The disability advocate, broadcaster, comedian and writer Stella Young has died aged 32.
The ABC, for whom Young had worked extensively, reported her death on Monday morning.
In a statement her family said she died unexpectedly, but in no pain.
“With great sadness we acknowledge the passing of Stella Young, our much-loved and irreplaceable daughter and sister,” the statement said.
“Our loss is a deeply personal one. We request privacy during this difficult time.”
Throughout her career Young called for the achievements of disabled people to be valued, but insisted her disability – she was born with Osteogenesis imperfecta – did not automatically make her exceptional.
“Disability doesn’t make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does,” she said in a TEDx talk in April.
The ABC’s managing director, Mark Scott, said the Victorian was “an unforgettable communicator and a passionate advocate”.
“She was very warm and generous, the first to laugh and to make us all laugh,” Scott said in a statement.
“Stella helped us understand disability issues by sharing with a raw honesty about her own life … She took great delight in challenging conventional wisdom and lazy thinking.”
The former prime minister Julia Gillard said on Twitter Young was a “shining light” for action on disability.
Young’s family asked for those wishing to pay tribute to donate to Domestic Violence Victoria in her name, “as she was also a passionate advocate for that sector”.
Scott said it was hard to believe someone so talented and widely loved and respected had been lost so young.
“Her many friends at the ABC are filled with sadness at this news – as are Australians around the country, who loved and admired her columns, her broadcasts and her comedy performances,” Scott said.
Young was the former editor of the ABC’s disability news and opinion website, Ramp Up, which the ABC has been forced to close after it was de-funded by the federal government. She had been scheduled to record more ABC radio this week.
Young was born in Stawell, Victoria, in 1982 and was an activist on issues including disability, gender equality and education. She was a member of numerous disability bodies.
Young was named best newcomer at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival for her show Tales From The Crip. She was set to tour nationally and take her act to London next year, AAP reported.
Friends, ABC identities, politicians and disability organisations voiced their dismay at the news and appreciation of Young’s life.
In a joint statement, the federal opposition leader, Bill Shorten, and shadow disability reform minister, Jenny Macklin, said they had worked closely with Young during the creation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
“A feminist, an atheist and an activist with her own one-woman show at the Melbourne Comedy Festival – Stella was afraid of nothing and believed she could do anything,” they said.
“Stella was a qualified teacher but became a national educator about people living with a disability.
“On more than one occasion, Stella said ‘I’m not your inspiration thank you very much’.
“Then – and now – we respectfully disagree. She was an inspiration, for all of us.”
On her website The Hoopla, the comedian and writer Wendy Harmer wrote a tribute to Young, describing her as a “hopeless yet cynical romantic”, a show-off, a dancer and “a lover of a fine pair of polkadot shoes”.
“It has been my utter privilege to know you, work with you, offer a kiss and be bestowed with one in return,” she wrote.
On social media, the assistant minister for social services, Mitch Fifield, said Young was a “ceaseless advocate for a better deal for people with disability”.
Young’s fellow comedian and author Benjamin Law said on Twitter he was “completely, utterly hollowed out by the death of my darling friend”.
“The world has lost a pocket-sized warrior and utter babe,” he wrote.