, which he was President from 2018-2020. Abello speaks about the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras event and provides a detailed account of the first parade in 1978, and the mistreatment of gay people by the policy in the 1980s. He also reflects on his return to education as a public servant to complete his Honors degree, and then a Doctorate at University of Technology, Ultimo, New South Wales.
Ben Fogarty has worked for New South Wales Disability Discrimination Legal Centre, People with Disability Australia (PWDA), Intellectual Disability Rights Service, Homeless Persons Legal Service Sydney, and currently the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.
In this interview Sydney barrister, Ben Fogarty discusses his legal career focusing on intellectual property before moving into the community legal sector. He examines the important advocacy role the PWDA plays across the community and shares his reflections and observations on the process of drafting the UN (United Nations) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). He notes that the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) and the Royal Commission are a natural flow-on from the Commonwealth Government’s involvement and commitment to the UN Convention, with Australia being one of the first signatories in 2007.