Career

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Bronte Hendricks

A passionate advocate for inclusion


Crowd surfing at a loud and rowdy music festival is definitely not for everyone. But is there any reason why concerts and festivals are not suitable for people with a disability?

Bronte Hendricks believes the answer to that is “no”. 

“If going to festivals is something they like doing, then of course a person with a disability should have that opportunity, just like every other person,” the 23-year-old says. 

Bronte is the co-founder of Stellar Experiences, a unique business venture with a focus on “enabling young people of all abilities to explore and experience everything life has to offer”. 

That includes kayaking and camping trips, overseas adventures, social outings to the footy or the wrestling and, yes, the odd music festival.

“We have this one guest who messages me every day, and he says, ‘I‘m so excited about this festival!’” Bronte says. “Music is something he’s really passionate about, but at the same time, it would be wildly out of his comfort zone to go this event alone.” 

Bronte and her business partner Luke Muttdon realised there was a need for such a service while working in their day jobs, where they help young school-leavers with disabilities to find work.

Bronte and Luke

Bronte and Luke.

While they’re of similar age to the people they assist, who often live with conditions like Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism, they soon noticed how different their lives were. 

“Every Monday, I’d ask them, ‘What did everyone do on the weekend?’ Time after time, they’d say, ‘Oh, nothing’ or, ‘I just hung out at home’,” Bronte says. 

“When they asked me the same question, I’d say, ‘Oh, I went away for the weekend, I went to this music festival, I did this and that…’ It got to a point where I didn't want to mention what I got up to, because I felt like, ‘I’m doing all these things, and you guys aren’t’. 

“I realised that these young adults have so many interests and passions, just like you and me, but there’s nobody out there giving them the help they need to pursue those passions.”  

Making the leap 

While there are dozens of tour companies working in the disability sector, you’d be hard-pressed to find one run by young people, for young people. 

Bronte recalls the many nights she and Luke spent searching for a business that fit the bill. 

“There were more than a few passionate rants,” she says. “We were just so frustrated that there were no opportunities for these young adults to experience things many of us take for granted. So we started writing it all down — what we wanted to see another service do.”

Bronte plans
Bronte working

Inclusion and empowerment are the keys for Bronte.

It wasn’t long before Bronte and Luke realised they needed to take things into their own hands. But it took a while for them to make the leap. 

Bronte had just returned from an extended overseas sojourn. Short on cash and travel-weary, she wondered whether it was the right time to start a business. 

“Eventually, we said, ‘Look, we are really passionate about this, and no one is providing this service — not the way we would do it, anyway — so let’s just start it up see where it goes’,” she says. “It’s grown pretty quickly since then.”

Stellar’s event calendar is flush with experiences aimed at young people who want to have fun and pursue their interests, but might need some extra support in doing so. 

One of their main goals is to break down the barriers people with a disability face, which are often erected by others with pre-conceived views of what they can and can’t do. 

Anyone who’s seen images of Paralympian Dylan Alcott crowd surfing in his wheelchair knows that people with disabilities do have a place at such events. But the perceived limitations of life in a wheelchair, or with an intellectual disability, seem hard to break. 

“A lot of the perceived barriers are simply there because people are uneducated, or they’ve never spent time with someone who has a disability,” Bronte says.

“Some people see music festivals on our calendar, and they say, ‘Oh my god, you’re taking them to a festival? That’s going to be so stressful! You can’t do that! 

“But when they see it in action and see how much fun they have, they realise, ‘Oh, they’re human. They are just like every one of us. They might have some limitations, they might require some extra support, but that shouldn’t prevent them from enjoying these normal experiences.’” 

A schoolyard spark

It was at high school that Bronte realised her passion for disability inclusion.  

In the classroom and the schoolyard, she’d gravitate towards those who seemed to be stuck on the sidelines. 

“There were a few kids at school with intellectual disabilities — you’d see them in the playground, walking around or sitting down by themselves — and it became my thing to make sure they weren’t being segregated,” she says.

Inclusion

“I just felt the need to advocate on their behalf, to bring them over to our group and include them in conversations. That was the start of me realising and developing this interest in helping people with disabilities.”

Straight out of school, Bronte enrolled in a Bachelor of Inclusive Education and Disability Studies at ACU’s Strathfield Campus. “Once I saw the word ‘inclusive’, I immediately knew it was right for me,” she recalls.  

She graduated in March 2018, and since early 2019 has juggled her full-time job in disability support with her role as co-director of Stellar Experiences. Her main goal for the business is to help people to live their lives to the fullest. 

“We just want to provide endless experiences, and not necessarily as a disability service provider, but more like a business that supports people to follow their dreams, no matter what their ability,” Bronte says, adding that the focus will always be on inclusion.  

“We want Stellar to be a part of a movement that breaks down the stigma around disabilities, that advocates for inclusion, and that empowers people to live any kind of life they choose.”

To learn more about Stellar Experiences, visit the website

Want to study Inclusive Education and Disability Services at ACU? Explore the options.

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Impact brings you compelling stories, inspiring research, and big ideas from ACU. It's about the impact we’re having on our communities, and our Mission in action. It’s a practical resource for career, life and study.

At ACU it’s education, but not as you know it. We stand up for people in need, and causes that matter.

If you have a story idea or just want to say hello, do contact us.

Copyright@ Australian Catholic University 1998-2019 | ABN 15 050 192 660 CRICOS Reg: 00004G