On the afternoon of August 27th, more than 60 people gathered around tables, shared in afternoon tea and listened to three people with disability share their stories and experiences of ableism.

It was engaging, thought provoking and transformative.

The afternoon was chaired with interest and humour by Mary Henley Collopy. Mary kept the event moving, provided insight and challenge. She actually said that if she lived closer she would love to join in with the activities of Manningham Uniting Church, that “this is a community that walks the talk”.

Maddie Fogarty, a 20 year old woman, studying social work and whom has cerebral palsy, spoke of her experience growing up as a young person with a disability, of how ableism was misunderstood as enabling discrimination rather than its true definition of discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities – assuming they are inferior to non-disabled people.

Matt Simpson is a charismatic man who started and runs his own IT company, and who has been at the fore front of social media development and computer technology. Matt also experiences cerebral palsy and shared the message of engaging without judgement, to encourage empathy not sympathy.

Unfortunately Susan Arthur was unable to join on the day so we were most fortunate to hear from Rebecca Maxwell, A wise retired teacher and mother with also has no visual sight. In her poetic manner Rebecca spoke of creating space for contemplation, the need for valuing of diversity and letting things unfold.

The afternoons program enabled deep contemplation, honest dialogue and an opportunity to discuss the actions our collective community could take as a result of what had been heard. If this first of three events is any indication of the quality to come in the following two events, it would be well worth your while registering, you won’t regret it.