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Catholic Society places ableist placard on Eastern Avenue

The placard asked ‘Are disabled people a burden on society?' and was placed next to ‘yes’ and ‘no’ jars.

CW: Ableism.

Students have criticised the Sydney University Catholic Society for putting up an A-frame asking ‘Are disabled people a burden on society?’ on Eastern Avenue next to ‘yes’ and ‘no’ jars.

The A-frame was on display from around 10am and removed two to three hours later after a passer-by made a complaint. Catholic Society members allegedly put up the placard to “spark a conversation about pro-life issues” and “didn’t think it could be seen in a negative light.”

The society is currently stalling on Eastern Avenue for their Life Week events, which include guest speakers presenting on the topics: ‘Euthanasia: A Threat to the Vulnerabe?’, ‘Can you be pro-life and pro-woman at the same time?’, and ‘Serious Conversations about Gender.’

Disabilities Officer Margot Beavon-Collin told Honi that the A-frame was “callous and disgusting”.

“Disabled people are routinely used as props in other people’s campaigns. Regardless of the intentions behind the stunt, it was poorly thought out and ultimately harmful. There are so many disabled students on campus, and passing signs asking students to weigh in on the worth of your existence is incredibly confronting.”

“Distilling our lives down to a question of whether or not we are a burden is not simply dehumanising. It reflects the value-driven Capitalist ethos of a society that struggles to understand a person’s worth beyond what they produce for the boss.”

SRC Interfaith Officers Jayfel Tulabing and Antoine Nguyen Khanh said that they are “deeply disheartened and angered by the increase of pro-life and ableist propaganda starting to show up on campus.”

“We do not think this is conducive to a productive debate or argument and only diminishes the real-life experiences of disabled people and students, expressing nothing but bigotry, contempt [and] ignorance.”

Sydney University Catholic Society members refused to comment when questioned by Honi, but defended the A-frame in a Facebook post. They stated that the responses showed “students were unanimous on the fact that disabled people are not a burden on society.”

“As Catholics, we believe in the fundamental dignity of every human life and the invaluable contribution of every member of society, including those living with a disability.”

SRC Women’s Officers Kimmy Dibben and Amelia Mertha said that they “deeply condemn the ableist actions of the Catholic society.”

“The question was aimed to drive a wedge between pro-choice advocates and disabled peoples. This is a false dichotomy, as feminist and disability activists have a shared goal of bodily autonomy and liberation from institutions such as the Church which falsely claim to care for women and disabled people.”

“The church doesn’t give a fuck about pregnant people, children, or disabled peoples. We are pawns in their morality debate, whilst sexual violence, homophobic conversion therapy, and more wreaks havoc within their own institution. Our lives and our bodies are not fucking ‘conversation starters’.”

The Disabilities Collective is holding a speak-out at 2pm tomorrow in front of Fisher Library demanding an official apology from the Catholic Society.

Editor’s note: This article was updated with comment from the Women’s Officers at 6:30pm.