In conversation with…Shane Clifton, ethicist, author and scholar

About This Conversation

Shane Clifton (ex-Theologian, Ethicist and Scholar) joins Treysta’s Adam Drinkwater, to talk about his work with the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability, finding happiness, living with disability, and working with purpose.

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About Our Guest

Shane Clifton is Principal Policy Officer and Director of Respect & Inclusion at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability, Honorary Associate for the Centre of Disability Research and Policy, the University of Sydney, Shane is proudly disabled, and an occasional blogger on

Please feel free to reach out to Shane via LinkedIn.

Transcript of Conversation

00:00:19 [Adam]  

Hello everybody, welcome to In Conversation With, where today I am fairly pleased to be joined by Dr. Shane Clifton. Shane, welcome. 

00:00:27 [Shane]  

Good to be with you, Adam. 

00:00:29 [Adam] 

We’ve taken time to do this. So, that’s such a gloriously sunny day while you’re by the coast as well. I’m sure you’d like to get out there sooner or later. 

00:00:37 [Shane] 

Well, I won’t get sunburn this way. So… 

00:00:41 [Adam] 

I certainly would. So, I agree with you on that. I’m really looking forward to doing this podcast for a while, and the reason, or the biggest reason for that is there’s so many avenues I think I could talk to you about on things we could cover. And so, I know now we have no shortage of topics to discuss today, and for me you have such a fascinating journey personally and career-wise, so many different areas that you have touched along the way. So, I want to try and take our listeners through various elements of that, and honestly, I think there’s so much learning that can come from the way that you’ve approached various things over the years I’ve known you. 

00:01:18 [Adam] 

So, I originally thought sometimes it’s best to start at the beginning and work your way forward, but I actually think today I might start now and work backwards a little bit because the work that you currently do is actually a reasonable example of what things mean to you in life and what you’re interested in. And by that, I’m referring to your nice work in the Royal Commission. And I thought maybe let’s start there and you can explain what you’re doing at the moment. And then we might touch on a few things prior to that, and then that you’ve done either at your lecturing work or speaking work that you do, and how it will work into personal life and intertwine the drivers behind that. So yeah, it might be a good way to kick off and just let us know what you’re working on at the moment from that regard. 

00:02:06 [Shane] 

Yes. So, look, as you say, I work at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of People with Disabilities. So, I’ve been there over three years now since 2019. The Royal Commission has about another year a bit less than that left of its life, but I’ve done a couple of roles there. My background was as an academic. So, the first couple of years I was in research. And the last year, I’ve been writing in the policy branch. Really, I’m maybe a bit of a writer, academic by profession. So, writing for the final report right now. I’m working, writing on respect and inclusion of people with disability in mainstream society, addressing negative attitudes to people with disability. 

00:02:56 [Shane] 

Negative attitudes are interesting because they’re not sort of, everyone likes people with disability. So, it’s not that people sort of are generally against people with disability, but they tend to hold assumptions and presumptions and have low expectations about what people with disability are capable of. And as a consequence, people with disability are often excluded from so much of mainstream society. So yeah, that’s what I’m working on.  

00:03:26 [Adam] 

Alright. Yeah. And probably there is subconscious behavior from some people as well around those areas that you’ve mentioned. I know, as you’ve been going through this work on the Royal Commission, I think one of the conversations we had was it’s all well and good having a Royal Commission, but it has to be implemented, post that, or the recommendations have to be implemented and people have to embrace it the right way for it to have the right effect. And, of course, I have an experience of this being in an industry that has had a Royal Commission. And so, I’ve seen how it’s handed down, how it’s going to be enacted, who embraces that kind of thing. So, given you’re right in the middle of this, is it your sense at the moment that it’s achieving what it needs to achieve and are you confident of the outcomes?

