Balmain, a suburb of Sydney, is a long way from the country town of Ivanhoe, NSW, where Gayle Kennedy was born, and the country town of Hay where she was raised as a member of the Wongaibon Clan of the Ngiayampaa speaking Nation in New South Wales. Gayle is an award-winning writer having published books, graphic novels and poetry as well as articles for newspapers, magazines and literary journals. Her work has expanded to radio and even a screen play. By any measure, Gayle, who likes to work late at night or early in the morning when the world is quiet, has produced an extraordinary body of celebrated work, one which most writers would only dream of creating in a life time.
What makes her story even more remarkable is that Gayle only started her writing career at the age of 51.
Gayle’s latest work is part of the much-anticipated anthology Growing Up Disabled in Australia, edited by writer and disability advocate Carly Findlay and featuring the stories of 46 people within the disability community.
My first impression of Gayle when we chatted for this article, is her welcoming manner and the warmth of her laugh. She strikes me as a woman who has lived her life well, with a hint of mischief about her.
Gayle lived a childhood that wasn’t like most in her country town having contracted polio at the age of two during an epidemic that swept across Australia in the late forties and early fifties.
“I can remember moments of not having polio, but I also remember snippets of being in an iron lung,” she says matter-of-factly.
Listening to her story, it’s easy to understand why Gayle felt like she led two separate lives growing up with her time divided between an orderly world of hospital care and rehabilitation in the city and her home in the country with her family, which she describes as more ‘rough and tumble’. She explains that ….