My Waste Journey

Written by Melanie Hawkes (PDA WA Associate Director)

Melanie was commissioned to write an article for “Housing Choices Australia” Annual Report. They are happy for it to be shared on our website.

As a person with a disability, I create a fair bit of rubbish. Items such as gloves and incontinence products cannot be helped, and I am not going to start limiting the use of those. I like to focus on what I can control and reduce that as much as possible. Waste is a huge issue that you can no longer ignore, leave for someone else to deal with or put in the too-hard basket. I like to think that my actions can inspire others, that their actions will inspire others and, before you know it, thousands of people are doing it and it is having a positive impact on the environment. 

I started paying attention to my waste when I moved into a brand new home in 2015. I needed some art to cover the boring green fences that three of my windows face. Buying brand new, weather-resistant art was not appealing due to the cost. I thought about doing mosaics, but didn’t want to break any plates or buy special tools or materials. So I started collecting bottle tops. Family and friends also gave me theirs and I was able to use ones of all shapes, sizes, colours and materials from milk, juice, beer, wine, soft drink and even lids off beauty products. I now collect anything useful, like can ring-pulls, plastic straws, corks and the small coloured silicone things you find in bottles of tablets to prevent moisture. They do rust and fade in the weather, but I like the effect it has. And I can easily and cheaply replace them if I wanted.

Not long after I started my recycled art, I read about Plastic Free July. It challenged me to pick one plastic item to reduce for the month. I picked plastic bin liners for my kitchen bin and replaced it with newspaper! It forced me to focus on what I was putting in my bin. With newspaper as a bin liner, I couldn’t put wet, gross stuff in it or I’d be washing the bin every week. Who wants to do that? So I started keeping a container for scraps in the fridge. I was giving these scraps to friends with worm farms, compost or bokashi bins (or the odd stranger from the Share Waste site!), but lately I’ve been taking it to a local community garden or burying it in my back yard for the earthworms to take care of. Eggshells and tea leaves are great for the garden, so I always keep them in a separate container on my bench for my plants. I wish I lived in an area that has a FOGO (or three bin system) bin collection. It would be more convenient, but you cannot always trust that council will do the right thing with it. 

I have since done courses on living smart and reducing waste. That one act of lining my kitchen bin with newspaper has led to many other changes at home. I now: 

  • * Make my own toothpaste and apple cider vinegar and cleaning products 
  • * Use solid shampoo bars and bars of soap instead of liquid in the shower
  • * Have a dog pooh worm farm
  • * Take my reusable shopping bags (and have some on the back of my chair for when I forget)
  • * Use reusable straws at home and in my water bottles (got my dad to cut them to size)
  • * Take my own containers and buy in bulk where possible 
  • * Sort my rubbish and return recyclable items to specialist places (e.g. light globes and ink cartridges go to my local library)  
  • * Return my soft plastic to the supermarket for recycling
  • * Use rechargeable batteries 
  • * Refuse single-use plastic bags when buying fruit and vegetables 
  • * Use soap nuts instead of washing powder in my washing machine 
  • * Use metal pegs instead of plastic ones on my washing line 
  • * Buy tissues and toilet paper made from recycled paper or bamboo and not ones wrapped in plastic 
  • * Use reusable paper towels (and wash them when dirty) in my kitchen and bathroom 
  • * Take my lunch to work to avoid buying takeaway 
  • * Have a water filter at home and refill my water bottles so I don’t have to buy bottled water
  • * Make my own dog treats and dried fruit in my dehydrator
  • * Return eligible containers for 10c refund 
  • * Collect the cold water when waiting for the tap water to warm up 
  • * Get my dog to pick up rubbish while out walking.

There are probably many more things that I could be doing, and I plan to add to this list as often as possible. But it is what I can comfortably manage for now. If you would like to start, or do more, consider these points:

