Aussie polio survivors win international film award

An Australian group Post Polio Victoria (PPV) has won the Focus on Ability Film Festival 2023, Nova Employment Choice Award. The Focus on Ability annual International Short Film Festival challenges filmmakers to create a short film that celebrates the achievements and abilities of people with disability.

The generous prize was kindly donated by Noble Toyota. The 5 min film, Lives Well Lived celebrates the lives and contributions of three Australians polio survivors. Shirley Glance OAM, Dr Peter Freckleton and Robyn Abrahams share their experiences of being diagnosed from childhood with a stigmatised virus and finding the strength and courage to get on with life.

The film celebrates the contributions the three have made to the community and the adjustments they have made as they live with Post Polio Syndrome.

Dr Peter Freckleton says:
“People assume that a disabled person has a lesser quality of life, that we don’t value life as a person without disability would, I can assure you that is not the case at all. We all have the same hopes and dreams, we are all people in the end, and it doesn’t matter whether one is disabled on not in that respect, we all have the same value. We have been fighting all our lives to get the support we need, and we are still fighting now. Some people with polio denied their disabilities and didn’t apply for NDIS. Now they are struggling to get the support they need through My Age Care and will end up prematurely in residential aged care. We want our disabilities recognised and we want to be supported.”

Shirley Glance OAM, President of Post Polio Victoria  adds:
We entered the film competition because we wanted to raise awareness of the experiences of Polio survivors living with disabilities. It [is] so important that our experiences and needs are understood because that is an important first step in the development of more Polio inclusive services and communities. Winning was such a bonus, we hope people will set aside 5mins to watch our film and understand the challenges of polio survivors.

Robyn Abrahams also wants health and aged care service providers to understand what older polio survivors have experienced:
I was three when I contracted polio. I was put into an infectious disease’s hospital and my mother and father weren’t allowed to visit for months. That was so cruel. We were told being disabled was a sign of laziness. We weren’t allowed to complain, we just had to endure it all. I was in an iron lung for a while. When we turned 16 the little support we had ended, and we were just supposed to get on with life. It wasn’t until I had a stroke in 2017 that I learned how to pick myself up when I fall. We were never taught that. They didn’t want to know we existed. We have Long Polio and no one is listening to what we need.

Glance PPV President , has been leading a national project to raise awareness of the experiences and needs of people ageing with Post Polio Syndrome, including
· undertaking a Fellowship on Ageing and Post Polio Syndrome with the Elder Leadership Academy at Celebrate Ageing Ltd.
· facilitating a workshop at the Australian Association of Gerontology Conference in 2022.
· producing a series of short videos on the experiences of people ageing with Post Polio Syndrome, including the winning film by film maker Chris Franklin, from Franklin Image.