Tuesday, February 10, 2015

An Open Letter to Jules Anderson

Dear Jules

At three thirty today, Parliament are being asked to say yes to a national inquiry into disability violence, abuse and neglect.

I heard today that you are standing shoulder to shoulder at Parliament with other disability advocates, making your voice heard.

When I watched the Four Corners episode, where you talked about being raped by a disability support worker, I cried.

You spoke out with such ferocity. You understood that this man was wrong to do what he did. You spoke up, and he went to jail, and now the nation waits to hear what our Government will do.

I don’t know if you know how important your voice is. That you have made change for hundreds and thousands of Australians with disability – no matter what they say today.

You were not just speaking up for yourself.

You were speaking up for every single woman with disability who has been raped or who has suffered some other form of violence – that’s 90% of Australian women with an intellectual disability.

You were speaking up for every single Australian man, woman and child living in residential care or an institutionalised setting today.

You were speaking up for every woman who was not believed when they told others, every man and child whose voice was not heard.

You spoke up with dignity, clarity and determination that this would never ever again happen to any other person with a disability.

I want you to know that the rest of us owe you the biggest debt of gratitude you can imagine. Your courage means that today the whole of Australia will be thinking about making change for people with disability – to keep all of us safe.

By telling your story, you have made more of a difference than dozens of advocates who have worked for decades to make change.

Today, you are the one in the position of power.

As a woman with a disability and someone who cares about the safety and rights of others with disability – thank you, Jules. Thank you from all of us.

- Samantha

Jules Anderson told the story of her rape and abuse to Australia on the Four Corners program in November, 2014. You can watch it or read the transcript here.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Her Absence Filled The World

Her absence filled the world.

It's an image by Kentridge, a simple sketch of a figure standing on an empty hill with the words 'her absence filled the world' sprawled across it. An desolate image that makes you think about loneliness and loss, and grief. For me, it makes me think of something other.

I read a story a few years ago, and it haunts me still. It is about a girl, a young girl who moved out of her home in Pyramid Hill when she was nineteen. Her learning disability was mild enough to present few barriers, and she could read and write and work.

Her name was Krystal Fraser.

You've probably never heard of Krystal, right? If you lived in Pyramid Hill prior to 2009, you might remember a bright, sociable girl who was described by a community member as a 'serial pest'. She talked to everyone, indiscriminately - as a person with a mild intellectual disability, she wasn't supported by staff. And eventually Krystal fell pregnant, although nobody ever knew who the father was.

The reason you've never heard of Krystal Fraser is that she is almost certainly dead.

The real reason you've never heard of Krystal Fraser is that her absence never for a minute filled our world.

Why, in a country where the killing of 29 year old Jill Meagher invoked widespread outrage, public displays and a thirty thousand strong march, did the murder of pregnant Krystal Fraser cause barely a ripple?

The easy answer is this - Krystal had a disability. And despite being loved by family and included at the fringes of her community, she has now almost been forgotten.

Chris Johnson and Nino Bucci wrote a very good investigative piece three years later about Krystal - you can read it here.

There are a few other online references in the Herald Sun, and a call for information and an offer of a reward from the Victorian Police. But Krystal's disappearance has largely gone unremarked by our community - it is like she was never here.

Krystal was twenty three years old.

I read the tributes for Jill Meagher - bright, popular, an ABC employee.

But there are no tributes for Krystal, who walked out of a hospital to meet her unknown killer. No yellow ribbons tied around trees for a girl who had 'too many friends'. The family stands alone on the hill, waiting for a phone call that may never come.

The last time Krystal was seen alive was at a house in Pyramid Hill, where she made a call from her mobile. It was Friday night, and she had checked out of the hospital where she was due to give birth on Sunday. Just before midnight, someone else called from a public telephone box some fifteen minutes away. And that was it - her phone was tracked travelling down a bush road nearby, and Krystal was never seen again. Her baby, a boy who she planned to call Ryan, was due two days later.

Krystal's brother, sister and parents are convinced that she was murdered.

"She was always on her phone. I heard from my daughter 20 times a day, every day," her mother, Karen, says.

"If she was out there, she would have found a way to contact me....I believe she was murdered."

The hardest part for her family is not knowing where Krystal is.

"If it’s raining, I wonder if she’s warm and dry," her mother says. "If it’s hot, I wonder if she’s staying out of the sun."

"I just take one day at a time. She’s gone. I have no answers."

I cannot imagine not knowing where my daughter is, or contemplating the thought that I will never know.

Her absence would fill my world, and I would expect it to fill yours.

There is a 100,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension or conviction of whoever killed Krystal and her unborn child.

Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.