00:04:11 [Shane] 

Geez, this is a really interesting conversation, and maybe I should be asking you. The finance industry is responding to its Royal Commissions. But I guess the two things tonight, I should say actually to make it pretty clear to anyone listening, I’m not a Royal Commissioner and I have to be actually very careful that I don’t speak for the Royal Commission. You know, it’s the commissioner’s report and their work. And I guess it’s a little early for us to be able to say, is this going to be implemented. But what I can say is that it’s pretty clear that the stories that the Royal Commission has been able to unfold are pretty horrifying. There really has been some horrific treatment of people with disability, and it’s not just one-on-one interactions, although there’s some of that. It’s also systemic. It’s the way in which systems and organizations just systematically exclude, restrict in a really oppressive ways. So, that’s the way in which power is exercised. 

00:05:20 [Shane] 

And to this, you can already see in public that there’s been responses to some of what the Commission is talking about. So, I think working there, we’re hopeful that change will be brought. But we’re also aware that, you know, because you’re dealing with such entrenched ideas and systems that have been in place forever, change in areas like this don’t occur overnight. So, when you’re dealing with these sort of recommendations, you need to take, you know, there’ll be some changes which you can implement, and they can fix immediately and hopefully that will happen. There will be others that are going to take longer because this is about how, you know, this isn’t just sort of about how an industry or a group of people are responding, this is about how the whole society is shaped and the way in which we all think about disability. 

00:06:18 [Shane] 

And we tend to think of disability as sort of this, you know, marginal topic about a few people on the side, but of course the truth is that disability is about really what it is to be human. You know, we’re all born dependent. Old age is the process of becoming disabled to a certain extent. At every point in life, you’re at risk of disability or sickness. You almost certainly know people who are disabled. So, really, I think if society starts to think about this not just as a sort of a marginal topic on the side but as about what sort of society do we want to live in, then I really hope that the sort of changes that the Royal Commission makes, we think about seriously and over time, change toward that, but I’m realistic to know that, hey, we live in a pretty shitty world, in many ways a beautiful and a terrible world, and change is difficult and slow. So, pessimistically optimistic is that, can I say that? 

00:07:19 [Adam] 

Yeah. Yeah. So, that’s a fair reflection. But like to your point there, it’s not about changing rules, it’s about behavior and approach. And one of the words that I’ve picked up in that which I think is really relevant is ‘inclusion’ because it’s not enough to look at particular narrow areas like disabilities and isolation, it’s about inclusion of people. And like you said, someone can have their own perception of what disability may be, but there’s lots of other people out there who think something different. So, it is about inclusion. But also to your point, you’re not changing rules, you’ve got to change behaviors, attitudes, education. And I think over time, like you’ve mentioned, it may be that you’re trying to achieve certain things, your behavior changed, but along the way people realize there’s a different way to do it and we continue to tweak it. And of course, it’s generational. So, it’s all very well trying to change the mind of now you’ve got to help the people now change their mind or educate those coming through in the next generation. So, it’s a fascinating thing to be a part of it, no doubt. 

00:08:20 [Shane] 

I’m in a Royal Commission, but anyone listening in business or, you know, how do you change an organization, and there’s so many different dimensions to it because, of course, it’s not as illegal change is unimportant and sometimes you need attitudinal change, but sometimes you’ve got to change behavior and that changes attitudes. So, I think there’s a real circularity. It’s not one thing or another, but let’s try and take little steps in all of these areas, and they start to, I hope, build momentum toward a tipping point to change. And we have seen some pretty remarkable social changes. You know, I’m older than you, I’m 52, and over the course of my life, you know, just because the inclusion is about how many women do we have in our leadership positions in the businesses that were a part of, and we’ve seen fundamental changes in that over the course of my lifetime. It’s about the way in which we embrace and welcome LGBTQI people, for example. And again, we have seen some pretty remarkable changes. So, that does give reason to sort of hope and be optimistic. And yeah, the whole process for how you change cultures and organizations is a real fascinating one, and I’m learning so much about the process now. So, it’s quite exciting. 

