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ABLE Australia Adjournment Speech

Andrea Dawkins

Andrea Dawkins  -  Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Tags: Community, Arts

Ms DAWKINS (Bass) - Mr Speaker, I rise tonight to talk about Able Australia and a couple of community projects that are happening and will happen in Launceston in the next couple of weeks. Able Australia has been in Australia for 50 years and was born of a desire for parents of children who were deaf and blind or suffering the effects of rubella to find more community connection. Of course 50 years ago there wasn't the understanding that there is today that people who need additional support in the community might be able to lead a life of community connection that is creative, interesting and challenging. Able Australia have managed to move with that time over the last 50 years.

All over Australia now there are some 4000 employees. They have only been in Launceston since 2006 but have really made their mark. I was privileged to be at a dance workshop performance last Saturday where Stompin Youth dance company, Able Australia and Able Australia carers put on an integrated dance project. It was one of the most phenomenal things I have ever seen. There were not a lot of people in the crowd. There were eight dancers from Able, their carers, and Caitlyn and Gabe Comeford from Stompin. They put on a performance that showed how the dancers had integrated with the Able performers over the last nine weeks of workshops. There was a duo between a young guy with Down syndrome and a Stompin dancer that was one of the most eloquent articulations of being close to somebody I have ever seen.

I have watched a lot of contemporary dance in my life. It is one of my absolutely favourite art practices and I tell you there was not a dry eye in the house, and nor should there have been, because the intimacy that was portrayed in those few moments crossed all boundaries of ability, of practice, of experience and it spoke to the heart of every person in that room.

I give my heartfelt congratulations to Stompin and Able Australia for taking the initiative to make a truly integrated dance performance, not one in which the dancers were going to teach people who needed additional support how to dance, but one in which people learn from each other. Isn't that the way all art should be?

I also point out that the next project Able is embarking upon is a young adult's program, the Community Kitchen Cocktail Reception, on 16 November at the Inveresk Tavern. The Inveresk Tavern has done the most phenomenal job of setting themselves aside and apart in our community for putting on something that is really precious. It was a pub in an area that was not doing very well and competing with other hotels that also were not doing very well, so they looked around and thought, 'What can we do that is different?' and they opened their kitchen to people from a diverse range of backgrounds.

This is the first time Able Australia will be putting on a cooking performance there, but every Sunday you will find people from all over Launceston, people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, and they are able to share their food from their culture in a welcoming, friendly way. They are able to break down the barriers that some in small communities such as Launceston might have with the fear of 'the other', and food is the very best way I know to do that. Over the past year Charlie at the Inveresk Tavern has opened his doors for the wider community to do that. I am very much looking forward to that next collaboration with Able Australia.

I pay special tribute to Angus Kidd from Launceston, a person who has grown up in the agricultural sector and was expected to take over the family farm and do that for the rest of his days. He broke that mould and went to work in the disability sector because he wanted to do something that meant a lot to him. He danced last Saturday with the Stompin group and the Able Australia participants. This week he was awarded the Debbie Pryor national award for his outstanding hard work and commitment to Able Australia. I say hats off to Angus Kidd. Anybody at that stage of life who is able to make that transition into a new workspace and a place that has meaningful work for you and top that off with a dance performance deserves an award.