It was Mahatma Gandhi who said that the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
It is tempting to alter that quote to suggest that the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its citizens with mental health disabilities are treated.
In either situation, we sometimes forget to recognise those in our society who are trying to make a difference, who have a passion for social justice and who wish everyone could have a ‘fair go’ in life.
“There is so much injustice in the world.”
That simple observation has been the driving force for Malcolm Campbell to accomplish what he has done so far in his life, fighting for justice of the downtrodden in society.
“The most disadvantaged in the [West End] community are the Murris,” he says. He notices, however, that they have their own network they can reach out to, which makes it easier for them to help each other when someone in their mob is in need. He finds it a bit dubious when white people try to tell the Murris how to live their lives.
Malcolm did, however, notice another group that were without such a great network, but were also in dire need of help and support in the community.
“The next most disadvantaged people in the community were those with mental health issues, begging for money in the streets, and those in desperate need of help are all too often exploited because of their fragile situation,” he pointed out.
Malcolm Campbell has received several awards throughout his career. He shared the Madeline Cottee Award in 2005 for helping those part of his People Surviving Psychiatry group to produce art, and also received the Earl Duus Award in 1999 for helping people with disabilities. Furthermore, he was one of four people who received the Disability Queensland Award in 2008.
Malcolm was involved with founding the Bayside Adolescent Boarding Incorporated (BABI) in Wynnum in 1983 when was working for the Department of Child Services. BABI was recognised as one of the top eleven community organisations in Australia in the Burdekin Report.
In 1991, Malcolm was the deputy manager of adoptions in Queensland, responsible for managing the opening of the records. “It was very important to do this, and to do it right, without any mistakes,” he said.
Driven by his passion, Malcolm has undoubtedly accomplished a lot in his career. Having a huge positive impact on society and those he has helped, yet he is still a bit humble when he talks about it. “I don’t know wether what I did was real community work, because people have different ideas of what community work is,” he said in usual, self-deprecating style.
Born with a disability himself (Cerebral Palsy), and destined to help those who were less fortunate in society, Malcolm found himself in the situation of being the one asking for help.
He said people often assumed he had an intellectual disability as well, while police and security guards sometimes thought he was drunk.
Malcolm met his wife Beryl when they were both studying to become social workers in 1970. He also completed an arts degree part-time, which he started in 1968.
“Beryl used to accuse me of being married to my job, but I said she didn’t know about my mistress, which was social justice – I couldn’t get enough of it.”
His humbleness is also something his family has experienced, especially when he gave his speech after receiving his Disability Queensland Award in 2008.
“I think it’s very hard for kids to have a father with a disability.”
This shows that his family believed in what he wanted to get done for the community, sharing the same driving force and reasoning to help those less fortunate in society.
“We can help all these people,” he said.
Malcolm has worked at West End Community House (1996-2009), Logan and Near-districts Disability Services (2009-2011) and Micah Projects (2011-2012). He started the DARTS drama group, which has 15 productions behind it.
People Surviving Psychiatry, an organisation which he started in 2000, is still active and very successful.
Malcolm Campbell’s personal mantra is “small and slow”, an approach that emphasises the importance to focus on the exact need of the person that needs help. Malcolm rejects the idea of one size fits all, which he says usually results in nobody being fitted.
Malcolm points out that in our day of age everything is fast and huge, something that obviously does not work when we take a look at our society.
His accomplishments, however, are far from small and slow. That might be his approach, and the key to his success, but the effects of such an approach have been far-reaching in his community.
The Westender wishes Malcolm all the best for the future, and imagines that his retirement will be just as busy as his working life.