The Australian disability sector, and the wider community, is mourning the loss of disability advocate Stella Young writes Xavier Smerdon. Article first published in Pro Bono Australia News

The comedian and journalist died on Sunday from a what is believed to be an aneurysm, with her family saying she passed away unexpectedly but in no pain at the age of 32.

President of People With Disability Australia (PWDA) Craig Wallace, said he was shocked by Young’s passing.

“Like everyone I am heartbroken and devastated at the passing of my dear friend, colleague and disability advocate Stella Young,” Wallace said.

“I was looking forward to catching up with her later this week and I can’t believe that she has left us at just 32 years old.”

Wallace said Young had dedicated her life to tackling big issues faced by people with disability.

“Stella was a brilliant commentator, conversationalist, friend and above all a damn fine writer and comedian,” he said.

“I don’t know that Stella realised how good she was. She could take an issue and turn it inside out and come up with a witty turn of phrase that changed the way we thought about things.

“The high point of this was her use of the term ‘inspiration porn’ as a way of describing the way that people with disability have been used as objects of pity and faux inspiration for decades. Taking on this culture of pity was tricky territory to negotiate and Stella knew it, but she forged ahead anyway.

“Stella applied critical thinking to so many issues that had been hidden away for so long but above all she was the right person when disability needed a dynamic public spokesperson who was gutsy, sharp as a tack and unafraid in the campaign for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.”

Both sides of politics honoured Young, with assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Mitch Fifield, saying she would be sorely missed.

“I am extremely sad to hear of the passing of Stella Young,” Fifield said.

“She was a role model for Australians with disability on how to seize opportunity and never take no for an answer.

“Stella was a ceaseless advocate for a better deal for people with disability.

“She used a combination of charm and humour to highlight patronising and negative attitudes that people with disability have put up with for too long.

“Stella had a generosity of spirit and taught many Members of Parliament, including myself, a great deal.”

Australian Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne said Young was a “wonderful Australian”.

“She was an outstanding writer, comedian, activist and came to prominence as a passionate disability advocate,” Milne said.

“She provided advocacy, support and insight that has greatly helped people with disability, their families, friends and the community.

“Stella’s work is a credit to her strength and intelligence. The Ramp Up website remains an unmatched resource in Australian media.

“Stella’s recent writing on issues such as abuse of people with disability, dying with dignity and employment discrimination shows her resolve to deal with the most important issues facing our society.

“The Australian Greens offer our deepest sympathy to Stella’s family and friends.”

A private funeral will be held for Young, followed by a public memorial service.