00:09:39 [Adam] 

Yeah. I think you’re right. Generationally, I’ve noticed over the last few years, particularly my generation, I can sense there is more openness to some of those things you’ve talked about, whether it’s gender equality or whether, you know, I’ve been a partisan that’s very open minded towards LGBTQI, and that kind of thing. So, I’ve got a sense of it, and I do think it’s improving, but by no means, is it appropriate for me to say, it’s at the right level yet. So, it is interesting to watch unfold. And I know that your background is academic to a certain extent, and you’re not a person that does roles for money or anything like that. It’s purpose and it’s morality, and it’s how you can impact things and influence them, and where that comes from. Can you just talk us through how you got involved in this in the first place and where that came from for you? 

00:10:28 [Shane] 

It is…and my brother, our accountant. And so, I started with Price Waterhouse years and years ago. And I was a more conservative Christian then than I am now. And so, I moved from that actually into Theology and Ethics. So, I spent, I moved from accounting to a theological college and ended up getting a PhD at Australian Catholic University in Theology. And so, I was teaching Theology and Ethics at a theological college. And then in 2010, I had a spinal cord injury. So, it was two weeks before my 40th birthday, and your life can certainly change in an instant. So, I was on the South Coast with my children at a youth facility that had been set up by a local church, and they’d created a jump into a foam pit. You know the things they have in the gymnasium that is meant to keep you safe? It turns out this was badly built, but left the impression it was safe, at least on my mind. So, I was a parent who parented by play, and so my kids were, I was, you know, a surfer and a skateboarder. And so, my kids did this, so I jumped on a push bike, and I took a jump, landed upside down, and broke my neck, my 4th and 5th vertebrae here, and knew immediately I was in serious trouble. There’s a video of this if you’re feeling (12:10) on the line. I think I’ve shown it to you before. Have I, Adam? 

00:12:13 [Adam] 


00:12:13 [Shane] 

So yeah. I mean I was flown by a helicopter at Prince of Wales Hospital, spent seven months in Prince of Wales. And I guess, you know, the next 10-12 years, learning how to live with disability, and I don’t know the extent to which you want to go into that, but just in summary, I can say, on the one hand, it’s been the most difficult and horrible and challenging journey, and on the other hand, it’s been a surprisingly rich and fascinating and moments of joy, joyous journey. So, very strange things that come out of crisis and loss. So, really that then steered me toward disability studies. I was connected with the University of Sydney, and ended up in 2018 in crisis with my work. So, I quit my work to do with LGBT inclusion, which we were talking about before. I was pro LGBT in conservative spaces and that created clash. So, I ended up unemployed for nine months and then worked at the Royal Commission. So, there you go. That’s a two-minute summary of my career, and you can bounce out of whichever one of those interests you. 

00:13:37 [Adam] 

Yeah. Well, my first thing is to say, thank you for being so open and sharing such a deeply personal story because part of the reason we’re doing this podcast is for people to share stories and allow others to listen to them and be inspired by them. And I think that I struggle to think of many more inspiring stories than yours and the way you’ve gone through the years subsequent to that, the different things you’ve done, and the way you’ve embraced things, the various paths that you’ve taken in sharing your journey, I think really is helpful for this. You do the speaking work, but I know that you’ve done speaking work as well, and to do this, to kind of share this story a little bit as well, is that something that you’ve done because you want other people to learn from it, or something that you find helpful for yourself, a bit of both? 

00:14:20 [Shane] 

Look, I mean I was a lecturer, so I’m used to public speaking. And of all of the different things in which I’ve done over the course of my life, actually teaching was probably the one that was the most fulfilling because you’d get some time with students and you’re able to hold, open up their horizons. Speaking is not something I am pursuing at all, but I get asked constantly. So, you know, I’m speaking at a happiness conference in a month. I’ve got another, I’m speaking at a rehabilitation conference in two weeks. A week ago, I spoke at an evolving faith conference online in the U.S. So, my biggest problem with speaking is that I actually have no time. I’m really time poor. And I used to have this role in life actually, which was just say yes. You know, life can take you in strange directions, take the opportunities that are there, but I’m having to learn to say no because I don’t have time, and you know, I don’t feel like I do things justice. So, I’m not pursuing speaking for any other reason than people ask me, and I’m generally comfortable sharing and talking. 

