One day, I’ll need to admit to my two year old daughter that I’ve made some huge mistakes in life. Some of these hurt others.
Growing up in Canberra as a teenager back in the 80s, amongst other mistakes, I remember laughing at a girl because she talked funny. I look back now through adult eyes and embarrassingly recall the naive teenage me who was picking on someone with a hearing and intellectual disability.
I didn’t see her as a person with feelings, just like me, instead I only saw her differences. I didn’t see her as someone’s loved daughter, sister or friend, I only saw how she stood out. My thoughtlessness >must have really hurt her as she recounted the story to my mum several years ago while standing in the line at the local shops.
Twenty five years later, my life has been enriched by connecting with people with disability and their families through my work. But I feel as though I’ve gained more from them than I’ve given back.
Through getting to know people with disability, I’ve had the privilege of learning about real beauty, humour, honesty and patience. I have also gained an awareness that people with disability often experience times when they are excluded and don’t feel welcomed. Like when mums have told me that their kids with disability aren’t invited to birthday parties, or when I heard a friend say she felt invisible when going out with her sister with disability, or a dad who asked just who is going to give my child a job?
I want my two year old daughter without disability to grow up in a more inclusive and welcoming community. I hope she will include kids with disability in her play and parties. I hope she will notice others as the same as her. I hope she will be a more understanding and empathetic teenager than I ever was.
I’ve been talking with a small group of friends to create a fundraising initiative for Boundless, the Centenary of Canberra National Playground. Boundless opened on Saturday 11 October 2014 and is Canberra’s first all abilities playground.
The ACT Storybook Garden competition is now open for children and young people and their adult helpers – parents, grandparents, teachers or other adults. It is open to residents of Canberra and the surrounding region.
The competition is about creating miniature gardens using recycled and natural materials. A storybook garden can be based on anything you might find in a book – a garden for fairies, super heroes, cars, dinosaurs, turtles, toads or witches – any story you can imagine.
Entry fees for the competition – $10 – will go directly to Boundless. The competition closes on 26 November and winners will be announced on 3 December 2014 which is International Day of People with Disability.
The competition will be judged by Rodney Toll from Rodney’s Plants Plus, Genevieve Jacobs, 666 ABC Canberra radio presenter and Sandie Parkes, co-owner of the Green Shed. There will be prize packs for pre-schoolers, primary students and high school students as well as their helpers.
The competition’s generous prize sponsors include the National Dinosaur Museum, Rodney’s Plants Plus, Questacon, Cockington Green Gardens, the National Zoo and Aquarium, Cantys bookshop, Wilomark Imagery, Koomarri, Dendy Cinemas, Zone 3 Laser Tag, The Green Shed, SegGlideRide, Gardening Australia, the George Gregan Foundation, Canberra Magic Mini Gardens, the Tutu Program Australia, I-Play Belconnen, Gardening 4 Kids as well as a number of individuals in the community.
The competition isn’t about making a picture perfect mini-garden. It is about spending time together in the garden with loved ones, sharing stories and using our imagination to create something awesome that will help to build an inclusive playground in Canberra.
I hope that one day I get to meet the girl I laughed at and tell her I am sorry for the hurt I caused her. And I hope that my daughter grows up with the knowledge that all of us can do small things, everyday that help make Canberra a more friendly place to be.