On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week I was in Canberra for a very special event. My Mum was my guest. I was one of the winners of the Yooralla Media Awards. The awards were held at the National Press Club, and hosted by The Project's Charlie Pickering. The awards were attended by the shadow Disability Minister Jenny Macklin and Disability Commissioner Graeme Innes. Following the ceremony, Senator Mitch Fifield gave the National Press Club address.
I was a joint winner of the best online commentary for a body of work (I won the text category).
It was such an honour to win in the company of talented and socially conscious journalists from the ABC, SBS, Channel 7, Channel 10 and other publishers. I felt like a real journalist! And I made some great new friends there.
Graeme Innes reiterated one of the winners' comments that "disability reporting has moved from adversity to diversity". The winning entires showed honest, moving and inspirational reporting, yet never pitying or heroifying.
It's lovely finally being able to tell my editors - from Daily Life, Kidspot, Essential Baby, The Guardian and Mamamia - about this award. They've been so encouraging through my writing journey.
The support I've received from the judges, media colleagues, family and friends has been wonderful. I am overwhelmed with love right now. Thanks to everyone who has sent messages to me, especially those who do great work in the media.
It was a happy surprise when I met Debra Cerasa, CEO of MS Australia, and her colleague Lee at the awards. We sat in the airline lounge and I taught her some social media afterward. Debra wrote a great summary of the awards on the MS Australia blog.
Here is my acceptance speech:
Thank you for this award – and thanks to everyone who have helped me along the way – my editors, parents, friends, mentors in my day job, RMIT University, and to Yooralla and the judges. Graeme Innes has been reading and retweeting my blog posts recently and I’ve squealed in the same way as when I found out my idol Darren Hayes read my blog.
Also, thanks to the people who have said stupid things about the way I look - while there's ignorance and rudeness, I'm never without writing material.
I’m so proud to win this award today, especially among esteemed journalists. Almost all of articles I’ve had published this year have been republications from my blog. It's wonderful that blogging is recognised, valued and paid for by the maintream media. I can't believe I'm recognised as a real journalist today - my career goal since I was at primary school.
I believe there needs to be more people with disabilities telling their stories across all media - in online publishing, print media radio and TV. Telling our own stories educates, reduces stigma, pity, exploitation and sensationalism, and raises the level of expectation that society has about people with disabilities. It normalises difference.
My break in media started because of my blog. Online media has given me the chance to tell my own story in my own words – and has had a reach that I’ve never imagined. When a reader writes to me to tell me my story made them feel that they’re less alone and helped them to accept their or their child's visible difference or disability, I know I’ve done a great job.
For those of you in the room who want to break into the media to tell your story, or if you know of anyone with a disability who wants to, my biggest piece of advice would be to start a blog to get your voice out there.
Congratulations to all the winners. You can view their winning entries here.