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Goodbye Stella Young

I’m struggling to adjust to a world without Stella Young. Stawell’s little lion has roared for the last time and the silence is deafening.

At what turned out to be my final lunch with Stella, I was helping fix her wheelchair. She’d been caught in a downpour while travelling to a gig in Sydney and the wheels had been squeaking ever since. My contribution consisted of a applying silicon spray liberally to the wheels of the chair while she patiently instructed me:

“No, not over there, that’s the tyre darl, on the bit of the wheel that’s squeaking.”

Very patient, usually polite, often sassy, and always highly intelligent. That was Stella. Whether she was setting up a dinner party, debating disability policy, or working out which colour she should put in her hair (all of them was her choice the last time she was at the hairdresser). She had the wisdom of someone twenty years her senior and the dance moves of someone twenty years her junior.

People are now talking about her disability and how brave she was to overcome it. And she was. She endured the indignities of being a wheel chair user, of having easily broken bones, of the constant stigmatisation of her body with a grace few of us can muster in our daily interactions.

She hated being called inspirational, calling the celebration of disabled people who lived normal lives “inspiration porn”. But the truth is she was an inspiration. But not because she lived a ‘normal’ life. She didn’t. She lived a bloody fabulous life. In the last year alone she was flown to America for meetings with disability policy makers, gave a Ted Talk, won Best Newcomer at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, regularly wrote for national publications, was working on a book and TV shows, and appeared on Q and A, ALL WHILE LEARNING TO CROCHET. After a few years on the comedy circuit she was better than most of her peers.

She’d already achieved so much and the best, I feel, was yet to come. And now will never be.

Her contribution to the national conversation was defined by a blend of empathy and fury. She was quite simply one of Australia’s best communicators and used the platform her national profile granted her to fight for vulnerable people of all kinds. Those who’ve seen her perform, speak or read her work will know that her death leaves an enormous gap in Australia’s cultural, social, and political discourse. To those who knew and loved her it leaves a gaping hole in our hearts. She will never be replaced.

Goodbye Stella. We love you.