This post deals with disability violence and might be triggering for some readers.
WHEN I was a little girl, I collected butterflies.
I hated it. The idea that you could take something that was free, snatch it from the air, put it in a killing jar and watch until it stopped struggling – that was an awful, awful idea.
But my father thought it would be good for me, a disabled child, to hone my fine motor skills. And so I learned.
WATCH: Vanessa Cranfield on parenting a child with a disability. Post continues below.
Firstly, you need to kill the butterfly without harming its wings. You place it in a killing jar with cotton wool and ether. Then there’s the pinning out, drying, classifying.
Only it’s not a butterfly by then – it’s a specimen. The minute it entered that jar, it stopped being a butterfly.
As an adult, I’m still collecting. I collect, sort, classify, catalogue. But this is a pastime that is even grimmer than butterfly collecting – I collect stories of violence, abuse and neglect against disabled people.
Australians were appalled when a number of stories about neglect and abuse against disabled people came to light over the past few weeks. Admittedly, the stories were horrifying.
There was the story of Ann-Marie Smith, a 54 year old woman who was left to starve to death in a cane chair that was also used as her toilet.
We heard about four year old Willow Dunn, whose father has been charged with her murder after her tiny body was found, starved, in her cot.
And just a few days ago, the story of two teens with autism whose father died outside his home – the boys were found naked, starved and locked in a faeces smeared room in Queensland.
Australia was appalled. But disabled Australians and their families weren’t surprised – this is our reality. In this country, the line between being okay and not being okay is perilously thin for disabled people.