Storyteller Chris finds unique voices

Chris Kerr is passionate about telling stories, particularly the stories of people with disability in regional Australia.

This Geraldton resident recently won the opportunity to indulge this passion when she scored one of ABC’s Regional Storyteller Scholarships this year, and has since been bringing the diverse lives of regional WA to a national audience.

“For me it’s been about sharing stories of everyday people leading everyday lives and trying to get people to see disability as more than just that person they’ve seen around, like the guy in a wheelchair or the person who’s blind,” Chris says.

“It’s knowing them by name and knowing a little bit about their story, because the more we know people, the more we connect and see that humanness in each other.”

Throughout her scholarship, Chris and her team travelled across regional WA, negotiating all sorts of accessibility hurdles along the way, and put together a range of written, audio and visual packages for ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt in WA.

“We went to the far South West of Western Australia to Albany and did a story on a really lovely young woman, Naomi, who lives with Down syndrome and is a published author and budding actress,” Chris says.

“On the way there in the South West region there’s a town called Kojonup, which is a wheat/sheep farming town, and we did a story on a gentleman who lost his leg to cancer when he was 18.

“He’s returned to the farm and basically gets on and does what he needs to do and has adapted his tractors and equipment to accommodate the loss of his leg.

“We also did a story on Max the camel farmer [who is legally blind].”

Chris is a disability advocate and in her other life, the Operations Manager of Access to Leisure and Sport (Atlas), an organisation she helped create in 2003 in her hometown to increase inclusiveness for people with disability.

“I fell into advocacy because of my own life – I don’t like to miss out on things,” Chris says.

“For me, access is about physically being able to get somewhere, get in and get involved.

“Inclusion is how it feels when you get there. It’s feeling like you’re connected, engaged and welcomed wherever you are.”

Chris also runs a blog site called ‘Platform Stories’ where she shares stories of women with disability from around the world.

This year Chris is presenting the regional broadcast across WA on the ABC for International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD), which she says is the ‘cherry on top’ of her storytelling year.

“Hopefully one day people with disability will just be part of the furniture like everybody else and diversity will be welcomed and embraced,” Chris says.

“I think until that day, IDPwD is about saying, ‘we’re here, we’re not apologetic about who we are, we bring so much to the table’ and if everyone just makes room for difference then the world will be a much better place.”

You can view some of Chris’s Regional Storyteller Scholarship stories here:

Kojonup sheep farmer employs ingenuity, determination to sideline disability – ABC News

Author Naomi Lake found her voice through creative arts. Now she has a message for the world – ABC News

These men prove losing the use of your legs does not mean losing a life you love – ABC News

Technology, Lego, and innovation guide legally blind camel farmer – ABC News

The ABC Regional Storyteller Scholarship is proudly supported by IDPwD (Department of Social Services).