Stella Young dies aged 32

Thirty-two year old Stella Young died suddenly on Saturday.
Thirty-two year old Stella Young died suddenly on Saturday.

Former Stawell woman and comedian, journalist and disability advocate Stella Young has died aged 32.

Young was born with a bone condition known as osteogenesis imperfecta, which she often described simply as "having really dodgy bones".

She defied expectations from the day she was born.

Doctors told her parents - her father a butcher and musician and her mother a hairdresser - that she would not live beyond her first birthday, at most.

But she was zooming around in a wheelchair before she was three and was already quite independent by the time she left home, aged 17, to study media and education at Deakin University.

Young often credited her parents for raising her as a "normal child, without a disability".

Born and raised in the western Victorian town of Stawell, home of the famous foot race, she cut her activist teeth at the age of 14 when she conducted a wheelchair access audit of her local main street.

"It didn't take long - it was a pretty short street," she often quipped.

Young's family said she died peacefully on Saturday.

"With great sadness we acknowledge the passing of Stella Young, our much-loved and irreplaceable daughter and sister," the family said in a statement.

"Stella passed away on Saturday evening, unexpectedly, but in no pain.

"A private funeral will take place soon, followed by a public event in Melbourne, with more details to come.

"Our loss is a deeply personal one. We request privacy during this difficult time."

As the editor of ABC's Ramp Up website, Ms Young challenged perceptions of disability.

ABC managing director Mark Scott said Young was an unforgettable and passionate communicator, who helped many people understand disability issues through her raw honesty.

"As a writer and broadcaster, Stella was sharp and incisive, challenging and provocative. She was very warm and generous, the first to laugh and to make us all laugh," Mr Scott said.

"She was so talented, so widely loved and respected.

"Her many friends at the ABC are filled with sadness at this news, as are Australians around the country, who loved and admired her columns, her broadcasts and her comedy performances."

Young more often turned to the medium of comedy to spread her message.

For three years she worked the comedy circuit, making light of her own experiences, to help shift misconceptions and stereotypes about disability.

She received the best newcomer award at this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival and hosted eight seasons of Australia's first disability culture program, No Limits, which aired on Channel 31 and community stations across the country.

More recently, she was heavily involved in the debate over Australia's need for a national disability insurance scheme.

She also worked with the Youth Disability Advocacy Service to establish the LiveAccess project, advocating for better access to live music venues in Melbourne.

Before joining the ABC, Young worked in Public Programs at Melbourne Museum, where she taught children about bugs and dinosaurs.


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