New doco on disability rights movement

A new film documenting the rise and fight of the disability rights movement in Australia, the UK and the USA will screen in Ballina next month. Defiant Lives tells the story of the rise and triumph of the disability rights movement, featuring some of the most impressive activists you’ve never heard of.

The doco features exclusive interviews with movement leaders over five decades, and with rare archival imagery, and teases out a nuanced little known story about how disabled people have literally changed the world we live in.

It also recounts the often-confronting personal stories of disabled men and women as they moved from being warehoused in institutions to fighting for independence and control over their lives.

Supported by Social Future’s Far North Cost Ability Links, the screening on Monday August 14 at Ballina Fair Cinemas, will be followed by a Q&A session with some of Australia’s key disability rights activists. This event will also be captioned and Auslan interpreted.

Local woman Kelly Cox from from activist group #criparmy will be a part of a Q&A after the screening of Defiant Lives. Photo Eve Jeffery.

Local woman Kelly Cox from from activist group #criparmy will be a part of a Q&A after the screening of Defiant Lives. Photo Eve Jeffery.

Organisers of the even hope to resale enough tickets to ensure the film event goes ahead.  ‘We’re incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to screen the film in our region,’ says Kelly Cox, a Ballina resident who appears in the film. ‘The screening will only go ahead if at least 60 tickets are presold so we need as much support as possible from our fabulous community members to help make this happen.’

The screening has been organised for and by disabled people in Ballina and across Australia, and Ms Cox hopes the community backs this initiative. ‘Disability activism has made a tangible difference to the lives of disabled Australians, but most people aren’t aware of it.’

Filmmaker Sarah Barton believes that while rights for women and the LGBTIQ+ community are well-known, the disability rights movement has not been part of the conversation – until now.

 ‘Australians aren’t really aware of our history,’ she said. ‘If you’re interested in human rights, this is an important story that hasn’t been told before.’

The Ballina event includes a panel by some of the leading names in disability rights in Australia – Kelly Cox is joined by disability rights campaigners Jax Jacki Brown and Samantha Connor.

The panel members, from activist group #criparmy, encourage disabled people from the region to watch the film to grow their understanding about the disability rights movement.

Ms Cox feels that the film is important for non-disabled people, too. ‘This is an amazing opportunity for non-disabled people, students, educators and service providers to understand a disability perspective, she said. ‘Defiant Lives is essential viewing for all Australians.’

The film, which is planned to screen on Monday August 14 at Ballina Fair Cinemas, is an audio described, Auslan interpreted and open captioned event with wheelchair access.

Tickets must be pre-sold by August 6, 2017 and are available from

If you cannot attend the film but want to support the panel members’ attendance at, you can do so donating to the crowdfunder.

Samantha Connor, Glenda Lee, Jax Jacki Brown, Kelly Cox, Katharine Annear from left to right at Parliament House 18 October 2016 to speak to the media and then politicians against the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill in October 2016.

From the doco – Samantha Connor, Glenda Lee, Jax Jacki Brown, Kelly Cox as well as Katharine Annear, at Parliament House 18 October 2016 to speak to the media and then politicians against the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill. Photo Supplied.

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