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Nothing says it more than a poem

When Sandy Jeffs was diagnosed with schizophrenia it was not the end of the world, in fact it was actually the start of her writing career. Yet her aspirations to write started in high school when she was introduced to TS Elliott. It fuelled a dream that she now lives.

“When I went crazy at 23 and became diagnosed with schizophrenia I began documenting my madness in poetry,” says Sandy.

“It made me still feel alive and made me feel worthwhile. Then when I was first published at 40 that gave me the impetus to keep going.”

Sandy’s first book, Poems from the Madhouse was published in 1993 and immediately begun winning awards. To date it has sold 6,000 copies and keeps selling.

At the time her poetry was unique to the Australian literary landscape because no on had published work inspired by mental illness before. So Sandy kept going.

“Writing is exciting,” adds Sandy enthusiastically. “To build a poem from nothing, the first line, metaphor and image. It gives you live, it is life affirming.

“It’s a wonderful experience to watch the poem come forth. It hasn’t cured my madness, but poetry is my purpose and meaning and validation because it is something I can do. And I am validated because people keep publishing me.”

Book seven Chiaroscuro and book eight The Mad Poets Team Party were published just last week.

“I call myself a mad woman, a lunatic, crazy I use those words before someone uses them against me,” she explains.

“It is so I have those labels and you can’t use them against me – I get in first. I’m celebrating those labels and saying I am not a monster I have something to say.”

Access2Arts and mindshare are brought Sandy Jeffs to Adelaide in June 2015 to launch the 2015 mindshare poetry awards and to present a series of workshops for writers with a lived experience of mental illness. 

Presenting at a Little CONference

Guest Blogger: Matt Shilcock

Hosted by Dianne Reid and the Deakin University in Melbourne, May 2015 saw the second annual “Little CONference” for improvisation and performance. South Australian performers Cinzia Schincariol and Matt Shilcock made a bee-line for Melbourne to present their work Scomodo.

The CONference saw two day weekend of open studio time, guest workshops, performances, presentations, papers and discussions related to practice based research, dance/physical improvisation and performance. Both days (Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 May), consisted of two hour morning workshops, in improvised dance and movement led by Olivia Millard, and entering into a creative state of mind with Peter Trotman.

Presenters included; Dianne Reid and Mel Smith, Dani Cresp, Paul Roberts, Andrew Morrish, Shaun McLeod, and from South Australia – Cinzia Schincariol and myself, Matt Shilcock. Cinzia and I performed Scomodo (the Italian word for ‘uncomfortable’), a 10 minute improvised dance performance based around the task of dismantling and exploring components of a wheelchair, layered with the question “where do I place myself?”

Our performance was well received, but the real value of attending this conference is the inspiration that gets soaked up from being in a room full of wonderful and creative people, many whom were holding, or currently studying PhDs! Some of the many powerful presentations we witnessed included a duo between Dianne Reid (Hipsync, AUS) and Mel Smith, dancer, film maker and writer; titled Unbecoming – blurring boundaries without burning bridges.

For those who don’t know, Mel is a leading advocate for disability in art. She dances with cerebral palsy and incorporates wheelchairs and speaking aid devices with contact improvisation. Dianne is a choreographer, dancer and filmmaker under her company name Hipsync.

The attendance of Cinzia Schincariol and Matt Shilcock at the Little CONference was supported by Arts SA through the Richard Llewellyn Arts and Disability program.


Guest Blogger: Sophie Li

The Deaf and hard of hearing communities, along with their supporters, were recently outraged by an advertisement by a Victorian company for running an ad that called hearing aids ‘ugly’ and pictured a woman with a prawn on her ear.

Sophie Li, a deaf woman from Victoria, reflects by penning this letter to her younger self.


Dear Sophie,
You’re sixteen. You’re in high school, listening to gossip is like watching a tennis match. You’re beating yourself up because you missed the punch line of a joke your friend told.

You’re still hiding your cochlear implants. You’re still apologising to people that you’re deaf. You accept that you’re alone in this world.

You won’t accept your deafness until you’re twenty-three. Surprise! It will only take you a year to learn Auslan and discover just how truly wonderful it is to be part of two beautiful and diverse worlds: deaf and hearing.

One day, you will work for deaf youth. One day, you will fall in love with a man who is profoundly and proudly deaf: he will open the door to the Deaf community – a world where you finally feel you belong. You will also work where you are comfortable to switch between answering telephone calls and via the National Relay Service. One day you will realise you can have the best life: living in both worlds at any time you want.

It is when you are twenty-five that you stand up for yourself and the deaf community you belong to. You see an advertisement on a tram in Melbourne, “Hearing Aids are UGLY” – you are in shock and are saddened that this is still the stigma in Australia. You decide to help support the counter campaign, featuring four people with hearing aids and cochlear implants and a slogan, “Are We UGLY?” You decide to speak out on Channel 7 news. Sophie, you will be in disbelief: 35,000 views, 600 shares, deaf, hard of hearing and hearing people across the world are standing up for the people of this community.

I’m so proud of you, Sophie. Stay strong. Happiness is here. Be deaf and proud.

Lots of love,


Here is the original advertisement from Victorian Hearing. 

A black and white photograph of a woman with a prawn around her ear to simulate a hearing aid. The text on the image says "Hearing aids can be ugly. Ours are invisible.

A colour photograph of Sophi Li. She has long, straight black hair with purple tips. She is waring a black top and a silver spiky necklace.

Sophie Li is a dance and yoga enthusiast who identifies herself as a deaf person. She currently wears 2 cochlear implants and can speak well and sign in Auslan fluently.

Chris Dyke and Dance North

Guest Blogger: Chris Dyke

Chris Dyke has a history of dance performance, most recently with Restless Dance Theatre. He enjoys an ongoing mentorship with Kyle Page, Artistic Director and Dancer with Dancenorth, QLD. Chris talks about his recent week-long  development with Kyle in Townsville.

I worked with my mentor Kyle Page, Artistic Director at Dancenorth for a week. We had daily one-on-one development sessions for me to choreograph a solo dance piece. I learnt about creating my own work as well as new skills, techniques and moves.


I engaged with the company dancers through attending daily meditation/warm-up and company class. I also watched rehearsals in the lead up to opening night of their production ‘Thread’. I hung out with two other dancers from New Zealand, who were also on secondment. I attended open contemporary class and worked closely with Susan the Cultural Engagement Facilitator.

On my last day I performed my solo for the company executives, the State Minister for Disability and several media outlets resulting in public broadcast on Channel 7 and WIN Townsville news and an article in the Townsville Bulletin.

I wish to thank Kyle, Amber, the company dancers and executives at Dancenorth for making me welcome and providing the opportunity to experience being in a professional dance company environment. I am delighted that I have been invited to be their Inclusive Dance Practice Ambassador and to visit twice a year for ongoing secondments.

Chris was assisted by the South Australian Government through Carclew to undertake his Dancenorth secondment.