“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
― Philip Pullman
A lot of people talk about ‘social inclusion’. But it’s not always clear what they mean. Graeme Innes, the former Australian disability discrimination commissioner, once said of people with disabilities: ‘We do inclusion by just doing it.’ If this is true, then this project goes to the source. It invites 19 Australians to share their lives of connection, belonging and contribution.
19 Stories emerged from a unique collaboration between the Disability Research Initiative at the University of Melbourne, and Belonging Matters, a community based advisory and capacity building resource. With assistance from The National Alliance for Capacity Building Organisations, which include Belonging Matters (VIC), Community Resource Unit (QLD), Imagine More (ACT), Valued Lives (SA), Family Advocacy (NSW) and JFA-Purple Orange, we invited people to submit their stories from all over Australia. The 19 stories capture the diverse ways that people are living inclusion. The stories help others get to the essence of what 'inclusion' can mean in practice, in the lives of those who are doing it.
We know that too many Australians with disabilities are excluded and marginalised. But the 19 Stories team also believe there are too many negative stories about people with disabilities. Instead, we wanted to find success stories and work backwards. What have people done to get where they are? What helped along the way?
We chose the number 19 because Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities refers to the right to live independently and participate in the community. Australia has ratified the Convention and under Article 19, it must ensure:
the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and [must] take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community.
Often, research on social inclusion starts with disability services. The question becomes, “What can services do?” This is OK, but can lead people to think that services hold the key to creating an inclusive society.
But there are many pathways to citizenship and belonging. These can involve sports clubs, businesses, cultural groups, places of employment, religious organisations, artist communities, disabled peoples organisations, education providers, and many more. There are as many varieties of inclusion as there are people.
Themes also emerge, and finding the threads that connect the stories can help others build inclusive lives and communities.
We would like to thank the 19 people who contributed their stories. Sharing personal struggles and joys publicly was not expected but people often shared them with great enthusiasm. In doing so, others can learn and open their imagination to what is possible! So to the storytellers, we sincerely thank-you!
We hope there is something in here for everyone, including individuals, families and other supporters, service providers, researchers, policymakers, and others. Stories have been called ‘equipment for living’, which captures the essence of 19 Stories — ‘equipment for creating inclusive communities’.
 See Family and Community Development Committee, ‘Inquiry Into Social Inclusion and Victorians With Disability’, Victorian Parliament, September 2014, xx.
 UNESCO. Consultations of the Director-General with Member States. Social Inclusion, Social Transformations, Social Innovation: What role for UNESCO in 2014-2021? 23 November 2012.
 Family and Community Development Committee, ‘Inquiry Into Social Inclusion and Victorians With Disability’, September 2014, xxii.
 Marc Kaminsky and Mark Weiss (Eds), Stories as Equipment for Living (Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2007).