Across Australia, disabled people continue to be oppressed, thrown into poverty, prisons, institutions, and regularly denied the medical and social care needed to survive. This struggle is only amplified for Bla(c)k, Brown, Queer and other multiply marginalised disabled people, with many of us subjected to ongoing violence.
Tackling this head on, is newly formed community group Australian Disability Justice Network, that has a clear focus on ‘filling the gap’ left by the shortcomings of other funding and resources, as Julia Rose Bak tells Star Observer,
“The disability justice network came about because a lot of us disabled people living in Australia were getting our resources around disability justice from America and a lot of organisations based in the USA. There was training, workshops and panels coming out of America, but there didn’t seem to be any centralised movement in Australia.
‘This was something we could do ourselves’
“We realised we were waiting for somebody to create this, so eventually it clicked that this was something we could do ourselves. It was through a few conversations that we decided to start this and get some of the big voices in disability rights and justice in these conversations to see what people wanted this to look like. The collective is very new at this point, and the mutual aid fundraiser is the first big thing we are focusing on.
“The history of disability activism in Australia isn’t as obvious or as loud as say the disability activism in America. On a structural level, I think potentially there are massive communities in America which centre around other really important issues and a big thing for disability justice was that members in America recognised ableism within those groups and with those abled body friends and comrades.
“There might have been disability justice networks and movements that have existed throughout Australia, but because of the nature of ablism and the way people get erased from history, I myself being a disabled activist in 2021-just don’t know about them.” Julia adds
As Bak tells us, the fundraiser which started on the 15th of April has already raised over 5000 dollars.
Fund Was Started To Help A Community Member
Originally the fund was started because a First Nations community member needed urgent medical care and they had put a call out on social media through their local network asking for money. Though in raising as much as they have in just two short weeks- it became apparent that they could help many more individuals.
This grassroots disability justice community group that I am part of is URGENTLY fundraising for a life-saving surgery for a disabled Aboriginal person. We hope to hit our first target by Saturday April 17 2021.
— Judy Kuo (@judykuo_) April 15, 2021
“Originally it was just to raise money for this one person, but money was coming in so quickly and there seemed to be a real energy behind the fundraiser. We also figured that there is a constant need for mutual aid from disabled and chronically ill community members.” Bak explains.
“We have chosen to keep it going as an ongoing fundraiser where we can take bits of money out of and give to various people, whether they are making a very informal call out on Twitter asking for help in paying for medication or they have their own GoFundMe campaign to raise money for say expensive surgery- we now have this backlog of money we can donate to people.”
“A lot of people in the group are multiply marginalised people, so there are People Of Colour, queer people, poor people, formally incarcerated people all of whom for various reasons may not want to engage with more formal structures.”
Run By And For Community
Bak says one of the benefits of the mutual aid fund was that it “can be really appealing to a lot of people because it functions without the power imbalance you would sometimes otherwise see in those more formal structures, and this is also being run by and for people within the community.”
Bak adds that “there are people who are able to give, and there are people with things that they need- that could be anything from resources like cash for food or medication or services like being driven to various places and appointments.
“Many people both give and take in this system, and that’s completely fine, because one isn’t seen as more or less important than the other. That’s because it’s not a system built on shaming people, its intended to create conditions that sustain people within the community with resources that exist, that’s why it’s important because it helps us protect not just our disabled community members but our multiply marginalised community members.”
To support the Australian Disability Justice Fund, you can head to the recently launched GoFundMe page and make a donation today.