Tag Archives: Annalisa Cercone

26. Carl Thompson

20 Mar

carl thompsonWhen I was planning my interview questions for this piece, I originally had the idea that I would be profiling a person living with a disability and that I’d be raving about all of the marvellous things they have achieved ‘despite the odds against them’. However, upon meeting my interviewee and having chatted with him for about a minute, I realised that by following the original angle, I would not only be insulting my interviewee but all members of society living with a disability.

Carl Thompson lives with cerebral palsy and whilst the condition can sometimes effect speech and cognitive ability, Carl views himself as “one of the lucky ones” in the fact that it affects his mobility and nothing else. Unlike other conditions that were acquired “from a car accident or drugs”, Carl has grown up living with his disability and has thus become accustomed to it. With “care needs that weren’t as high as some other people’s”, Carl’s parents put education first, choosing to enrol him into a mainstream school as opposed to a special education school which offered extra disability support.

This decision was the best option for Carl and he is incredibly grateful to his parents for providing him with a challenging and stimulating environment, one which he feels he would have missed out on had he gone to a special school. Contrary to what society would envisage, growing up wasn’t a challenge for Carl. With “a brain that worked relatively satisfactorily”; as he modestly puts it, and a personality that made him enjoy talking to people, Carl was able to foster a strong peer group who carried through to his later years of life. “At the start, kids always stare but that’s just because they don’t know what’s going on. Once they know, they’re a lot more forgiving”.

As what normally occurs in these circumstances, Carl had an aide to assist him with motor skills at school such as writing and eating. “A good aide is very important; you need someone who is well-trained at blending in so that other kids view them more as a friend, rather than a mother type figure, consequently the kids are more likely to disregard the disability”.

However, there were times when people were not as understanding. With the academic competition that came as he progressed through his later years of education, he was often perceived by adults as having an unfair advantage over other students as the aide who was physically writing his essays and maths problems was viewed as mentally doing those things for him as well. But gradually as time went on, it was a thing that others learnt to understand and one that you yourself “try and overcome”.

Achievements in Carl’s life were viewed as victories for him, even if he himself viewed them as basic. “If you do something that’s relatively normal, you get put on a pedestal which is patronising in a way; and it’s not because people are being nasty”, but more so a result of the “low expectations” that others have of you. When Carl received an offer from La Trobe University to do his Bachelor of Business, it was seen as a “really big deal”, even though “thousands of kids go off to university each year”. So from witnessing first-hand the stigma attached to disability, Carl has undertaken numerous projects and advocacy work to emphasise the fact that people like him “just want what everyone else wants and not for it to be given to them, but for it to be made achievable with support, encouragement and greater expectations of them”.

“Disability is seen as aged care; a welfare state that isn’t considered an investment”. Instead of just “meeting someone’s basic needs”, Carl hopes that through his advocacy work he can make a difference and show that disability support “should be about getting people into education and employment” so that they too can achieve “the Australian Dream” which we all hope to have. “It’s not always possible with everyone, but it’s something we should aim for”.

Carl’s advocacy work led him to travel to Canberra as a result of his ABC Ramp Up article regarding systemic advocacy. He and a group of other wheelchair users blocked trams on Elizabeth Street to spark the attention of the media and lobby for more wheelchair accessible trams. He was recognised for his report of this protest with a Yooralla Media Award, and was invited to Canberra for the National Press Club address regarding the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

In addition, Carl also co-ordinates Banyule City Council’s ‘Good Access Is Good Business’ program, whereby local businesses are given rankings based on how disability sensitive and accessible they are. Taking into account factors such as ramps, lighting and guide-dog access, various shops and cafes around East Ivanhoe and Rosanna have been given rankings as an incentive to make them strive to achieve a more disability friendly environment.

I feel so blessed to have been able to interview such a quirky and charismatic man and I know that everyone at Banyule City Council loves working with him too. Even though he just wants “what everyone else wants” in life, I have no doubt we will see great things from Carl in the future.