00:15:40 [Adam] 

Yeah. There’s a great book by an American psychologist, Brené Brown, called Dare To Be Great, which I often tell people that’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, and it’s just about going for everything, you know, putting yourself out. If somebody offers it, just say yes, try, and it’s all very well if you’ve got all the time in the world, but there’s going to be a point where there’s going to be challenges. 

00:15:59 [Shane] 


00:16:00 [Adam] 

And so, the other thing I want to pick up on that you just mentioned there is happiness, and you mentioned that’s one of the things that you talk about. And obviously you went on a heck of a journey through challenge, difficulty in finding happiness, so working your way through that. I know at the start of when I first met you, one of the first things that we worked on was moving house and going to a happy place for you, which is by the beach. And that was something that previously you loved early in life, like you said, surf and did all those things, and obviously because of what happened in terms of your accident, probably through some real challenges around going to the beach, I guess. 

00:16:38 [Adam] 

And so, do talk us through what happiness means or the journey that you found along the way and how you either discovered it more, found out what truly was happiness to you rather than what you potentially thought it was before. 

00:16:51 [Shane] 

Yeah. I mean to some degree, in one way or another, I spent the last 12 years thinking about happiness and trying to be happy. So, look, for obvious reasons, spinal cord injury involves a lot of loss, and you know, it’s physical loss. So, basically, I’ve got some movement but basically very little movement or sensation from the sort of upper chest down. And so, it has an impact on the sports that you can enjoy, and it has an impact on sexual function. It has an impact on relationships, you know, the mutual self-giving between partners in a marriage. As parenting. You know, as I said, I was parenting by play. And so, I found it difficult in those early years, I have three teenage children, to be a parent. And so, for the first 3, 4, 5 years, I really struggled with, you know, just a desperate unhappiness. And that, of course, got me thinking about happiness and what it means.  

00:18:02 [Shane] 

I spent some time reading the virtue tradition, which, if you’re not familiar with it, it has its origins in Aristotle. Greek philosophy gets taken up in some Christian ethical conditions. Right now, it’s become the sort of new vogue in psychological circles, in topic, and you might have heard of positive psychology or some of these. But the basic idea is that happiness is not something that you get in the immediate. It’s best not defined by the immediate up and down emotions because they come and go depending on circumstances. But it’s something achieved over the long run for a life lived, for meaning and purpose, and you do that by exercising virtues. Vices destroy your ability to achieve this long-term success. And virtue, you know, self-control, patience, kindness. They’re the sort of character traits that you need to sort of practice, so they become part of who you are. 

00:19:15 [Shane] 

So that’s the basic tradition. There’s a lot of problems and issues with the tradition, which I won’t go into now, but I guess the thing that is interesting in my life is, over time, you know, I still deal with permanent pain and all those losses, but over time, I’ve found happiness in, you know, all sorts of ways. What’s really intriguing to me is the extent to which actually ‘crisis and difficulty’ is often the place that elicits the more deeper forms of meaning and purpose. So, you know, is the happy life one that just parties on the weekend or is a happy life one that discovers that in the middle of crisis people are really kind and generous and help you out, and they’ll walk with you on journeys and spend time talking through with things, and hey, how amazing your family and friends are in those times. And so, you sort of, it’s when life is often at its deepest when you’re struggling through challenges together with others.  

00:20:23 [Shane]  

And then being introduced to the world of disability, I met so many amazing people, discovered just this rich, diverse, crazy world that I didn’t know, and obviously that’s ended up as a career for me. So, it’s to try and live meaningfully and purposefully. And then more recently, challenging that virtue tradition with its lack of concern about emotion and joy. And because I think, you know, we also need to find ways to party and have fun. And for me, that has maybe been more of a challenge. How do I find ways that I can, yeah, find that immediate pleasure. And that brings us back I guess to you mentioned the beach. So, as you said, one of the losses that I’d had was surfing, it was probably my great passion. And so, for a long while there, I couldn’t stand looking at the beach. All I could see when I was looking at the surf was what I’d lost. And so, there just came a point in time where my brain was able to switch and just noticed the beauty of the beach. And so, I was able to appreciate it for different reasons. And this idea of being able to savor, you know, experience, or enjoy the beautiful, I think, became more significant for me. So, I find that in the beach, in good quality whisky, trying not to drink too much of it, but I’m not always very good at that.  

