G'day all... I'm Ria, from Melbourne, Australia.
Photo in front of Real Change
My brother was "the writer" in our family. I was "the singer"-- when my talents were recognised at all. I was abused far more often than I was praised.
As a child, I escaped into music, into books-- or into corners of my mind. As a teenager, I escaped physically. Life on the streets was safer than life in my family home.
I always planned to be a teacher, working with special needs children-- and I made it to teachers' college, despite the odds. Then the unthinkable happened-- I had a second brain injury. I tried to continue my course-- but found myself in a day program, drinking endless cups of bad coffee and wheezing on other people's cigarette smoke.
Then, serendipitously, a friend asked me to help out at a disability advocacy organisation. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. In the last few years, I've become a respected disability activist, consumer consultant and community development worker.
I've written on and off for many years-- mostly poetry, and mostly based on my life experiences. I don't know how I found StreetWrites-- but I joined the group's online workshop in 1999.
In July-August 2000, I went to Seattle to attend one major international disability conference and speak at a second one. The conferences were exciting (and a lot of work!). Just as exciting, though, was the chance to meet people from StreetWrites.
I hung out at the Real Change office, went to StreetWrites workshops in the flesh and performed in The Homeless Onewith StreetWrites members. I did artwork at the StreetLife Gallery, too-- and was bowled over by the quality of some of the other work there. I also learned more about SHARE and WHEEL. In Melbourne, we have many services for homeless and low-income people-- but nothing run by us, for us.
In my work, I aim to empower people with disabilities-- supporting my peers to find their own voices and take control of their lives. It's exciting to see self-managed projects for homeless and low-income people-- projects that help us find our voices and control our lives...