Words By:Annalisa Cercone

Photo by: Sean Porter

23. Eilish Gilligan

24 Sep

More than ten years have passed since a set of tiny little fingers; not even six-years old, had their first touch of a piano. As she explored the plethora of different notes and enjoyed playing with the instrument’s three pedals, Eilish Gilligan had no idea that the sounds she played on her grandmother’s piano would later turn into the breathtaking music she created within the walls of the Victorian College of the Arts or with her band, Nebraskatak.
An accomplished singer and pianist, Eilish’s talents have forced her to succeed in all of her endeavours. At the age of twelve, she received a music scholarship to her high-school before reaching 8th grade in AMEB piano. Furthermore, in 2010, she was the first-prize winner in the Victorian Government’s VicRocks competition for her original song ‘Party In My Head’ not only scoring her a $3000 voucher to Billy Hyde, but the opportunity to be mentored by industry professionals at ‘The Push’ and ‘Freeza’.
Music is not only a love of Eilish’s… but her way of life. Describing it as “the closest thing (she) knows to divine experience”; Eilish loves and appreciates the ability of sound to convey emotions and stories, and allow for an element of liberation and escapism to appear in our everyday lives. We all feel trapped and overwhelmed at times by life’s everyday stresses, which is why music is beneficial to us all, irrespective of how tone deaf we may be!
“It’s the ultimate comfort, it’s there when you are ecstatic or devastated – it will never stop loving you, or leave and never come back. It’s constant and completely intangible yet has the power to bring us to our knees”.
Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, and Matilda Wormwood acting as some of her role-models, Eilish now hopes to keep others going with her blog that she has prided herself on writing for two years. Having started off as a means of practising her writing, the blog is now intended to spark people’s imaginations and reach out to their interests. She updates it daily, posting photographs, lyrics and poetry allowing her to fulfil her passions of art, writing and music all in the one activity!
Eilish cannot imagine herself doing anything other than writing and performing music. In her eyes, as long as she can create a sense of honesty within her music, perhaps a piece that someone can make a connection with through the use of relatable, comforting and beautiful stories, she will consider herself to be extremely successful.
Gaining her experience from her five-member indie pop band as well as her knowledge from her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music (Interactive Composition) at the University of Melbourne ensure that we will see a great deal more of Eilish Gilligan in the future.
You can find Elish’s blog at http://eilish-gilligan.blogspot.com.au/

Words By:Annalisa Cercone

Photo by: Sean Porter

22. Waterdale Theatre

23 Jul

It was obvious early on that Shane Sanfilippo; founder and current president, would lead Waterdale Theatre to great things.

Shortly a year and a half after starting off as a West Heidelberg Youth Group in 2004, Waterdale had already grown to become a large, independently funded volunteer company that looked beyond financial barriers to provide many theatrical opportunities for all.

Staying true at heart to its original intentions, Waterdale provides a means for all young people to positively express themselves in an interesting an uplifting environment.

As a result of involving around 100 17-26 year olds in the average production, their rehearsal space at Parade College, Bundoora is simply bursting with energy and enthusiasm every Wednesday and Sunday afternoon. From auditioning to become a lead or ensemble member, to helping to provide a delicious snack during intermission, there’s a way for absolutely anybody to get involved whether they be at a professional, semi-professional or absolute beginner level.

As well as helping the organisation to grow, contributing to Waterdale will also allow you to challenge yourself as a person and try new things. Their nurturing environment places an emphasis on what’s best for ‘you’ and it’s remarkable to see how much people grow as performers from the beginning to the end of a production.

“There’s no better way to learn than to be surrounded by people as passionate as you are”- Kathleen Amarant, Waterdale cast member.

Following their performances of renowned musicals such as AnnieJesus Christ SuperstarFame, Beauty and the Beast, and their first show: Little Shop of Horrors, was their second production of 2012; Into the Woods. It is a story following the unknown events of some of our favourite fairy tales: Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding hood, and the characters’ quest with the Baker and Baker’s wife to reverse a witch’s curse. With just 12 short weeks of preparation and a small cast of 20, the quality of the production exemplified the profound dedication and professionalism of all involved.

This year Waterdale Theatre will also coordinate the ‘Construct- Original Theatre’ project. This initiative allows absolutely anyone to present their own original piece of theatre, whether it be a play, dance or live art piece, and gives the chosen top 10 the chance to perform and be supported by some of the industry’s leaders.

If you’re interested in theatre of just want to try something new, then Waterdale Theatre. is the perfect starting point no matter who you are! They’re always looking for new members so for more information, visit their website at www.waterdale.org.au

Words By:Annalisa Cercone

Photo by: Sean Porter

17. Emma Brett

30 Jan

Setting her sights on serving our community as a police officer at a young age, before sparking an interest in wildlife from beloved family camping trips- Emma Brett; a 22 year old chocolate and Brussels sprout lover, has a profound passion for responsible food purchasing.

A recent graduate and honours student of Deakin University, Emma is keen on sparking awareness in the community as to how our everyday choices can have a lasting impact on the world- both positive and negative.

In her second year of University she went on an Environmental exchange to Canada. Upon her return  unshe started a questionnaire with the assistance of her University lecturer. She asked one thousand people from five different suburbs if they ever considered where the food that they put into their mouths each day came from. When the results came in and weren’t what she fancied, her desire for change emerged.

When asked how she lives an eco-friendly lifestyle, she responded by stating that she’s “trying to eat more in season food… and won’t buy food from overseas”. Whilst she agrees that these tasks may be difficult as she isn’t living alone and has to share a lifestyle with others, she is still an admirable role-model by making her own bread, planning her weekly meals ahead of time, growing her own food at home, and eating as a vegetarian. She even looked into fostering a local community garden in a vacant block of land and whilst she was unable to because the land was privately owned, it still remains an interest of hers.

Her goals for the future are high as she hopes to pursue her passions by continuing her research, returning to Canada for permanent work and “educating people by running a university subject or working with kids in a school”.

Her advice to people of all ages is that “You don’t have to be a hippie” to “do your own research” and “know what’s in season”. “You can look at any books from the library or websites which will tell you what’s in season and try to work around that”. Whilst you may not feel as though your actions are contributing, “even if it’s one person, you can make a difference”.

Words By:Annalisa Cercone

Photo by: Sean Porter

© Sean Porter 2011