A message to all women with intellectual disability

06 March 2020

To mark International Women’s Day, we asked Shu Hua Chan, our Chairperson, about her life as a woman with intellectual disability.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I came to Australia when I’m 13. I’m from Hong Kong.

I’m a carer for my parents. Eight years ago my mum had leukaemia cancer. I looked after my mum all the way until she passed.

I’m a person with intellectual disability from a non-English speaking background. I found it hard because in Hong Kong they are totally different. The education is different, the way they raise us is different, how we dress up, how we eat is different to Europeans. Australia is another country.

I love art. I go to learn foundation drawing and then I go to ceramic course. I did my diploma, three years in ceramics, then I got a job in Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association. I been there for 17 years now.

“People with disability can live and enjoy their lives as much as other people.”

What would you like to see women with disability achieve?

Able to find a job, able to stand up for ourselves, to stand strong, to do the same thing as men, to speak up for ourselves is most important.

I’m always talking about speaking up. We need to have a voice, we need to be able to be strong enough to go through our day to day lives, able to fight what we need to fight, to take care of the kids, to take care of the family, to take care of our mental health.

Shu talking to MP Tanya Plibersek

Do you think international women’s day is important and why?

Yes, because it recognises how women are strong, how so many things are done by women, so many things that women contribute. They raise up the family, they raise up the kids, they are as a mother, as a daughter, as a sister. To be a lady is very important in the family.

Some people think that people with disability aren’t capable of doing certain things.

My mum, she said “Oh, you can’t have marriage” because I have an intellectual disability. “You shouldn’t have kids. Because people who have disability shouldn’t be thinking about marriage.”

That is wrong, we are all equal.

We should have our own thinking, the same as able people. Don’t thinking about we are disabled, because we are strong enough, we can make it, we can still do it.

As I say, we need to have a voice. We should talk about things. Some Chinese people they don’t raise things. If we see wrong things we should talk about how to solve the problem.

Shu presenting the keynote with Jim watching on
Shu presenting the keynote at the ASID conference 2020. Photo: Dean Holland

What would you say to people who are told they can’t do things because of their intellectual disability?

I think they need to be strong enough, they need to be tough, they need to be able to fight for themselves. They need to speak up.

Whether it’s at work, in public or at home, people with disability can live and enjoy their lives as much as other people. We still have two eyes and a nose! Not like, “oh you can only go special school, you can only do this, you can’t do such and such.” That’s wrong.

Shu being interviewed by WIN TV
Shu being interviewed for TV

What’s your message to young girls with intellectual disability?

Go ahead and try your best, try to be confident to try to do things by yourself before asking for help. Try search what you need on the computer or to call for help.

Try to live independently, live happily in your life. Don’t think “I’m a person with intellectual disability and I can’t do anything.”

If you try to do it you might do it. You need to give it a go. Give it a go is very important.

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