00:22:01 [Adam] 

Really interesting couple points you’ve raised as you’ve gone through the journey there. As you go along, you learn what happiness means in your own world to different levels and different stages of life. And you never stop learning that and that sort of changed you. I don’t think, it doesn’t matter if you said you’re obviously a bit older than me, so you’ll be further down that journey. I’ve learned over the years happiness means different things to me as I go along. And the point about this, it is a really interesting one. Actually, I watched a program. I’d say this is quite a brutal line about say the lady said on there you need to understand death before you understand the value of life. And it’s blood and brutal, as that is. There is something in that, to your point, and I’m not going to be ignorant and suggest I understand what you’ve been through. But you know, when you have challenges, you really start to understand what’s important, what makes you happy, and try and give yourself the opportunity to do that. And that is different for everyone, but it’s a really fascinating way that you’ve talked through that. So, yeah, thank you for being open about that.  

00:23:00 [Adam] 

I think the other part is I’m interested in this decision-making along the way. So, as you’ve learned that, the decisions you’ve made, so you referred to obviously the beach, and when we talked about moving to the beach, that was kind of a point where you started to go beyond that challenge of not being near there. And I know you embrace these things and get in the water and go to the snow and kind of have a crack and all those things and enjoy them. And so, I hope you maybe sharing another recent decision that you’ve made to get a place in the city, so the access by coming into the city is more enjoyable for you and again, it will hopefully help in happiness in terms of doing things that you can be close to, whether it’s the work that you do or just having a more functional element of life. Well, moving forward, will you continue in the spaces that you’re in or is it your ideal that you will continue to try to develop and work at new angles or new areas of what we’ve talked about, happiness, and learn new things? I know that you’re not mainly to stay at the same lane necessarily.  

00:24:03 [Shane] 

Ah, look, yeah. I’m in this weird position actually, where I’m really just trying not to think too much past the Royal Commission, although it’s coming up really quickly to an end. It’s one of these weird things where I feel like at the moment just a strange circuitous path of life has put me in the middle of something that’s really significant, that for this time I’m committed to finishing. So, I actually am not thinking too much about the future. But certainly in terms of those past decisions, and you know, the buying the house and they’re difficult decisions, and at the time, huge amounts of money. The fears that you’re overspending. And oh look, I’ve had that same fear again now. It’s been really helpful doing this journey with you because you keep reminding me, now you can afford to do this, Shane, don’t stress too much about it. And I don’t always think I’m the best decision-maker at these things. I think often I stress way too much about them. But yeah, look, I’m trying to make certainly financial decision based on what will enable us to live a rich and ethical life at the same time. Sometimes those are contradictory, and I’m sure we don’t do it perfectly, but that’s what we’re trying to do. 

00:25:33 [Adam] 

Well and often there’s an intersection between money and happiness, and people take that intersection in different ways, and like you said, whether it’s more the virtue kind of path or others sort of just take a different way. So, it is different to everyone, but it is interesting, helping people understand how you navigate that relative to your own life, and particularly with the things I’ve learned about you, it has been really rewarding watching those changes because I know how much it means to you. 

00:26:00 [Adam] 

I don’t know and I just wanted to touch on that you mentioned earlier, and this is about family. I know family is important to you, and I’m fortunate enough to know quite a few. I’ve visited your family. And you also wrote a book and often, like during this podcast, I’ll talk to people about books they have read and they’re interesting, but seldom do I get to speak to somebody who wrote a book. And maybe more than one, I think potentially, but can you talk us through the book, a little bit how that came about? Obviously, you know, probably the journey behind it, what the process was like for you to do that, and what help were you aiming to allow other the people to understand your journey and happiness and so? 