  • * Start small. Don’t go out and try to do everything at once.
  • * New habits take time, and you do not want to be disheartened along the way if you encounter setbacks. Build on each small success.
  • * Make it easy and convenient to succeed. I have a normal bin, a recycle bin and a bag for soft plastics in the kitchen(so it’s easy to sort the rubbish where it’s created). When the bag is full, I put it at my front door so I remember to take it back to the shops next time I go. 
  • * Be a conscientious shopper. Question every purchase you make. For example: do you really need it? Is there a more sustainable alternative (e.g. wet wipes vs cloth wipes that can be washed)? Can you easily make it yourself? Can you reuse the packaging (e.g. beetroot in a glass jar could be better than a tin)? Where can I buy it locally (e.g. a local farmers market vs a big chain supermarket)? Can I return the packaging and refill it? Can I make do with something else I have at home (e.g. you can make your own spray and wipe mix, and use it for everything in the kitchen, bathroom and even the toilet, instead of buying three different bottles)? Do I need it brand new or would second hand do?
  • * Decide on a reason for doing this. Don’t do it just because someone told you to. Make it a passion. Know that you are helping the environment. It will probably save you money too! 
  • * Educate yourself. Your local council can tell you how to sort your rubbish correctly, and there are many online resources. Ask plenty of questions until you are satisfied with the answer. There are no dumb questions, ever! 
  • * Join your local community garden and Buy Nothing Project group to find like-minded people who can support you in this journey. You can share your experience with others and learn so much. 

Looking after the environment is a shared responsibility. If we all do as much as we can, it will go a long way to ensuring a brighter future for everyone.

Good luck! 

This Mental Health Week, Tammy Milne shares her personal story.

⚠️ TRIGGER WARNING. This article discusses suicidal feelings.

This week, as part of Mental Health Week, PDA’s TAS Associate Director Tammy Milne, was a speaker at the North West Film Society.

Her honest, heartfelt, poignant and incredibly brave speech took the audience on an emotional journey that shows that no one is vaccinated against the black dog of depression.

Tammy has very kindly allowed us to publish her words and her story and we are extremely grateful to this wonderful, kind and courageous woman for normalising depression and giving a voice and hope to others who may have similar journeys.

“I would like to acknowledge the country in which we are all meeting tonight.

This is Palawa country in lutruwita on the land of the punnalir.planner people.  I acknowledge and pay respect to Aboriginal people as the traditional and original owners, and continuing custodians of the lands on which we all gather today and acknowledge Elders – past and present and emerging. 

Thank you everyone who has come along tonight to hear this very poignant discussion for mental health week and thank you for the opportunity to share my story and the story of 1000s of other people with disabilities all over. 

As you are well aware I’m a person living with disability. I want to talk this evening about intersectionality. How disability and other conditions are not mutually exclusive. How we don’t often think of people with disability and Breast cancer, or people with disabilities and cardiovascular disease or people with disabilities and mental health. Why is that? Because PWD seem to take up space  in our minds,  as a particular group that’s in our minds don’t move outside that sphere or silo. 

We compartmentalised disabilities and PWD as one diagnosis  and don’t think more broadly of other issues, like mental health that can accompany person with disability on their life journey. 

But statistics inform us that 32% of people living with disability experience high or very high psychological distress compared to 8% with out disability. Another study found that 43% sufferer psychological distress in conjunction with their disability. So if you look at the way society treats people with disability, our society, here in Australia you will be able to understand why PWD have high rates of depression compared with the wider community. We are often treated with fear, people don’t know what to expect with interacting with us , we are ignored, we are pityed , feel shame and are most often treated as less then the rest of the community. 

A really great show to watch on telly   and  is on SBS. Its  called Australia what does Australia really think of disability with Kurt Fearnely . Its an eye opener. From the show a survey was collected and 

72% of respondents without disabilities said they felt sorry for people with a disability.

72% agreed that people sometimes make fun of people with disability.

So what Im saying here and what the statistics confirm  is there is no wonder PWD suffer from depression! 

My own story is a winding journey and the cumulative effects of all the things already spoken about. 

I was a fire Cracker  ready to go off. I had internalised all the trauma of disability and the discrimination, the personal attacks, the pain that I had suffered all my life  and in 2018 i exploded.

In a quiet,  under the radar sort of way, that involved pills and a good long lay down that I hoped I would never  wake from. I had had enough!  The two years prior to this were tumultuous! I suffered a back injury at work and fractured three vertebrae in a fall. 

The two year prior to my attempted long sleep looked like this! A catalyst of events that fused together in a nightmare scenario that I couldn’t dig my way out of. I hurt my back, went through the workers comp. trauma. I mean I wasn’t taken seriously because of my disability it took 6 weeks from the injury till I got an MRI that actually found the fractures, 

And then I started a new job with a principal who wasn’t too keen on having a person with a disability thrust upon them by the department. I spiralled down down down into self doubt, every time I received any form of set back,   Or criticism;  constructive or not it felt like a body blow  I felt worthless.

