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Advocating For The Unseen with Eliza Hull

Writing by Eliza Hull // Photography by Simon Browne

I have been singing since I was five years old. It was by chance that my primary school music teacher needed someone to fill in at the local eisteddfod and asked me. When I went on to win a gold medal, and hear the applause, it felt like anything was possible.

That very year I coincidentally started to fall over at school. I can still vividly feel the rocks that caught in my knees. There was a lot of confusion at this time, we as a family didn’t have any answers. There were several diagnoses that eventuated into finding out my disability was called ‘Charcot Marie Tooth’ disorder.

Throughout school, I would escape to the music room at lunch time belting out love songs with my friend. It was my way to feel okay in the world. A world that wasn’t built for me, where I faced people staring, laughing, and even bullying me at school.

When I moved to Melbourne at eighteen, I enrolled in a Media and Communications degree, but the pull to perform was strong, so I kept deferring it repeatedly. I made a large journal where I would cut out magazine advertisements looking for vocalists, and ways to get my music out there. I played venues across Melbourne including The Espy and The Evelyn. The first encounter of direct ableism I faced was when a dance producer told me not to walk in my music video, or on stage because nobody would listen to my music if they found out I was disabled.

Throughout those years, I would meet prospective managers, publishers and labels all sitting down. I wouldn’t get up to pay the bill or go to the toilet. I was so afraid that if they saw the way I walked they wouldn’t listen to my music. When I began to get my music out there more, I still hid. My publisher and my booking agent didn’t even know I had a disability because I wouldn’t show them the way I moved. I would pull the curtain when I got up onto the stage or wait backstage until they left. The weight was heavy. It never felt positive. I always felt like I was hiding, in yet by protecting myself I felt safer.

‘Here They Come’ is my fifth record, it features five songs that are about my disabled identity, unfurling, coming apart, about unravelling who you are and ultimately being ok with who you are. The title track was produced by Odette and Pip Norman, and lyrics “All of those walls I built to protect myself, crumbling down to the floor. Murmuring ghosts that followed me home at night, won’t haunt me anymore,” are chanted. ‘Island’ was co-written with Gordi and is about feeling both invisible and ultra-visible, which can be very true when you have a disability.

Just this week I had a little girl who wants to be a singer reach out through her mother to tell me that she has my disability and that I have helped her see what’s possible. That’s why representation is so important. I didn’t have anyone to look up to when I was growing up. I saw stairs onto stages, lack of representation on screen and disability stigma being reinforced time and time again.

But change is happening. ‘Here They Come’ is my change. It’s my love letter to myself, to that part that thought I had to hide to fit in.

Stream the EP below and keep up with Eliza on Instagram

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