Sunday, 26 June 2022
    A battle to be understood

    A battle to be understood

    I live in two different worlds, writes Janelle McMillan OAM at ABC News.

    One of respect, acceptance and understanding when I am behind safe walls at home, but the other is filled with misunderstanding, judgement, disrespect, ignorance and sometimes downright rudeness out there in our community.

    I am fighting a war every day to get people to see who I really am and stop the discrimination, just because a large number of people want to stick their heads in the sand.

    I am smart. I've been awarded an Order of Australia and I love raising money for charity. I have even published a children's book.

    I also have been made to feel like a child, talked down to, patted on the head like a dog and made to feel invisible, like Harry Potter under his invisibility cloak.

    I have cerebral palsy (CP), which for me means I have trouble talking and my body movements are jerky and uncontrolled.

    It is really like living with an annoying little brother 24/7, but I don't get a break from his tricks or pranks being played on my body. He never gives up annoying me.

    Living in Tasmania, I am one of the 1.2 million Australians that have a communication disability — I have complex communication challenges every day of my life.

     could use a communication device to talk to people but have chosen to use my own voice instead.

    I have been communicating by using "Nell Talk" for over 25 years.

    People can learn to understand me through time spent listening to how I say the words. I also spell out words when people can't understand.

    I am in control of my life and make my own decisions. Not everyone with a disability is as lucky as I am or lives their life how they want.

    I am an artist and an author. In 2020, I published my first children's book called Rafting, A Wheelchair Won't Stop Us, thanks to the support of Outside The Box/Earth Arts Rights, which is a non-profit association here in Tasmania.

    The idea of the book is to grow inclusion and a better understanding of people with disabilities for future generations of children. So that these children will develop passion, empathy and respect as they grow into adults.

    You can find my book in every Tasmanian school, along with teaching notes and a short film.


    Tasmanian artist, author Janelle McMillan on her everyday battle to be understood (ABC News)


    Janelle McMillan lives with cerebral palsy and has difficulty controlling her body movements.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)