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Eliza Hull Musician, parent and disability advocate

Eliza Hull is a musician, parent, disability advocate and writer.

Eliza reflects on how her relationship with her disability has changed over time. What is it like for her to be a disabled parent and how her music is set to represent people with a disability.

Contact Peta

Instagram @petahooke



Episode Transcript:

Peta [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to the I Can't Stand podcast, the podcast, answering your questions on what life is like when you have a disability. This week I have. I know I say it every week, but I have a very exciting guest and I didn't quite believe that she said yes to come on the podcast. So they go, I have the fabulous musician Eliza Hall. So without any further ado, let's hand over to Eliza.

Eliza [00:00:45] Yeah, hi, how are you going, my name's Eliza Hull. And, yeah, I'm a musician, parent, disability advocate and writer. For a really long time, disability was all over there, you know, it was something that I didn't have, I guess I feel like I had to deal with because for very, very long time, disability was something that was portrayed as a negative or a deficit. All through my childhood disability was something to be afraid of me, and I think that that really fed into the belief that I. Shouldn't be disabled. It was only really until I had my daughter six years ago where I realised that if I wanted to be a parent, that modelled being authentic, that I truly had to be myself because I really want her and now my son to feel like they can be them themselves. That's ultimately what I'm after as a parent for them to feel safe and accepted.

Peta [00:01:53] I can really relate to your experience, Eliza. I think even though I have Cerebral Palsy very much, the narrative when I was younger was that I didn't necessarily have a disability, but I just couldn't walk because of that negativity that is related to having a disability. And I think itcan be really hard or possibly even confusing to have to feel like you have to hide or ignore something that is so related to your identity and something that you can't change.

Eliza [00:02:29] Yeah, exactly. For a really long time, I actually just caught a leg problem, even though whilst it's very visible in my, I walk differently and I pull over and use stairs, even though it's very visible with my legs, it's actually something that affects my whole body. But for some reason, I would just say that it was a leg problem. And that whole world problems, I think that that was obviously something that I was taught to say. And when you look at it in that way as a problem, that's actually when it could be really hard actually and feel like a heavyweight. Whereas when you start to notice that the world is the problem and that you are not the problem, that for me, it has just been a real shift and change in the in the way that I experience my body.

Peta [00:03:27] For me, my disability isn't necessarily the hard thing that I find about having a disability, necessarily, it's how inaccessible the world is. You know, if if the world had no attitude, no or physical barriers, I think they wouldn't be that negative connotation around disability because we would be able to live fully. Regardless of whether you have a disability or not.

Eliza [00:03:58] Yeah, exactly, I mean, I remember recently I went to my auntie's house for Christmas, and I just felt so disabled in that environment because they organised that the dinner was up six stairs and I couldn't get up those stairs. And so at that very moment, I felt very disabled by my environment, and I actually went into the house and cried because I thought, Oh, like, this is where I thought I would feel more included. But it was just the the environment that was disabling. Whereas if I had arrived and we were at a space that was just like entry level, I wouldn't have felt as as disabled by my environment.

Peta [00:04:42] Yeah, I think that often happens to me when I go to a barbecue. I get up to a certain level with ramps and things. And then I say that the social group I want to speak to is down a step. And then I think, Oh, it's so much effort to then put the ramps out again and then go down to speak to those certain people. And you end up sort of, well, not standing there, but sitting there thinking, God, I feel like a bit of a deal because I'm just sitting here waiting for somebody to come and talk to me, rather than me having the ability to go out and talk to people myself because of the inaccessible environment.

Eliza [00:05:23] Absolutely. Yeah. Very clear, isn't it?

Peta [00:05:28] You grew up in country Victoria and moved to Melbourne, very young was living in the city. What you expected?

Eliza [00:05:38] Again, it was realising that the environment was more disabling. I think that Melbourne, I realised, was more disabling just the amount of stairs, the buildings that a high rise to getting into apartment buildings, it's just exhausting. I started to play gigs in Melbourne, and I don't know whether it was just being naive, but I guess I expected that I would be able to get up on the stage or be able to hang out with my friends that are part of the band backstage. But every single venue in Melbourne was extremely hot and had huge barriers. Physical barriers for me that fit into the world's not built for me. That obviously just being disabled is problematic and it's something I ought to hide. Whereas now it's like, I think I've been more fired up and realise that actually, what if we start changing the world, then that will enable people to be more accepted and included.

