17 March 2023

What does Canberra Grammar have in common with the Eiffel Tower?

| Travis Radford
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Canberra Grammar and Eiffel Tower

The French landmark and a Canberra school have something in common. Photos: Canberra Grammar School, Muhammed Mustapha.

Canberra Grammar School has agreed for its quad building to become the first Australian landmark to light up for World Down Syndrome Day.

Past years have seen Paris’s Eiffel Tower, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa and New York’s Empire State Building illuminated on 21 March.

But until 2023, no Australian landmark had been illuminated for the global Down syndrome awareness event.

Moira Maloney, whose brother Joe has Down syndrome, set out to change that this year.

“My father thought he was going to live forever … and then at the age of 62 he got a prognosis of cancer, which was terminal,” she said.

“And the thing that worried him most was what would happen to my younger brother.”

Joe and Moira Maloney

Joe Maloney with his sister Moira, who organised for Canberra Grammar to be illuminated for World Down Syndrome Day. Photo: Moira Maloney.

Moira said she wanted to show that people with Down syndrome, such as her “fit, fabulous and 46 [-year-old]” brother Joe, could still lead full lives.

“If dad could see how far we’ve come and the life that Joe now leads, he would just be so proud and I think we can all be proud as Australians of how far we’ve come,” she said.

“The message is while there’s so much work still to do in this space, I think as a community, sometimes we’ve just got to step back and recognise the progress that we have made.”

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Confirmed speakers for World Down Syndrome Day include Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart and former students Daniel and Ben Smart from local disability support organisation Everyday Champions.

Once the lights are turned on at twilight, selfies are taken in front of the illuminated landmark and shared on social media to raise awareness and encourage engagement.

Canberra filmmaker Ashleigh Smart’s 2022 short film about Joe’s life, Not Your Average Joe, has also been included in the evening’s program.

“He [Joe] absolutely loves the limelight … he loves any event where he’s the centre of attention, so he’s a true extrovert,” Moira said.

She said she wanted her brother to be a role model for older people with disabilities, who she said had been underrepresented.

“Sometimes people don’t expect much, and when you don’t expect much, that’s what happens: you don’t get much,” she said.

“So, I’m keen to show that you can be Down syndrome, 46 and fit as a fiddle and fully engaged.”

The theme of World Down Syndrome Day 2023 is ”With us, not for us”.

“It’s not making decisions for people, but enabling them to make their own decisions and supporting them to do what they want to do,” Moira said.

“You make one decision and that gives you the confidence to make more … and sometimes you might make the wrong decision but that’s OK too.”

Joe Maloney and Ashleigh Smart

Ashleigh Smart won best director at the 2022 Focus on Ability Short Film Festival for her documentary about Joe. Photo: Moira Maloney.

World Down Syndrome Day coincides with Harmony Week, with Moira and Canberra Grammar deciding to marry the events.

Moira said she initially looked to the parliamentary triangle for a building to light up but came up against planning approvals.

“I’m just gobsmacked with the amount of support that I’ve received to do this from Canberra Grammar,” she said.

“It’s not something you can just do as an individual. It is something that you need the community behind you to do.

“And what is so exciting is that building is a historic landmark. Everyone in Canberra either knows it or has heard of it.”

Joe Maloney

Moira said she wanted Joe to be a role model for older people with disabilities. Photo: Moira Maloney.

Moira invited anyone interested to join her and Joe from 6:45 pm on Tuesday, 21 March, at Canberra Grammar.

“It is open to anyone who feels that they would like to be part of it. It’s not a restricted audience,” she said.

“If you care about this, for whatever reason, please come and join us and help us celebrate.”

Register free on Eventbrite.

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Stephen Saunders7:58 am 19 Mar 23

English has a term for everything. This headline, in my language we call it Drawing A Long Bow.

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