20 Dec 2014

Forever Stella Young

“I will do everything I can to meet you, eighty-year-old Stell. By the time I get to you, I will have loved with every tiny little bit of my heart and soul…By the time I get to you, I'll have written things that change the way people think about disability. I'll have been part of a strong, beautiful, proud movement of disabled people in Australia.”

Stella Young (1982-2014)

Stella Young wrote a letter to her eighty-year-old self – but the charismatic old lady will never get to read it – it is for our eyes only…dear Stella died two weeks ago, aged thirty-two.

At her colourful Memorial service today, I felt her strong, beautiful, proud and passionate spirit move through the crowd as thousands of people gathered in the Melbourne Town Hall to celebrate her life. Stella is remembered for her dynamic wit, her direct honesty, her strength to speak her truth and her warm and generous heart for her family, friends and community.

Wherever Stella went you were sure to notice her presence – she was a dynamo on wheels, a force to be reckoned with and a woman who was easy to admire but her challenges didn’t come easy…

Born with a condition known as Teogenesis Imperfecta, a genetic disorder that causes bones to break easily, Stella’s feisty and passionate nature to enjoy life with the same expectations as any normal human being put her at the forefront of advocating for the disabled community in Australia.

Leaving home at seventeen to study journalism at Deakin University, Melbourne, Stella became a member of the Victorian Disability Advisory Council, the Ministerial Advisory Council for the Department of Victorian Communities, the Youth Disability Advocacy Service, and Women with Disabilities Victoria.

Her public profile brought Stella into our lounge rooms when she was invited to host eight seasons of Australia's first disability culture program, called No Limits where her mischievous humour carried a punch line like no other!

Stella was an award winning comedian, writer, activist and former editor of ABC Ramp Up.

But in today’s moving memorial service she was a beloved daughter, sister,  mentor and friend, a cherished woman in our community reminding us in her passing to never give up feeling proud of who we are, never give up the pledge to make life a better place for having been apart of her dreams and her legacy…. 

“By the time I get to you, I'll be so proud. The late Laura Hershey once wrote about disability pride, and how hard it is to achieve in a world that teaches us shame. She said, 'You get proud by practising'. Thanks to my family, my friends, my crip comrades and my community, I'm already really proud. But I promise to keep practising, every day.”

The above is an edited excerpt from Women of Letters, by Michaela McGuire & Marieke Hardy. Published by Penguin Books Australia

Stella Young

Our dear Stella – you are a true star! God bless – and I pray you have told the good Lord to replace the stairway to heaven with a decent ramp up for those following your lead…!


Read a fuller excerpt of Stella Young’s letter to her eighty-year old self at:


And be captured by her charm at

Ted Talk  "Im not your inspiration"


“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity.

We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”

Max de Pree

Copyright © Maribel Steel 2014 Photographs © Harry Williamson 2014

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