Australia: Lester Bostock

Personal narratives: What's disability to me?
June 2011

Lester Bostock writes about how an accident resulted in his being amputed above one knee. He decribes the difficulty in accepting an unexpected disability and the importance of extended family and close friends in providing support during difficult times.

I was born on an Aboriginal reserve in New South Wales, Australia in the 1930s under the then Aboriginal Protection Act. Our family moved to Brisbane in 1945 where I went to school until the age of 14. My own disability began in 1958 when I was playing football with the Brisbane All Blacks a local Aboriginal Community football club where a promising football career was emerging. That career was cut short through an accident leaving me with an above knee amputation.

It was from this point my whole life changed. Not only did I have to adjust to a new lifestyle, but my whole way of thinking had to change. It took me many years to come to terms with this change of lifestyle, going from an outward going active person with a sporting career ahead of me and having a lot to look forward to, then suddenly having an amputation.

I thought how would I be able to cope with this, especially the thought of having to go through life with one leg. This was very devastating for me as a person. Remember at the time I was 23 and an active sporting person and I thought, what will I do with myself? With a basic primary school education, the only type of employment I had was labouring and farm work. I went through a period of finding it difficult to cope with this new situation. During that period of my life I began to drink more then I should have. Those times were difficult for me but I had people around me that helped me to cope with life. I was lucky that I had a close and loving extended family and close friends who were a great support to me during those very difficult times.

I learned gradually to cope with my disability. As a way of coming to terms with it I became involved in the Aboriginal Rights Movement. Over the last 40 years I have been active in some of the major events that have taken place in the civil rights movements in Australia and over the last 20 years saw me being involved with disability issues following a long history of work in Indigenous media and theatre. I’m currently the president of the Aboriginal Disability Network established in 2002. The network is an advocacy, referral and information service that keeps members informed about issues of their particular disability.