00:26:41 [Shane] 

Yeah, look, I’m in academic background, so I’ve written a lot, and I’ve, I guess, written two books that are relevant to this, and probably the main one is really my memoir. So, it’s called Husbands Should Not Break. I published in 2015, I think, but really written sort of in the first three or four years after the injury. It’s sort of intriguing going back to it now because I feel like I’ve actually progressed quite a bit since I’ve finished that. But nevertheless, yeah, I wrote that for myself. It was, one way in which you process life, I think, is to write about it. There is this idea that I think is actually significant whether you’re a writer or not, but it’s the idea that the meaningful life is a storied life. You know, what’s the story that you find yourself a part of and what choices are you making, what’s happening to you that can’t control, what options have you got to try and steer that life in a particular way? And when crisis occurs, what’s that done to the narrative and how can you rewrite your own narrative in a way that helps you get back up off the ground? 

00:28:02 [Shane] 

And so, I guess for me, writing Husbands Should Not Break was and that just came from something my, a piece of artwork my wife, Ellie, did for me at the time. So, yeah, it was a process of thinking through loss. And I ended up publishing it. It’s been quite well received. People seem to enjoy it. It gives an insight I think into, well the weird world of spinal cord injury, bodies are strange and spinal cord injury is interesting, but hopefully I think its relevance is more than just spinal cord injury. It’s about, yeah, finding happiness and meaning in the context of the losses that we all face in life, whether that’s spinal cord injury or the loss of a spouse or your own sickness or just ageing. 

00:28:52 [Adam] 

A kind of point raised there, and we often talk about a life well lived. And what is a life well lived, it’s different to everyone, and there’s some great research done around the dying or those in kind of their later days and conversation to have with them about what they wish they would have done differently in life or, you know, the things they wish they had achieved in life. I think it’s a really interesting way of looking at things because when life is so busy in past and we’ve got so much going on, it’s quite rare to take the time out to think, you know, if I was in 30 years’ time and looking back at my life, what would I have liked to achieve or what do I think would have been great about a life well lived. Have your journey and more so how aware you are of happiness and that kind of spiritual approach to it almost, do you think that way, have you thought that way in terms of, you know, I’ve had a heck of a story so far, but in 20 years’ time or 30 years’ time, I’m looking back at other things that I hope to achieve or the things that I would like to do, so that I can say, you know, it’s a life well-lived and it has been what I wanted to be? 

00:29:57 [Shane] 

Yeah. Look, I mean I think you mentioned much earlier the comment that you’ve got to know the reality of death before you can live well. I certainly think that’s true. And so, I think weirdly I’m at the point now, of course, I vacillate in how much I think you should look back and live. I’m actually a (30:20) and not thinking about life and meaning and its purposes. And I’m actually, it’s actually just simplified for me in recent times because I think you can be too driven sometimes for your purpose and not living enough in the present. So, I think there’s real balances there.  

00:30:37 [Shane] 

So, for me, I really just want to simplify it to a couple of things. So, I’d like to – and there’s so many causes in the world, there’s so many purposes that you can have, and Facebook and social media forces us into these virtue signaling cycles, where we want to make ourselves look good by getting behind every cause and living for all these purposes. And so, for me, actually it’s just, it’s much simpler nowadays. I think it is just I want to do the work, do work that I think is meaningful. And so, I try and develop my expertise, so I can do like a meaningful contribution in my workplace. I want to work and live with people I like, so that we can enjoy the process together. I think there’s a lot of evidence about work that actually it matters less what you’re doing and more who you’re doing it with. So, I think it’s a combination of both, but I think that’s really significant. So, I’d like to be working and developing friendships and family life. And then just actually having as much fun as I can. And I think too much focus on purpose can sometimes take away from that. So, just simple as that for me. And so, when I get to the end of my life, I hope I can simply say I have made some small contributions to this world, and I think, you know, most of us just make some tiny contributions really. So, I made some small contributions to this world. I didn’t cause too much damage. I think harm mitigation is really significant, and I think that’s for us, as individuals, but more so for our society, we human species are becoming a plague, and we’ve got some really serious social issues that we need to address to reduce the harm that we’re causing on the environment. And you know, I think  whenever we are engaging in business, I think that really should be the forefront for so much of our thinking because business has such consequences on the environment. So yeah, I just want to be able to get to the end and say I’ve had good friends, I’ve done a little bit of good in work, I’ve not caused too much damage, and I’ve had some fun along the way. 

