Date

Friday, 28 September 2018

Release

Northern Beaches Council is calling for community volunteers to become ‘Human Books’ for a day.

To celebrate both Social Inclusion Week and International Day of People With a Disability, Council is hosting a special event featuring real people, going ‘on loan’ to the public for 20 minutes at a time to share stories as ‘Human Books’ about overcoming challenges, stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination.

The Stories of the Northern Beaches - Human Library event will be held on Saturday 1 December at Council’s newly-refurbished Tramshed Arts & Community Centre in Narrabeen.

Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan said visitors or readers to the ‘Human Library’ will have an opportunity to borrow ‘Human Books’ for a conversation.

“The ‘Human Library’ will be a great place to connect people in our community and to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue.

 “We are encouraging volunteers to come forward and be ‘Human Books’ to share their life stories, including their life experiences including their ethnic or cultural background, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, disability or lifestyle,” Mayor Regan said.

Eighty-four-year-old Robert Hinds, former chair of the Manly Access Committee and well known locally for his advocacy work, thoroughly enjoyed his experience as a ‘Human Book’ last time the event took place.

“I shared my story with a number of people, including children and parents, business people, professional people and others,” said Robert. “Children were especially interested in my story.”

Robert, whose sight was taken from him at 14 years-of-age by the rare, genetic condition retinitis pigmentosa, said his main message to people is: “You’ve really got to be yourself and be up-front with people that you’ve got a disability - and not let it get you down.”

He found that people were interested in how he and other people with a disability cope with the pressures of daily life, especially in the work-place.

“I told them that it was important to have confidence in yourself. In my case, I never wanted sympathy from employers, I just wanted to do the job.”

Robert said people were also keen to hear his life story.

“Especially, they liked hearing how when I was a youngster, I met the acclaimed disability advocate and author Helen Keller while she was visiting Australia in 1948.”

It was about that time Robert’s condition was first diagnosed, devastating news for a 14-year-old boy.

“Helen Keller was the big mentor in my life,” said Robert.

“She turned my life around at a time when things had been really getting me down.

“Since then, my motto has always been ‘Don’t lie down with a disability’. It’s very important to be active in life.

“Fortunately, I’m a ‘person’ person, so I like to encourage people,” Robert said.

To express your interest in becoming a ‘Human Book’ and sharing your story, fill in the online form at northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au or telephone 9976 1562 to apply.

Media Enquiries: media@northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au 9942 2678