Nanette Morel

I joined the 2020 Committee of PPV because I believe that all people with a disability should be treated equally, and, advocacy has an important role in achieving this.

I caught polio when I was 5. I was in ward 9 at Fairfield. I remember little about my time there. I recall my grandpa and auntie visiting me sometimes; little else.

My parents never came. I was the eldest of 8 children. I guess mum and dad were too busy. Also, parents were not encouraged to visit because visits made younger children difficult to handle. From Fairfield’s records, I was in an iron lung for nearly 12 months, and went in and out of hospital for 5 years to learn to walk. I left hospital in 1955 when a vaccine against polio became available.

I was discharged to my parents’ home in Elsternwick. My parents moved frequently because my father was a German refugee. Before I finished my schooling, I went to at least 15 different schools. I wore callipers on both legs until I was 12, and visible as a newcomer and “disabled.”

After I left school, I went to Melbourne University to study medicine, but after 3 years I couldn’t cope and left. During those 3 years, I met my husband, a lovely man, who was very supportive of me returning to study. He did all the housework so that I could study. Because of the severity of my polio, doctors predicted I couldn’t have children. During those study years, we had 2 young sons so finishing my degree took longer.

Eventually, I graduated as a child psychologist and began working from home, a clinic in East Melbourne, and the Children’s Hospital with children who were dying from blood cancers. I only worked with children. They don’t tell lies.

For every child, I brought a chocolate frog present as thanks for allowing me to visit. They called me Mrs Chocolate Frog. My work was helping children and parents say goodbye. It was emotive work listening to children until they were ready to say their goodbyes. Children always asked, “Will I go to heaven?” I told them I had never met anyone from heaven, but “I think it’s a place where people are really happy and eat lots of chocolate frogs.”

I have many ideas and interests. I hate racism of any kind, especially the anti-Chinese sentiment, which sadly features in the “people blabber” today.

I am a member of “Friends of the Kororoit Creek.” Until recently, I was volunteer planter along its’ bank, and in the regular rubbish clean ups using a long pick up stick.

For some time, post polio syndrome has curtailed my activities. Brittle bones have seen me in and out of hospital with broken legs from falls. I have a disability scooter. Our neighbourhood is highly multicultural. During the time of Covid-19 lockdown, I have made a hobby of learning greetings in the languages in our community. My goal is to learn forty. When I go out on my scooter people are so happy hearing me say “hello” in their language. One Somali lady told me that I was the first white person to speak to her.

I am saddened by the militarization of America and what seems like empire building. Surely the world learned from history about the Nazis and the murders they committed in their empire building?