Writers Victoria are proud of our association with VALiD and the Dulcie Stone Writing Awards for writers with intellectual disability. Now in its third year, the Awards are drawing out remarkable perspectives and vivid stories from writers who don’t sit around and wait quietly for their turn.
Over 80 people attended the Wheeler Centre in July to celebrate this year’s Awards. We also remembered Dulcie Stone, the Awards’ founder, who died recently aged 95. Dulcie was well aware of the importance of creative writing in the development of self-advocacy and self-esteem, and she was determined that people with intellectual disability should develop these tools for themselves. She knew that writing and storytelling is a vital `companion on the journey' for people with intellectual disability as they strive for control over their own lives. Our heartfelt thanks go to Kevin Stone, Dulcie’s son and CEO at VALiD for sharing with us some of his memories of Dulcie and his reflections on her work.
For the 48 writers who contributed to this years’ Dulcie Stone Writing Competition, having a say means many different things. It means talking to your council about road safety, sharing your dreams and hopes, defining your goals and achieving them one by one. It means writing about things that are upsetting and sad, as well as things that make you feel proud and happy. It means fighting for accessibility and support. It means sharing the simple joys in life – your favourite foods, your best fan fiction and, your love of fashion, just to name a few.
Judges Paul Dunn, Heather Forsyth and Dom Moollan from VALiD and Writers Victoria’s Write-ability Project Manager Lyndel Caffrey were impressed by the many different approaches to the topic. 6 writers were named as winners this year, including 2 in the new category for Storyboards. Two writers were highly commended. Below are some of Lyndel Caffrey’s comments on the award-winning work.
Ivan Estebeth – Having My Say
Ivan’s piece begins with silence and tears: he is bullied and left out because he’s different, and doesn’t always get the help he needs. We meet a little boy with a soaking wet hanky who doesn’t get invited to parties, and celebrate as he grows to a mature young man making friends for life. Ivan’s final words are a message of hope to everyone who has to work hard to fit in: ‘It’s important to speak up. If you keep quiet no one will know what you want. I am part of the community and people want to hear me.’
Timothy Jong – Getting To Know Me
Tim’s first sentence ‘It was wintery freezing night of June when I decided to pop out of my Mum,’ is irresistible. Tim’s story explains how his Cerebral Palsy was diagnosed and how it affects him. He is an engaging, funny and exciting writer with the writers’ knack of grabbing the reader’s attention. Tim’s piece – and his reading on the day, using assistive technology and inviting me to take part in the reading - is an object lesson in the different ways people with CP have their say.
Grace Rose Turner – Don’t Abandon Me
This storyboard is all about exclusion. When Cass is told that her mother hasn’t paid for a school camping trip, she protests. But no one listens. Cass’s emotional journey from excitement, to shock, to polite request, to protest and then tears as the bus leaves without her emphasises why having a say is so important. Cass does everything she can but still no one listens to her. The final panel “Don’t abandon me” demands fairness and equity for all.
Matt Robertson – My Experience with Anxiety
Matt’s storyboard is a step by step, user friendly guide to managing the extremes of anxiety and depression. In open, friendly, practical prose, that fits beautifully with his colourful and original art, Matt’s storyboard offers hope and positivity, acceptance and understanding. His kind, open and tolerant approach brings us to a happy ending. Dark times pass, and it is possible to choose light and its infinite possibilities.
Buffy Dee Lasun – Hope Beyond the Battle
Buffy’s writing is vivid and arresting, a call not just for understanding, but for equitable funding of support staff and for good design, accessibility and safety in the buildings we live and work in. Buffy’s essay is an emotional call to arms, a poetic manifesto and an urgent demand for action for people with disability. It is testament to the long history of disabled people being ignored and turned away from by mainstream society. ‘Hope Beyond the Battle’ demands attention: ‘Please help us. We are people, not imagination.’ It is outstanding not just for its content, but also for the beauty, courage and originality of her composition.
Teagan Connor – Colours of Autumn
This parable about a girl who decides she can no longer bear to hide behind a mask is unique and arresting. When the girl removes her mask, she exposes herself as different– but is able to see the world and its colours more clearly and explore it more freely. The joy of living without masks makes her isolation from her masked society almost bearable, but will she be able to convince others of what they are missing out on, or will she be forced to put her mask back on? This fairy tale with its moral of ‘Don’t be afraid to be who you are’ has many beautiful moments, but it is the image of a mask forgotten under a tree that will stay with me.
Adam Thrussell for his beautiful and gritty ‘Sunrise Over Inkerman Road St. Kilda,’ part contemporary crime report, and part reflection on the violent history of St. Kilda street names.
Eliza Brodie, for ‘Having My Say,’ her insightful reflections on her journey through education and the ways she has learned to speak up and make her own choices.
The theme of the 2020 Dulcie Stone Writing Awards will be ‘A Good Life - Are We There Yet?’ Details of the competition will be available on our website closer to the date.