00:33:18 [Adam] 

The present discussion is a really interesting one, and I think it’s something that came to the fore, particularly through COVID. And there’s another client I work with who is a master of vision and spends a lot of his time talking about it and writing about it and practicing it. And so, I know certainly during COVID, where we were all at that stage, where we couldn’t really think forward in a lot of ways, and the future was really unclear. We’re all home, almost all, and mastering things like enjoying small wins in the present because that’s all you could do at the time, became fundamental. And so, you’re right, I think there’s a balance there always of you have to have one eye in the future. But if you do that too often, there’s a great picture that we often have, which is somebody chasing their dream off continually, when they actually catch it, they fall off the cliff, and it’s too late. And that’s a really good kind of story to take out and think about enjoying the now and being aware of it and being present in it as well. So, it’s a really great point, right? 

00:34:20 [Shane] 

Yeah. Maybe interestingly I think sometimes we do divide up in ways that are artificial. This living for the future, you know pursuing a future dream, so sacrificing the present. But the best dreams are the ones, like there’s an old Christian notion of hope. Hope sees the future, so it looks to the future. But it brings that future into the present because hope is a present emotion. And so, you’re only really living meaningfully for the future when you’re living in the present. So, you’re acting in the present, you’re enjoying the process of getting there, because if you don’t, whatever that future turns out to be will end up being corrupt anyway. 

00:35:04 [Adam] 

On the topic, I suppose, of things that we do now, things that we do in the future, and you’ve talked about lots of challenges that you’ve kind of faced so far and probably some rewarding elements of it as well. Are there any kind of key decisions or big decisions that you came across that you think back and think, well, I’ve got to do that a certain way or, you know, we should have done something differently just from either a learning perspective yourself or just allow others to understand that they’re not the only people who face these big decisions? 

00:35:34 [Shane] 

Yeah. I mean, look, don’t you wish you had your 50-year-old mind and your 20-year-old body? 

00:35:42 [Adam] 

(35:42) on my shoulders, but it very rarely occurs. 

00:35:47 [Shane] 

Yeah. Look, I think I have just been fortunate with a lot of my decision-making, that I’ve had good advice and good friends along the way, and that that’s helped me to make wise decisions. So, I don’t think I’m necessarily a very good decision-maker, but I’ve got people I can talk to when I make decisions. And my brothers and my family are really close, and so we talk all of the time, and some connected me with you. So, when I go through, you know, big decisions, we’ll have a talk. And so, yeah, I think in terms of the process of decision-making, I think I’ve mostly been fortunate. And so, in terms of those big decisions, I mean, hey, if I could turn back time, should I have taken that jump if that broke my neck? Well, you know what’s weird? If I hadn’t have done that, my life would be so different in so many ways. And look, I would love to be able to enjoy better sex and be able to go surf and you know, play with my kids. And so, in many ways, of course I’d go back in time if I could, but on the other hand, I probably wouldn’t be living where I am, and I wouldn’t be doing the work that I’m doing, and I wouldn’t have met my close friends who are blind and deaf.  

00:37:17 [Adam] 


00:37:18 [Shane] 

And so, life is rich, as a consequence, and you wouldn’t go back on any of those decisions. 

