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Somebody Different: Jody Barney from Queensland

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By Sarah Parkes

“It’s just awful, it’s gutwrenching.”

Hear Jody’s Story

Jody Barney is a Birri-Gubba/Urangan woman who identifies as a deaf and lesbian. Unfortunately, like many Aboriginal people with a disability, she experiences discrimination on an almost daily basis.

The Inclusive Australia Social Inclusion Index 2019/20 looked into the levels of discrimination felt by intersectional Australians, meaning people who belong to more than one minority or marginalised group, and the impact that was having on their personal wellbeing. The study found that discrimination increases with every additional group you belong to and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people with disability were experiencing the highest levels of discrimination. As a consequence, they report some of the lowest wellbeing in the country – up to 10 percentage points lower than the national average.

As a deaf woman, one of the major hurdles is when organisations and government departments won’t provide an interpreter. She says the mandate around wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic has also had a big impact on people who are deaf and hard of hearing. “When I go shopping or when I’m in the street, sometimes people will sort of copy me in a mimicking way and make fun of my use of my language,” she says. Recently, someone asked her if she could

As part of the LGBTI community, Jody also faces regular prejudice. Before starting her own consulting business, a manager told her she wasn’t a good fit for the job because some clients might be offended by that type of behaviour. And when attending a hospital for chemotherapy, a nurse refused the entry of her partner, calling it immoral. “At first you’re just in shock, you don’t believe it’s happening and then you try to rationalise what’s happening,” she says.

Jody is part of the Stolen Generation, so it is hurtful when people say she doesn’t look Aboriginal. She’s also gobsmacked that a lot of older people still use language like ‘Pickaninny’. “I’m still shocked every time it happens,” she says.

When acts of discrimination occur in public, Jody says most people ignore it. But she thinks awareness around the issues raised on public platforms is empowering people to recognise discrimination in their own lives and call it out. Her message to people out there: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

“It’s just awful, it’s gutwrenching.”
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