Elizabeth feels so strongly about the lack of government support for polio survivors that she is travelling across the country to join her fellows in Canberra on Wednesday 26th June 2013.

Although I was born on 1st July, over 60 years ago, my story really began on 27th September 1951 when, at the age of 15 months, I was taken to hospital and diagnosed with polio. I spent the next fifteen months in the Golden Age Hospital (WA).

Towards the end of my stay in hospital, I was allowed home for the weekends. I would go home with both legs in plaster, with a wooden bar holding my legs together.

What is a memorable childhood experience?

When I came home at 2½ years, my father made me parallel bars so I could learn to walk. I was given a jelly bean for every length I walked. Mum also helped me do exercises on the kitchen table – we used to listen to Jason and the Argonauts on ABC radio.

Elizabeth started swimming at about age 5. At the age of 14 years and 4 months, she competed in the Tokyo Paralympics (the youngest person to represent Australia), and won 3 gold medals and broke three world records.

My most memorable childhood experience was swimming at Beatty Park and being told by my coach that I had just broken a World Record. Then going on to Adelaide for the Australian Selection trials then onto Tokyo and realising there were other people with disabilities like me.

That was just the beginning of a long and successful swimming career, which is still ongoing. Click here to read more.

How have the late effects of polio impacted on you?

In 2011, I had a new challenge to face – I was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome in my right arm. I now use an electric wheelchair full time – 18 months ago I was still walking with the aid of crutches.

Why are you going to Canberra?

To support the campaign as I am worried about the future – I will be 65 in two years and will then be in the aged care system and not someone with a disability.

Please send Elizabeth a message of support for her Canberra campaign by making a comment below.


Elizabeth Edmondson ~ Polio 1951 ~ Canberra Campaign Hero — 5 Comments

  1. Hi Elizabeth,
    I read your story and your achievements. Quite remarkable considering your earlier disabilities. But now post-polio has caught up with you and with many of us that thought we had beaten the virus – put it all behind us. That is why your trip to Canberra is so important. You will be representing us and I am sure will do us proud and put our case strongly to the Senators all of whom have some influence. It matters not who the next government will be, or the one after, or the one after that. The increasing needs of polio survivors, the largest disability group in the country, need to aired and be taken up for generations following until the scourge of polio infection is eradicated. If we were to eradicate polio today, there would still be a need for another 80 years or so, as that is how long the last young polio victim will continue to live. Quality of life is so important and that comes with a price to pay – for all who govern our welfare and that of future generations.

    I wish you every success. I regret that I can not be there this time to participate and to witness your success. But I will be encouraging you all the way.

    With thanks,
    Bruce Livett, Kununurra, WA.

  2. Hi Elizabeth – thank you so much for taking the time and making the effort to represent us all from WA. Although one understands the demands on the health budget are ever-increasing in complexity, having the current and rapidly approaching needs of the post-polio cohorts recognised is hugely important. As your story indicates our parents have been the greatest supporters/care-givers, asking little if anything of health service providers to date.

    It would be great if the point could be succinctly made to the relevant authorities that it is reliable research that is needed to assist the multidisciplinary service providers (e.g., medical practitioners [esp. neurologists], physiotherapists, OTs) in understanding the late-effects trajectories, such that they are able to offer reliable care options – to maximise each persons independence = quality of life.

    Warmest best wishes,


  3. Hi Elizabeth
    Wishing you all the best representing WA and thanking you sincerely. You have been a great ambassador for WA in the sport of swimming – I met you a couple of times @ Shenton Park hydro pool and you showed me how to swim without using your legs! I will be very interested to see what responses come about as a result of the campaign. Keep up the good work – we need help and some financial assistance would go a long way!!
    Best wishes

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