Fieldwork update: Sydney, NSW

Image description: A photo of the Sydney opera house, taken from a ferry. Blue water in the foreground, and a bright blue sky in the background. 

So my third and last period of fieldwork is completed, namely in the state of New South Wales, Australia. I stayed in Sydney for two weeks interviewing organisations and policymakers, as well as meeting with people more informally to gain a better understanding of the cultural and political context of how sex and disability issues are dealt with; and specifically sexual facilitation.

Back when I planned the project I chose New South Wales as a case study because of Touching Base, a unique organisation when it comes to sex and disability. As I will discuss more deeply in coming posts about each organisation I interviewed, the success of Touching Base has both to with passionate and hard-working individuals, as well as with a policy context making such an organisation possible to start in the first place. This climate has resulted in a group of organisations that work together to further the sexual rights of disabled people (or ‘people with disability’, which is the term used in Australia): the disability service provider Northcott and the sexual health organisation Family Planning NSW. They also do their own work around sex and relationships, LGBT rights, sex education etc.

And although disabled people’s led organisations such as Cerebral Palsy Alliance and People with Disability Australia do not currently prioritise sexual rights on their advocacy agenda, they have always supported Touching Base and been involved with activities that they together with Northcott and Family Planning NSW have arranged. Similarly, Women with Disabilities Australia, has done much important systemic advocacy work on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of disabled women, including issues around violence, parenting and forced sterilisation, but not necessarily on sexual facilitation.

Apart from interviewing disability rights-related organisations, I also interviewed an official from the Department of Family and Community Services in the NSW government. They have developed policies and guidelines around sexuality and disability, which include issues around sexual facilitation.

Stay tuned for upcoming posts about the interviews, and what I’ve been up to in Melbourne, where I am staying at the moment!