Peta [00:06:44] I can certainly relate. I mean, when I was trying to make a corporate career happen to me, there's no better symbol of the low expectations of society than to have the built environment of that very industry to be inaccessible to people with disabilities.

Eliza [00:07:03] Absolutely true.

Peta [00:07:06] So do you think your disability is hindered or helped your music career? How do you view that?

Eliza [00:07:15] Such a good question. I think both actually, I think that for a really long time, it did hinder my disability. That, you know, I feel like whatever we believe we are, we kind of. Oh, I really believe in that manifest our reality, and I think that might not have been the music industry's problem. It would flex a thing that I thought was a problem. So I didn't put myself out there enough. I didn't think that if there's no way that I could dance in a music video clip, that kind of thing. So I always made myself believe that I wasn't enough to be successful. Whereas now I think it's been a bit of both in that I have as I've come into myself as a disabled person and I'm extremely proud of my disability. And I'm now speaking about disability more and becoming an advocate. I think that it's pain that has enabled me to write, maybe even write better music and believe in myself more, but also that the music industry more widely is changing and there is now. You know, people are having more conversations and realising that there's there hasn't been enough space for disabled people in the music industry, and it's time. So let's have greater representation. Let's have these conversations and let's try and eliminate the many barriers that disabled people face in the industry.

Peta [00:08:47] When I was younger, I didn't know anybody with a disability in the music industry. And it didn't even register to me that I should. That's how ingrained it was in me to not even expect to have somebody with a disability represent me and look like me within the industry. So how do you think the music industry could be more inclusive to people with disabilities?

Eliza [00:09:17] Yeah, look, I think that what you just said is so true. We didn't see anybody with a disability in the music industry, and if you are a young person and you don't see representation, it's so important it's telling that tells you that it's impossible, really. So what I want to say is that I want to say greater representation of disabled people performing music on TV, on that radio. And my greatest hope is that the ARIA Awards becomes accessible even if there and there isn't a disabled person nominated. I still think it's so important that there's a ramp. When a young person is at home watching that award ceremony that they say, Oh, they've got a ramp, that means that I can, that's possible. And that's the same with having an also an interpreter or captions. It's just that is is something that will will help young people feel like it's a possibility for them. So that's my greatest hope and I try and in that space, I'm trying.

Peta [00:10:25] And many of us are very grateful that you're doing that. And how did you gain the confidence to put yourself out there like this to say, here is my music, please enjoy. I know for me, it's taken me a long time to feel confident in my own voice and start the podcast. So how did you gain that confidence within yourself?

Eliza [00:10:49] I think I was. I lived in a household that really nourished me as a musician. I had a piano at the piano lessons that didn't really go too well, but because I just wanted to write my own song. But yeah, I think they really my parents saw real talent and helped nourish that talent. Also, just that primary school, I felt very accepted by the other kids. But once I got to high school, I started getting bullying where some students would laugh and walk behind me. The way I walk and point at the piano and singing was was the way to creatively express that sadness and hurt in a way that it was just not, nothing else like it. And so there was kind of no other way for me. It just had to pour out of me. So it was just that real great desire and great need to sing and express myself and hopefully help other people through my music.

Peta [00:11:55] And you're about to release a new record. Can you tell us about it?

Eliza [00:12:00] Yeah, it's look, it's taken a long time because of all the lockdowns. The songs are written. It just is almost impossible right now to get into the studio to record it. It's about disability identity. It's about acceptance being true to yourself and a couple of relationship love songs in there that I can't stop singing about.

Peta [00:12:25] And why does now feel like the right time to explore your disabled identity in your music?

Eliza [00:12:34] I haven't really done it before, I guess, and yet I've had a disability since I was five years old. But I think the time is now. That's just what I'm that's what I'm feeling and thinking about all the time. I just live and breathe disability advocacy and very ingrained in the community. And that's just what's coming out right now.

Peta [00:12:58] I'm sure I can speak for the community when I say we are so excited to hear that next level of expression and representation within the music industry, it's fantastic and I'm super excited. So you said before that you started to step in to your disabled identity after your daughter was born. What in that experience triggered you to be like right now is the time to leave my full life.

