SBS documentary explores what Australia really thinks about dwarfism

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The question came from an outright stranger who Kiralee and Shenee just happened to pass while walking by a busy shopping centre.

“I have dwarfism,” Kiralee says in response. “Midget is actually a highly offensive term.”

For the two women the experience is the all-too-familiar reality of living with dwarfism, except this time there’s a difference.

Kiralee and Shenee are being filmed by a hidden camera as part of an experiment for SBS series What Does Australia Really Think About …

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Hosted by Kurt Furnley, the first episode aims to expose what Australians really think about disability through personal accounts and covert filming, like the cameras which followed Kiralee and Shenee through a shopping centre.

The offensive question isn’t the only confronting treatment the two women receive – they’re subject to stares, ranging from the curious to “gawking” – sniggering, filming without their permission and outright threats.

“Get them, get them,” young men can be heard saying at the pair as they drive past in a car, before dissolving into laughter.

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The incident is too much for Shenee, who breaks down in tears over the encounter.

“I’m shaking, I’m sorry,” she says as she is comforted by a producer and Kiralee.

“That was pretty intense,” Kiralee adds. “There was a group of young kids, they had their Snapchat on facing us … they were hysterically laughing, videoing us, that was one of the top 10 I have experienced, that was pretty brutal.”

A recent survey conducted by the University of Melbourne found that 40 per cent of those with a disability have experienced harassment which included name calling, staring or unwanted attention.

A third of those with a disability felt people avoided them, while 72 per cent of people without a disability said they felt sorry for those who had a disability.

While the experience captured on camera was extreme, the women face confronting reactions to their disability daily.

“I will experience staring,” Kiralee said. “There is two different types of stares, there is a curiosity stare … and then there is also gawking, like absolutely mortified staring.”

Kiralee will also see herself “being pointed out” and then have her appearance laughed out by people she doesn’t even know.

“Someone in a group will see us, they’ll then notify everybody in that group and they will all have a giggle,” Kiralee said.

What Does Australia Really Think About … starts tonight at 8.30pm on SBS and SBS On Demand

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