I went  to a very nice doctor in Launceston and told him my story and he said quite frankly you have PTSD. What you have experienced, you have PTSD. 

I still am hyper vigilant  in my surrounding always looking for an exit if I need it. I have a very strong fight or flight response.  Which looks like I get pissed  off and leave but in reality it’s my coping mechanism to escape any further trauma by just leaving. I startle  easily, I jump easily  at any loud noise  or sound

How did i start getting through it. Well I recognised that its me and it not me! Its not my fault that  society see people with disabilities as unreliable witnesses to their own health needs. Its not my fault that people see people  with disabilities as inferior. Its not my fault that the principal couldn’t see my value. Its not my fault that all people with disabilities are not valued. I am me and I embraced that. I embraced my disabilities. I still get discriminated against. Especially outside my home city and even in my city but I know its not my fault. It their problem!

But i can do something about it. I quit my job with the department of education last year after 33 years. I embraced disability. I’m now the Tasmanian associate director of physical disabilities Australia. I strive to make our city our Tasmania and more inclusive and equitable place for all. My work as I see it now is to make life better from now on for all people. That’s why I put my hand up to speak at events like this. 

My take home message is that mental health should be treated like any other health condition, we get mammograms, paps smears, colonoscopy, prostrate checks, cardio vascular checks and mental health checks should be though of and treated no differently. Go to a councillor, seek out a psychologist.

Health is holistic;  it’s mind and body.

Thank you again for allowing me to share.”


📷 thanks to Vicki Carman-Brown

PDA’s Ambassador Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM to present webinar “Vaccination and disability: staying safe in our COVID world”.

Next Thursday Physical Disability Australia (PDA) and its Ambassador, Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM, will be hosting a free Zoom webinar around the importance of vaccination – particularly in light of looming plans to lift lockdowns.

With vaccination numbers amongst Australia’s disability community grossly inadequate, next month’s anticipated reopening will put our most vulnerable at risk and it’s important that this is addressed before it’s too late.

In this webinar Dr Dinesh will debunk the myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, answering questions and urging the medically able unvaccinated to get the jab.

If you have vaccination concerns, are waiting to receive your first or second jabs or simply want to hear the facts from a medical expert from the disability community…this webinar is for you.


6pm SA

5:30pm QLD

5pm NT

3:30pm WA

PDA Members and the wider community are encouraged to attend.

Dr Dinesh is happy to answer your questions and asks that you send them to once you have registered.

To sign up for the webinar please go to:

Join Dr Dinesh. 

Hear the facts. 

Make an informed vaccination decision.

Be safe.

Why you should join Physical Disability Australia.

Written by Paul Williamson – PDA ACT Associate Director

Why you should be a member of PDA

Physical Disability Australia (PDA) is the national peak body representing people living with physical disabilities, their families and their allies in Australia. It has members in all states and territories.

What do we do?

PDA undertakes a range of important work, including:

• Identifying the needs of people living with physical disabilities and communicating these needs to government.

• Providing a strong voice for people with physical disabilities to express their views and priorities.

• Evaluating programs and services supporting people with a physical disability.

• Undertaking advocacy and raising public awareness of issues facing people living with a physical disability, and

• Providing support for people with physical disabilities to develop agency and exercise their rights.

Fundamentally, the overarching focus of PDA is on promoting rights and improving the lives of people with physical disabilities and their families.

Why do we do it?

While many of us face hardships at one point in our lives, for people with a disability these barriers can be more frequent and have a more significant impact. Barriers include a physical environment that is not accessible, lack of access to appropriate transportation, lack of assistive technology and the prevalence of negative attitudes towards disability and services, systems and policies that are either non-existent or hinder the involvement of people with disabilities in daily life.

The disability community has been fighting for decades to reduce the impact of these barriers. While as individuals, we are limited in the impact that we can have – as a collective, the disability community can have a powerful voice. If harnessed,people with disabilities can use this voice to influence policy and practice to benefit all people living with a disability.

Who do we represent?

