Filmed over three decades, ON RICHARD'S SIDE charts the life-story of Richard, a young man with a severe intellectual disability since birth. The film provides intimate and poignant insights into his parents’ quest to establish a quality life for their son and themselves. Richard’s mum is now ageing. His father has passed away. Who will care for Richard in the next stage of his life?
With the imminent roll-out of the National Disabiltiy Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Australia is about to witness the biggest change in its health sector since the introduction of Medicare. However, this remarkable story begins thirty-four years ago when Richard Rook was born.
This latest film is the third in a trilogy of documentaries about Richard and his family – Driving with Richard (1992) and Wonder Boy (2001).
The documentary begins by stepping back in time, revealing through home movies and footage from the previous films how Deirdre coped, caring for Richard as a lovable child who also had highly erratic and often violent impulses. It also reveals the strong bonds that grew between a father and son when Richard’s dad, Charlie, became his sole carer for eighteen years.
After a short battle with cancer, Charlie passed away in December 2013. Once again Deirdre, now in her early sixties, is her son’s primary carer and she must plan the remainder of both of their lives. Deirdre is facing the same questions she posed in the earlier films: Who will care for Richard as he ages? What will happen to Richard when she is no longer around? What is considered to be a ‘good life’ for Richard?
This film presents Richard’s story but it’s not just about people with intellectual disabilities; it’s about society at large; it’s about all of us. The film gives a stark insight into the world of just one of the 2.7 million Australians who are currently providing care to someone with a disability or long-term health condition.
We witness the extraordinary day-to-day effort required to look after Richard, and Deirdre’s resolve in performing the role of carer after three decades. Deirdre wants to build a circle of friends and carers for Richard in case anything happens to her. Critically, she needs to try and find a sustainable, long-term accommodation solution for Richard but can she?
The leading voice of this film is the fearless and impassioned voice of Deirdre and that voice, just one of many, tells us that to care for someone means to care for life. Amidst the immense struggle the film reveals moments of humour and great tenderness and how, in many, many ways, Richard gives to others even as he receives their care.
"There are seasons in a life and it’s time for us all to transition into the next season." - Deirdre Croft April 2014
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
The challenge of how parents of children with disabilities provide for their children when the child ages and/or the parent passes away becomes ever more pressing as the Australian population ages.
This project is suitable for philanthropic support because of the importance of the subject matter, the currency of the subject matter, the difficulty in securing traditional means of financing for this documentary and the unique access to footage filmed over three decades.
In addition, this documentary can build on the success of the previous documentaries by reaching those who are not familiar with the challenges faced by people in this situation and by revealing the inspiring manner in which many of them face the future.
I believe the film should be supported because of the current interest in the debates embracing how this country works with and approaches matters connected to disability. Through the journey of Deirdre and her son we can witness extraordinary lives and, concurrently, interrogate an area of Australian life that will become more and more pressing as the population increases and ages.
The roll out of the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme), its development and implementation, provides a context within which this very human drama is located. There is a natural nexus between this national disability initiative and Deirdre, as her work and advocacy intersect with the principles underpinning the NDIS and its practical application.
It's interesting to note that the previous two documentaries about Richard and his parents were financed through documentary funding models with SBS and ABC. While the ABC has screened some outstanding programs about disability recently, their focus is on programming longer series and this feature does not meet their current selection criteria. Philanthropic support will assist this film to be made by providing a critical part of the finance in a budget that has been deliberately kept modest so that the project can be realised and brought to a wide audience in the near future.
Philanthropic support at this time will assist to bring this ambitious trilogy of films to a natural conclusion. The three films can then be used as a package, or the third film can be used as a stand-alone work to reach the intended audience. The essence of each of the films might be described as:
1. Driving with Richard – reveals Richard moving towards puberty. Looks at how his mother, Deirdre and he have coped after Deirdre's divorce with Richard's father, Charlie.
2. Wonder Boy – transitioning from school into post school years, challenges of man-hood. Focuses on Charlie as he becomes Richard's primary care-giver in this period.
3. On Richard’s Side –After the death of Charlie, how can Richard transition from living in the family home to living independently in the community?
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
This documentary, like the previous documentaries, can reach out to a broad audience and increase awareness about how parents with children with disabilities can care for them as they age.
The documentary can also be used to assist advocacy about these issues, building on the manner in which the previous two documentaries were used by Deirdre and others as part of their lobbying efforts.
The power and impact of this new documentary will be found in the personal moments and in the events that make up the lives of Richard and Deirdre in the coming months. Often the drama will be located in the day-to-day events while at other times, thoughts and concerns about the future will be of great significance.
I hope to produce a highly memorable and vivid work which creates an emotional engagement for its audience by presenting the highs and lows of Deirdre and Richard's life - the humour and the challenges. I want to make a film that challenges us to consider the journey of "the Other".
In his work, Life in Fragments, sociologist Zygmunt Bauman comments on the dislocated nature of modernity and how it may make it more difficult to empathise with the plight of strangers.
Bauman elaborates on the notion of being active in assisting the ‘Other’ and calls on philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas to support his position.
"To make a moral stance means to assume the responsibility for ‘the other’; to act on the assumption that the well-being of ‘the other’ is a precious thing calling for my effort to preserve and enhance it…As the ethical philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas, puts it – morality means being for (not merely being-aside or even being with) ‘the other’".
In a paper entitled, Making the personal political - A personal journey through disability, disability services and disability advocacy, Deirdre makes the following observations about society’s ability to meet the needs of the disabled and their carers – the Other.
"In those early campaigning days, we naively thought our task was simply to demonstrate the human consequences of the need and more especially the unmet need. We thought the burgeoning crisis in unmet need was because our political decision-makers didn’t know what was going on in the private world of people’s everyday lives. Our job was to confront them with the harsh realities of how people were being forced to live in the absence of needed support, upon which time human decency would take over, adequate funding would be provided and the problem would be solved. Did I say naive?"
Impact for the film will be measured by its ability to meet the outreach goals outlined below.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
Spanning the education sector, workplace and general community, we will target a coalition of organisations able to use the film to generate greater awareness about the needs and choices of people with disability as they age.
We will seek tangible policy outcomes in the areas of improved accommodation, inclusive education and improved conditions for people with disability and carers in the workplace.
We want ON RICHARD'S SIDE to…
• Be an opportunity for Richard to tell his story. Although Richard is non-verbal, as a person with an intellectual disability, he should also be given a forum.
• Reach new audiences with little or no understanding of intellectual disability and assist them to understand that families and carers of people with intellectual disability need support.
• Foster a broader discussion through schools, workplaces, community groups and the general public about the needs and choices of people with disabilities and those who care for them.
• Reach out to schools and young people, some may already be carers themselves and many will be the leaders of tomorrow, and encourage a deeper understanding of the challenges surrounding disability and inclusion.
• Be a resource for workplaces that wish to reduce any stigma associated with people with disability and their carers.