Remembering Stella Young
1982 – 2014
I am not a snowflake.
I am not a sweet, infantilising symbol of fragility and life.
I am a strong, fierce, flawed adult woman.
I plan to remain that way, in life and in death.
About the Statue
The statue of Stella Young was officially unveiled by The Hon. Natalie Hutchins MP. on 30 March 2023.
The Northern Grampians Shire Council acknowledges the support of the Victoria Government through the Community Support Fund.
The Stella Young Statue sits on Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagulk lands represented by Barengi Gadjin Land Council.
Situated next to the water at Cato Park
Comedian, Writer, Activist.
Born in Stawell 24th February 1982
Died in Melbourne 6th December 2014
1982 - 1986
Stella Young is born on the 24th of February 1982 in Stawell to Lynne and Greg Young. Lynne runs a local hairdressing salon and Greg works in the family business as a butcher. Later Greg opens a record store just down the road from Lynne’s hairdressing salon.
Stella spends a lot of time at Lynne’s salon, at first playing in a cot as an infant and later helping around the salon after school and in school holidays answering the phone and doing other odd jobs.
Lynne and Greg ignored doctors’ warnings about the risk of having another disabled child and Stella’s sisters Romy and Madi were born in 1985 and 1989
My parents didn’t know what to do with me so they just pretended I was normal and that worked out quite well for me
Excerpt from “A letter to my younger self”
Able-bodiedness is not the Holy Grail. The body that you’re in is perfectly fine, perfectly beautiful. In fact, you know that thought that sometimes occurs to you — that you’re actually luckier than the other girls because your body is just too different to compare it to the models in Dolly? That’s the thought you should indulge.
1999 - 2003
In 1999 Stella was accepted into Deakin University in Geelong to study for her bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Public Relations. She later completed a Graduate Diploma in Education at the University of Melbourne.
Stella had learned all about getting around in Melbourne from her friend Caroline Bowditch. Caroline taught her how to catch a train, how to modify her bathroom and a whole lot of other tips that would help Stella live independently in the big city.
Once settled in Melbourne, Stella became active in the disability community in a variety of roles, including membership of the Victorian Disability Advisory Council, Ministerial Advisory Council for the Department of Victorian communities and Women With Disabilities Victoria.
With a strong interest in issues facing women and young people with disabilities, Stella worked with the Youth Disability Advocacy Service to establish the LiveAccess project, advocating for better access to live music venues.
I started calling myself a disabled woman, and a crip. A good 13 years after 17-year-old me started saying crip, it still horrifies people.
I do it because it’s a word that makes me feel strong and powerful. It’s a word other activists have used before me, and I use it to honour them.
2003 - 2009
Stella was also involved in community television which laid the foundations for her later success in media and comedy.
In 2003 Stella joined the community television show “No Limits” as one of the founding presenters.
No Limits brings you unexpected stories about what it’s like living with disability. Presented and produced with disabled people as a place to build community and identity.
In 2005 having not been able to get a job as a school teacher, despite many job interviews and great qualifications, Stella begins working at Arts Access Victoria.
She saw working in a disability organisation as a step into the workforce but always hoped to work outside the disability sector.
In 2007 Stella went to work in Public Programs at Melbourne Museum, where she taught kids about bugs, dinosaurs and other weird and wonderful things.
While working at the Museum Stella decided to try her hand a stand-up comedy and was a two-time state finalist in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s Raw Comedy competition.
I have beautiful interactions with children. I have a responsibility to engage well with children so they don’t grow up afraid.
One boy asked me, ‘Are you imaginary?’ I thought, ‘How great he sees magic in this’
If everyone’s looking at me, I might as well say something interesting.
Ramp Up and the ABC
2010 - 2013
In 2010 the Australian Government wanted to elevate discussion around disability ahead of the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
They awarded funding for this purpose to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the disability focused online portal, Ramp Up was established.
Stella Young became its first and only editor.
Ramp up gave many disabled people the opportunity to write and be published and Stella herself wrote many articles on the issues of the day.
When funding ended for Ramp Up the disability community was dismayed when the ABC announced it would not continue with the site. Stella was deeply disappointed that her community had lost its dedicated space at the national broadcaster but on a personal level Stella was now free to pursue the many offers she was receiving.
In 2012 Stella became engaged to her long term partner. The engagement didn’t bring her the joy she had hoped for and after careful consideration she ended the engagement and the relationship a few months later.
As a newly single woman she moved into her own pad in Melbourne’s ritzy South Yarra and barely spent an evening at home. Life was full, hectic and fun.
Alongside multiple appearances on the ABC, SBS and Channel 10’s The Project, Stella began working on a solo show for the Melbourne International comedy Festival.
2014 was a huge year for Stella. It was also her last.
I’m Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much
In April she presented her now famous TED talk in Sydney, where she introduced the idea of Inspiration porn and explained to the world why she didn’t want to be anyone’s inspiration.
Let me be clear about the intent of this inspiration porn; it’s there so that non-disabled people can put their worries into perspective.
So they can go, “Oh well if that kid who doesn’t have any legs can smile while he’s having an awesome time, I should never, EVER feel bad about my life”.
It’s there so that non-disabled people can look at us and think “well, it could be worse… I could be that person”…
Visiting the United States
In July Stella travelled to the United States on a Cultural Vistas Fellowship.
Highlights included a visit to the US State Department and a meeting with disability rights pioneer and Special Advisor on International Disability Rights Judy Heumann, a visit to the set of Sesame Street and meetings with an array of US disability rights campaigners and activists.
Back home in August Stella’s schedule continued apace with writing, media appearances and plans for her trip to London and the Edinburgh Festival in 2015.
On December 6th 2014 Stella died suddenly from a suspected aneurysm. She was just 32 years old.
Her memorial service held at the Melbourne Town Hall on December 19 was attended by more than a thousand people.
Stella is remembered for her wit, intellect, activism, her love of dancing and her always fabulous hair.
The Stella Young statue sits on Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagulk lands represented by Barengi Gadjin Land Council.