In a tiny brick home in the working-class Queensland shire of Logan, lives a blended family like no-other: six of the Sharrock-Barnes clan live with a disability.
Becky, 28, has an extraordinary gift that has attracted international attention: she remembers everything that has ever happened to her, in sequence, from the first day of her life to the present. And although her younger siblings aren’t medical marvels, they all possess unique gifts.
Parents, Janet and Buddha, are raising their 5 children into adulthood in a household that is eccentric, chaotic, never dull – and while there are a kaleidoscope of needs, and difficulties, there is also magnificent resilience in the lives and attitudes of this unique family.
The youngest in the family, Dylan, is just about to finish high school – the other kids are finding their feet as adults. Everyone, parents and children, are yearning for more independence.
It is a home, a family, and a community where the extraordinary and the ordinary can tell us what life is all about. Our family keeps us safe, tells us who we are – but when there is so much pressure and not much room, where is there the space to figure out who you are, and where you want to go?
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
This is a story of an Australian family that lives on the margins. This project meets the mandate of a philanthropic organisation that is looking to advocate for people living with disabilities in contemporary Australia, and to give people with disabilities the opportunity to share their stories and life experiences.
One in five Australians have a disability – however, this is not represented in our media, or our storytelling.
There is a popular saying within autism advocacy: “If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism”. Within this family there exists a wide spectrum of disabilities.
This family’s lives are complicated, at times very difficult, but also full of so much joy, optimism and love. We believe through personal storytelling we will illuminate the experiences of people living with disabilities in a way that is complex, and nuanced.
There is tremendous cultural and social value in telling this story, which we believe will facilitate a richer conversation about living with disabilities, and contribute to shedding light on the need for better support, services and recognition of people living with disabilities.
To make a meaningful, observational documentary that is intimate, ethical and personal, we need time and long-term funding support. We are looking to witness changes that are happening in the lives of these 7 people over years – we want to capture the big and the little moments that punctuate their lives, and do to that, we need partners that are committed to sharing this journey with us.
This project appeals to philanthropic organisations looking to contribute to a more inclusive and fair Australia - particularly in sharing the experiences of Australians with disabilities whose story, and agency, has been denied in the media and in public discourse.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
Janet, Mum of 5: “My hope is that your work will help to challenge societies perception on what it means to be labelled as having a disability.”
We want this family to be seen by audiences in all their complexity: their triumphs, their difficulties, and their resilience, which is what makes their family extraordinary.
In terms of impact, we look to deepen the public conversation about disability, and disability advocacy in this country - particularly in a time of great transformation in the rolling out of the NDIS in states and territories across Australia.
Dylan, 16 years old: “The film is a great idea and I like the meaning of the film. That it feels good to be different and when other people with special needs watch the film they will know that it is okay to be themselves.”
We want to make a film for people who are living with disabilities - so they feel heard and seen in a story like this. They can self-identify, and connect, with the experiences of the Sharrock-Barnes family.
Brent, father: “I want people to come along with us on our journey through the highs and the lows of real life with five special needs people…as they deal with the real life struggles of acceptance and understanding of their own lives.”
We would like to spark a conversation about disability in 21st century Australia, and for this conversation to extend past individuals and private conversations, and into the hearts and minds of politicians and policy makers. There is no easy answer to the issues facing this family - but that’s exactly why it needs to be heard by those in power.
We look forward to partnering with organisations to measure the impact this film will have on the family, the audiences that view it and those who are in positions to catalyse change. The number and spread of the screenings will help reflect the breadth of our outreach campaign while audience feedback, reviews and responses to our educational materials will demonstrate the depth of the films impact.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
Stage One: Festival / Theatrical Release & Special Event Screenings
The film will be distributed by CinemaPlus which specialises in special event theatrical screenings. We will invite the family members and relevant organisations to participate in these events with the filmmakers.
We will also look to have screenings at Parliament House in Canberra, along with promoting screenings within public service departments, such as the Department of Social Services, the NDIA, and state and council departments across the country that are working with family and disability services.
We hope to partner with Autism and Disability based organisations for outreach screenings.
Stage Two: On-Demand Community Screenings
We will invite organisations and community groups to host their own screenings of the completed film. We will look to create outreach packages which will include materials for discussion post-film.
Stage Three: SVOD Release / On-going Teacher/Training Resource
We will create resources that can be easily used in the classroom, in workplace training exercises, and in conference settings.