00:37:23 [Adam] 

It would have checked you wouldn’t be true to yourself because the playful kind of great person that you were and enjoying life, you would have wanted to do that anyway and gone for it. So yeah, it’s I don’t, I don’t ever think looking back is probably a good thing necessarily, which is interesting to hear your take on that. Alright. We often talk where we can on this about where people consume their information, whether it’s great books or great movies, or you know, that kind of documentaries, whatever it may be. We’ve got lots of us do that. I think in your case, being in academic and you probably have even more scope to talk on this. So, are there any particular books or any particular people that you follow or material that you consume that you think is really helpful in the spaces that you’ve talked about to allow others to learn and go through journeys that you’ve talked about as well? 

00:38:15 [Shane] 

Yeah. It’s interesting because my formal reading is going to bore everyone because essentially, you know, I live and work around my expertise. Having said that, I would say to people that disability is such a rich field. If you’ve never entered it, you actually might be surprised by how much you might learn and enjoy. So, you know, I’m just thinking of the work of Tom Shakespeare who’s a short statute person, who’s had a spinal cord injury, for example, disability rights and wrongs. So, if you’re interested in disability work, you might read something like that. But outside of my discipline, actually I’m an avid reader, but I read no self-help, or it’s for me, I’m interested in science fiction and novels. And so, you know, like…And again, maybe this is because I’m interested in the absurdity of life. So, Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or, you know, Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness. I think science fiction actually can be really good about exploring life and its meanings because it can play with the settings. So, Ursula Le Guin is a feminist sci-fi writer who plays with gender in her characters in really intriguing ways and puts them in settings that are fun. So, that’s the sort of thing I read, novels and movies. I mean, you know, there’s some really great movies to explore meaning. Things like, oh like Magnolia or…but I’m really a Tarantino fan. So, I don’t know what meaningful about Tarantino, but he’s just such a good filmmaker. So, you know Django Unchained or…So, none of it is helpful for your readers for suggestions about self-help because it’s just not really what I do. 

00:40:20 [Adam] 

Yeah. I’ll probably just change that thought a little bit, and it’s a great way to finish it potentially, but in what you’ve talked about so far, you’ve often talked about having the ability to be creative and playful and not take things too seriously and enjoy, the exploratory kind of way of thinking, and that’s how you always were. And the books you suggested and read are quite probably in line with that. It’s that ability to have a bit of fun with it and think of things that are outside the normal and consume that. So, even though I was asking for self-help things, I was actually asking because people listen to this and they understand the things you’ve talked about and what you read as part of that is a really interesting way of thinking through it, allowing yourself to take off into the space of these creative worlds and not necessarily in ours. So, it’s a really great way of putting it. I, yeah, I thank you for that. 

00:41:11 [Shane] 

Let me give you one more just because I’m feeling completely out there. I’ve got a trans-daughter at the moment. And so, we’ve just been watching Heartbreak High, which is an Australian teenage film which explores really diversity in the school ground. It’s really out there…sorry. 

00:41:29 [Adam] 

That’s the remake that’s done, the new version? 

00:41:32 [Shane] 

Yeah, it’s a remake and much more risqué and out there. So, it’s not going to be everyone’s viewing.  

00:41:38 [Adam] 


00:41:39 [Shane] 

And it’s teen. In a sense, it’s a teen television series, but it’s exploring, yeah, diversity, the strange choices we make and just getting us thinking about even sexual joy and sexual choices and sexual ethics. So, yeah, so many good things. 

00:41:58 [Adam] 

Yeah. All things good. I had seen mentioned a few times in the articles that I read recently. So, I’ll put it on the list and be open minded. That’s a great place to kind of wind up, I think. I just want to thank you so much, Shane, for being so open about everything. Your story is really fascinating. I have no doubt when we release this podcast, we’ll get lots of people that will reach out and probably thank you for sharing it. And likewise, if anyone has any questions or wants to get in touch hopefully, then I can, yeah, put them your way. But once again, just thank you for sharing your stories. It’s been fascinating and an absolute pleasure, as always. 

00:42:35 [Shane] 

My pleasure as well. Good to talk to you, Adam.  

00:42:37 [Adam] 

Thanks, Shane. You have a good day.