Celebrated in Young 19th & 20th November, 2005

Mary Lou Cusack

"He Ain't Heavy... A Siblings Perspective", was the theme of the two events that took place in Young, NSW this year to celebrate International Day of people with disAbility. Our local committee enthusiastically joined in with the international celebrations by commencing with an evening at our local theatre, the Southern Cross Cinema on Saturday, 19 November.

Our event commenced with guest speaker, Ms Annette Ellis MP, Federal Member for Canberra who presented on her personal experiences as a sister of both a brother and sister with a disability. Her compelling account gave opportunity for the audience the to hear, both amusing and heartfelt accounts of Annette's' life with her siblings.

Following Ms Ellis, a Scottish film "Afterlife" was featured. This film gave insight into a chapter in the lives of two siblings, one of which had a disability. It was at times confronting as it took a very frank and honest look at life. It was an authentic, pure film focusing on the dynamics of siblings, family relationships and disability.

A sibling panel discussion featuring individuals who had a sibling/s with a disability followed the film. The very honest accounts that these individuals gave about their experiences and insight into the lives of their siblings, conjured emotions of admiration, reflection and awareness. The privilege to be allowed the opportunity to witness such presentations was an experience that certainly caused much discussion, soul searching and debate amongst those in the audience as they enjoyed supper at the end of the evening.

The following day, Sunday, 20 November the second of our local celebrations, a Family Fun Day was held at Carrington Park hosted by the Lions Club of Young. The day fulfilled all expectations and was fun-packed with children's activities, musical and theatrical entertainment, an animal farm, Lions Club BBQ, The Art of Espresso coffee cart and market stalls.

Our local committee was grateful for the community support and felt extremely pleased with the outcome of our events. We stayed close to our core goal of "creating awareness", a conception that evolved six years ago when our initial committee was formed, we realistically acknowledged that there were hardships, heart aches and disappointments that accompanied the lives of people with disabilities but we wanted to present events that celebrated the upside- the joy, the love and the individual identity. We wanted to advocate "seeing the person not just the disability".