Eliza [00:13:30] Yeah, I think it's it's a little bit about what I was talking about being true to yourself, an authentic so you can model that for them. But it was also due to becoming a parent and trying to find a book out there about being a disabled parent so that I could know what, whether there were any whites around certain things around accessibility. And just to find that common story that, oh, it is possible to be a parent and just that representation I was really after. I looked on the internet. There was absolutely nothing out there, and if there was, there were little videos and often it was portrayed that either it's disabled people shouldn't be parents or that it was so inspiring that it's so incredible that a disabled person even chose to parent. So there was really nothing out there that I was seeking, which was just authentic true stories about what it means to be a disabled parent. That was really that moment where I wanted to then.

Eliza [00:14:40] Really, you step in to being disabled and try and change the narrative around parenting and disability, and I applied for the scholarship with the ABC to create. We've got this about being a parent with disability, and the audio series was on Radio National and with ABC Life and just really resonated with a lot of people. I think that that was just really due to it there not being enough at their. And now that's being turned into a book. We've got this at on March one, which is many stories of people with disability all around Australia about their parenting experiences. I just hope that that book enables more people to feel like they can be great parents because there still is a little ableism, especially within the medical field. If I had listened to medical people, I wouldn't have had children. They really told me that I shouldn't be a parent, that because I have 50 per cent chance of passing on my disability, I shouldn't parent trust yourself and try and you know. Pushed back if you need to with medical professionals and try and find community as many groups as disabled mums group, that's just really great and many disabled parenting Facebook pages. This book is another way to gain community. And I mean, I truly believe we we all know as a person with disability that you have to be pretty like, you have to adapt, you have to be creative to move freely in the world that we live in because of the barriers that we face. So I feel like we're actually set up to be incredible parents because of that. Like, we have those skills already.

Peta [00:16:34] What do you love about having a disability?

Eliza [00:16:38] Oh, goodness, great question. I mean, the simple thing I wrote in the book, actually, that when I when Archie is my, he's my second child and he's now nearly two. But when he was a baby, I feel like the way that I move because I rock back and forth as I move like walk was actually like a settling technique because I love movement. And so you know that that beautiful moment of just realising, Oh, maybe like my disability actually is the one thing that really helps him. I love the community, the disability community, and feeling like I'm part of something. I feel like diversity is what makes this world beautiful. We don't all want to look the same and be the same. That diversity and difference is what it is. It's interesting and unique. So I think that that's what I really love about being disabled is feeling that I'm unique.

Peta [00:17:36] That story about Archie gave me chills. That's lovely. Is there anything about your disability that you don't like?

Eliza [00:17:46] The pain I don't like pain, I'm in pain every day, and I think that I'm in so much pain that I don't notice the pain sometimes because it's just always there. But at the night time when I'm trying to drift off to sleep, the pain can be unbearable and I can't sleep. Sometimes I can feel pretty embarrassed when I fold over in front of people. Sometimes it can just surprise you when you fall over and it's just like, oh, I really didn't want to feel ever right now. There were a lot of things I didn't like in the past, but I'm moving forward. My feet look different and I have scars on them, and I used to really hide them and not want to go pull one and go to the beach, wear jeans and socks on the 40 degree day. Just hide constantly hot, hot, odd. So there were a lot of things that you really didn't like about myself for a long time. Now I'm recently at the beach and just stopped caring and just really feel good about that. Yeah.

Peta [00:18:50] I mean, I really try to think I'm probably never going to see that person again, that staring at me right now, so I'm just going to try and enjoy my day and get on with it. Exactly. That's it. Lastly. What do you hope it would be like to have a disability in Australia in the future? Oh.

Eliza [00:19:16] Easier. I think, just I really hope that it will be easier, more accessible venues, more accessible workplaces, more flexibility with work, people can work from home if they choose and if they choose to go to work, they can get into the building or have any accessibility that they need. But I think the greatest thing is that I hope that more widely, the general population realises that disability is not something to be feared. It's not a negative. It's actually, as I said, what makes this world right and beautiful? That's my greatest hope that we will see that happen. And I think that that comes from greater representation.

Peta [00:20:04] I couldn't agree more. Thank you so much for being here today, Eliza. It's been a thrill to talk to you.

Eliza [00:20:11] Thank you for having me.

Peta [00:20:16] Thank you for listening to this week's episode. Hope you enjoyed it. If you'd like to ask a question for a future episode of the podcast, there are three ways you can contact me one by Instagram. My handle is at Peta hook spelt Peta Hooke by email at or via my website If you did enjoy this episode, can you please leave a rating on review? Better yet shared on social media, it all helps more people find the podcast. That's it. For now, the week guys have a good one by.


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