In Conversation With: Alison Paradoxx

Floral Peroxide is a personal account of my own journey through the medical system, and navigating society as a whole, in a chronically unwell body,’ says 2016 Poetry Slam Championship Alison Bennett, explaining her debut Fringe 2019 performance: Alison Paradoxx presents Floral Peroxide.

Floral Peroxide explores disability using performance poetry, sound art, and dance to tell her story. ‘As a disabled and chronically ill artist,’ says Bennett, ‘I explore the paradoxes of disability, and the societal desire to ‘fix’ the broken self. My work articulates injury, and trauma through metaphor, sound, and visual theatre.’

Floral Peroxide is based primarily on Bennett’s final diagnosis: Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), which she’s had since birth but wasn’t diagnosed until she was 40.

‘It was my chance to reclaim my identity and construct my own narrative of how I see myself in the world around me. I was sick of other people’s narratives for my life, and, as a poet, naturally began to ‘write what I know’, for me – what started with a lot of anger, and resentment, ended in a journey of acceptance, and understanding.’

Bennett has collaborated with other artists like 5000AD (sound artist), Ian Gibbins (video artist) and Angelique Joy (costume designer) to bring a multimedia experience to Floral Peroxide. The multimedia experience of the performance was ‘motivated by this desire to create performance art that is inclusive, and accessible to all, regardless of ability.’ She also said it came from events she’s performed at which are inaccessible to a number of people with disabilities.

In the media release for Floral Peroxide, Bennett says there is a societal desire to ‘fix’ the broken self. This is to represent society’s view that someone who is ‘broken’ can be mended. She also says it comes from years of trying to explain her pains and disabilities, which have included severe spinal scoliosis and surviving a house fire with second-degree burns. ‘The western world has a majority viewpoint of disability as being a flaw that needs to be corrected, rather than a society that needs to adapt to change!’

When asked about what she thinks about the representation of disability at the 2019 Adelaide Fringe, Bennett said, ‘I feel that 2019 has been a stand-out year, in regard to forging forward with better access for artists, and audience members by Fringe as whole, and I can only see that this will be a positive in enabling other disabled artists to create work, with the Fringe festival in mind.’

She is happy with the inclusion of the Accessibility Champions, an Accessibility guide, and the work by the Fringe’s Access and Inclusion Officer. However, she says it still has a long way to go in giving disabled artists the required needs to be part of any large festival. She would love to see a bigger representation of disability at the Fringe in future years.

If you are interested in seeing Alison Paradoxx presents Floral Peroxide, it will be at The Libertine by Louis on February 23-24. For those interested in learning more about health/disability at the Fringe, be sure to also check out the Social Change Guide to the Fringe by the Don Dunstan Foundation. A link to the signup page can be found here.

Interview by Cameron Lowe


You Make A Life By What You Give: Volunteering in Australia

You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”

– Winston Churchill.


The official definition of volunteering states: “Volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain.”

A 2016 survey by Volunteering Australia said that 48% of Australians take part in formal volunteering, 40% take part in both formal and informal volunteering, and 6% only do informal volunteering. The last 6% do not do any kind of volunteering whatsoever.


The survey also said that 99% of volunteers would continue to engage in volunteering in the future, and 93% saw positive changes as a result of their volunteering efforts. 67% of volunteer-involving organisations stated that volunteers bring new insights into their organisation. 57% of staff in volunteer-involving organisations are actually volunteers themselves.


Most volunteers (58% in 2010) only work with one organisation, and 38% work at least once a week. Others volunteer less frequently. But this isn’t a bad thing – volunteering doesn’t necessarily have to be a long-term commitment! It can be done in small, simple ways that can still be beneficial!


Whether it’s short- and long-term, volunteering has the potential to improve people’s quality of life. It has lots of benefits, including happiness. International research also suggests that volunteers are more likely to be healthier, and be able to sleep better. This has been consistent in over 50 separate investigative research projects!


Volunteering can also improve social connections and opportunities for employment!


In other words: volunteering can improve your life, health, and well-being.


Research says that volunteering only two or three hours a week (which calculates as 100 hours a year) results in the largest benefits for people and for the organisations or causes they’re supporting.


For some people, work is the root cause of depression. I believe we are spiritual beings inhabiting a body. There are certain things we should be doing based on our personality and experiences that will give us the most pleasure and enable us to give back to society. For some of us, the things we do for a living are the opposite of this.


Volunteering is a perfect way to give back to society in a pleasurable manner.


Volunteering in this way that not only provide you with a purpose that aligns more with your life path, but benefits others too. Even if you only volunteer a couple of hours a week, you’ll still make a difference.


There are plenty of volunteering opportunities out there, across eight sectors: corporate; tourism (or voluntourism); education; community services; emergency services; sport and recreation; environment, heritage, and animal welfare; and the arts.


If you’re keen to volunteer, there’ll no doubt be one that’ll suit you.


I’m a volunteer myself. I started volunteering at Volunteering Tasmania in May 2017 after finishing an internship there, and I’m loving every second of it.


I help with media and communications, and assist with admin tasks. From time-to-time I also help out with official events like symposiums and network meetings. On top of this, I also write profiles on fellow volunteers for local newspapers.


Through this work I’ve gained experience in journalism, media, and communications (which I also studied at university). I’ve also learnt more about the craft of writing, and have met and worked with some amazing people.


But above all, volunteering has given me a sense of purpose. I’m job hunting at the moment, but instead of sitting at home all day, volunteering has given me a reason to leave the house and do something productive.


Words by Callum J. Jones