PDA represents people with a wide range of different disability types.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that approximately 1 in 6 (18%) people in Australia -or about 4.4 million people – live with a disability. For over three-quarters (77%) of these people, their primary form of disability  (i.e. the condition causing the most problems) is physical. This includes diseases of the:

• musculoskeletal system and connective tissue (30%), such as back problems and arthritis

• ear and mastoid processes (8.4%), such as hearing loss and tinnitus

• circulatory system (6.3%), such as heart disease and stroke

• nervous system (6.7%), such as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.

Together, this represents a significant interest group. By coming together and organising, people living with physical disabilities have the power to ensure their concerns are listened to and taken seriously by all levels of government.

Join us today!

If you live with a physical disability, are a family member or even an ally – you can help support the work of PDA and improve the lives of people living with a physical disability by becoming a member. Membership is free and signing up is as easy as providing some basic information online at

If you are already a member, consider encouraging your friends and family members to join PDA to help support our work to ensuring a fairer and more equitable society for people living with a physical disability.

You will become part of a comprehensive and diverse community of Australians living with physical disabilities and help ensure that PDA can speak authoritatively on behalf of a broad range of lived experience. Becoming a PDA member also allows you to input into our activities and contribute to our work.

For more information, please do not hesitate to call PDA on 1800 732 674 or email us at If you live in the ACT, I’d love to hear from you – feel free to give me a call on 0402 974 010.

How PDA’s Social Hours helped me through Melbourne’s 2020 & 2021 COVID lockdowns

Written my Robert Wise

I came across Physical Disability Australia while searching the web for activities and groups for people with a physical disability. During my search the PDA website was one of the options that came up. As I was reading the information on the PDA website, I noticed they were holding Social Hours once a fortnight using online video chat software known as Zoom and I decided the join the organisation and join these Social Hours.

PDA hold 2 social hours which includes a youth chat for under 30s and the general one. These social hours are open to all members of PDA. I decided to join the general chat. Pre-registration is required for the online chats. I took the plunge and signed up for my first social hour in June 2020. On joining my first one I felt rather nervous, but I was welcomed by the other regulars on the chat including Jonathon, Andrew, Liz and Natasha to name a few. Many topics are discussed including what we do, how we cope with life and to share some of our stories – both funny and not so funny.

The social hours helped me overcome some barriers during the 2020 COVID lockdown as I was stuck at home. All my regular activities had been cancelled including my Tenpin Bowling and the Men’s Shed. I live alone and, apart from one or two visits a week by support workers and therapists, my disability life can get extremely hard and lonely. Even though we have not met yet, I feel I have made some new friends through the PDA social hours. I counted down days every fortnight to join the next one. 

I would like to invite all members of PDA to give it try. You may meet some old friends and make some new ones.

PDA Social hours are held on the first Monday every month at 7pm AEST.

For more information check out PDA’s Facebook page or email

To register for a Social Hour go to:–qqjkjG903J2KoieI9ASVSig7b4mxr

Hope to see you at a Social Hour soon.

PDA proudly welcomes our new SA Associate Director, Krystal Matthews, to the team.

Krystal is a wearer of many hats and her ability shines through; but none are more important to her than setting a strong example for her family and advocating for others who are margalised and largely underestimated by mainstream society.

The 36 year old has worked for South Australia’s peak government social housing provider for over 10 years. This firmly places her in a position to help support people experiencing complex issues. In addition, she has developed programs to support and make service improvement to large-scale psychosocial community issues such as homelessness and Family and Domestic Violence.

Krystal was born with Cerebral Palsy and is a wheelchair user.  Overcoming challenges and preconceived notations of what she was considered (by society) to be capable of, drove her determination to be respected for what she can do, rather than what people think she can’t, or shouldn’t do.  

Krystal has 2 beautiful daughters, teaching people about equality, inclusion, and the beauty of diversity in society was intensified with motherhood. She is currently raising an energetic 2 year old toddler whilst in a wheelchair, which she reports as being both challenging and magical. Krystal enjoys spending time with family and friends, drinking a glass of wine and is a 90’s music tragic. 

Krystal is determined to ensure the lived experience of people with a disability shapes the way services are created and delivered in the future. She is also passionate about education awareness and safeguarding the rights of people with a disability in future policy development and negotiations. Krystal wants all people with a disability to feel safe, confident and capable of achieving their goals. Krystal hopes that her professional experience in advocacy and development, combined with her lived experience and determination to make a difference, will help further positive changes for people living with disability. 

Please join us in welcoming Krystal to PDA’s team.

The Importance of Associating Reasonable Adjustments with Equitable Outcomes.

Written by Tim Harte – PDA’s VIC Director

For people with disabilities, reasonable adjustments are a common challenge to negotiate.  Reasonable adjustments can include modifications to the environment or conditions of any area of public life, such as work, study, or provision of a service (e.g., a local library), that allow people with disabilities to work safely and productively or to access that service. In an educational setting, reasonable adjustments can include extra time for assessment tasks, assistance in hands-on learning to complete physical aspects of learning tasks (e.g., shifting a microscope into position on a desk), or the provision of learning materials in an alternative format, such as large size font or other formats. 

During my time undertaking undergraduate study, I have found there is a lack of knowledge and understanding of reasonable adjustments by staff of tertiary education institutions and the Australian population. I have observed that physical reasonable adjustments are understood better, perhaps because the adjustment is more observably connected with the physical requirement e.g. if a physics assessment task requires a student to jump up and down with an accelerometer, the average person assumes and accepts that a student in a wheelchair will require an altered assessment task. From experience, reasonable adjustments required for non-physical disabilities or physical disabilities that are less well-known, obvious and observable, such as those occurring from complex medical conditions, are understood and accepted to a lesser extent, sometimes to the point of academic staff viewing the reasonable adjustments as an unfair advantage.

After conversing with fellow students and academic staff about the reasoning behind my own reasonable adjustments,there has remained a lack of understanding for the rationale of non-access related reasonable adjustments, such as extra time for assessment tasks. Extra time for assessment tasks can be seen as an access related reasonable adjustment e.g., a student cannot write as fast due to a disability so extra time is allotted to assessments, but the average student often runs out of time in assessment tasks, hence could claim they should have more time too. Fundamentally, I think it is the implementation of reasonable adjustments for equitable outcomes that are least understood and part of this is due to the lack of understanding of ‘equity’. 

Equality means people have equal rights and equal access to certain social goods and social services; equity, on the other hand, acknowledges that society is not a level playing field and each person is in, or born into, different circumstances,hence specific, advantageous resources/opportunities need to be allocated appropriately to attain equitable outcomes. The broader Australian populace needs to understand that, due to both disabling aspects of our physical environment (social model of disability) and unchangeable impacts our impairments have on our lives (radical model of disability),people with disabilities experience inequity every day of their lives. The average Australian does not realise that ‘a fair go’ is denied to people with disabilities. 

Education, via personal story telling, breaks down perceptions of difference and highlights similarities and shared experiences, thereby humanising people with disabilities in the eyes of non-disabled people. This facilitates understanding and empathy of the daily plight of people with disabilities – assisting the non-disabled population to ‘walk in our shoes’ and comprehend the lives and experiences of people with disabilities, as well as the requirement for reasonable adjustments to achieve some level of equity.  

On the Platform with Melanie Hawkes

Written by Christine Kerr – “Platform Stories” Editor

Have you heard about the fabulous online magazine Platform Stories?

The site is dedicated to empowering women with disabilities from around the world through authentic, positive and inspiring content that is frank and without sugar coating.

Through its stories, Christine Kerr as Editor explores “the trials and tribulations, love and laughter, travel and adventure, challenges and changes… all from our own unique perspectives.”

A wonderful article on PDA’s WA Associate Director, Melanie Hawkes has just been published and it’s well worth a read.

The differing symptoms of COVID-19

Yesterday Dr Norman Swan (Producer and presenter of the Health Report) reported on new evidence from the UK about the most common symptoms of COVID-19. Don’t assume that just because you’re vaccinated, you won’t have any COVID symptoms if you come in contact with the virus. You may still be infectious and capable of spreading the germ.

Depending on your vaccination status, there are different symptoms that present.

Some could easily be mistaken for a common cold, so please don’t dismiss these as being nothing to worry about – particularly with so much of Australia currently affected by COVID outbreaks.

The 4 MOST COMMON PRESENTING SYMPTOMS for each of the groups are:

* Fully vaccinated: headache, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat;

* Partly vaccinated (one dose): headache, runny nose, sneezing, persistent cough; and

* Unvaccinated: headache, sore throat, runny nose, fever.

Some people might register all the symptoms, however many will only get one – most typically a headache.

Dr Swan’s take-home message is: “If you have any one of these symptoms, even in the slightest way, you’ve got to get tested.”