A lot happened in the year 1980. Baby Azaria Chamberlain disappeared from an Uluru campsite, believed to have been taken by a dingo. Beatles singer John Lennon was shot and killed and the Pac-Man arcade game was released.

It was also the year that Link began its life as an Adelaide-based broadsheet newspaper, extending to just four pages at the time. In its first edition on August 1, 1980, editor Jeff Heath greeted readers with the following message: “Welcome to Link. Its aim is summed up in its title. Link intends to bridge gaps, to join hands, to bring people – both those with a handicap (disability), their parents and the rest of the community – together through a better understanding of the problems caused by a disability. But first and foremost, Link is to be a forum for people with a disability and their advocates. It will be a means through which important topics can be aired, grievances expressed, points of view argued, and questions answered. In thus gaining a better understanding of the problems and needs involved, Link will be able to campaign for better services, provisions, and assistance.

Link has come about through the determination of a group of parents, concerned at the lack of public awareness of the various disabilities. For example, people with a disability and those connected with them often suffer from a sense of isolation from the rest of the community and from other disability groups. Link aims to help dissolve those barriers.

Another example: some parents, especially mothers, may initially feel angry, guilty, frustrated, or sad when a particular disability is diagnosed in a child. Link aims to show these parents that they are not alone, that other shared such feelings. Link will try to help by showing how some parents have come to terms with those feelings.

Link will provide information about where to find services, as well as news and special features. It will try to be entertaining. Link is independent and not affiliated to any particular political party or viewpoint. It is concerned with rights, respects, and resources. Those with a disability and their parents have rights, like everyone else – rights of independence and freedom of choice, the right to self-respect and self-expression. Link is about people. So, whether you are someone with a disability, a parent, a helper or a friend, or a general public person, now is your chance to link up with Link. While some of the language around disability has changed since that first letter – and Link’s audience has broadened – much of the sentiment has stayed the same.

Heath, as well as being Link’s first editor, was a Paralympic archer, the founder of Adelaide’s Disability Information and Resource Centre, and a member of the Australian Democrats. From the age of seven, he used a wheelchair due to bone cancer. He and his wife, Yvonne Baillie, took over the ownership of Link from 1994. The pair’s daughter, Lucianne, now 41 and a mother of two, also helped out at trade shows and conferences. Baillie remembers: “Link was started by a group of parents, when there was no information anywhere for families [of children with disabilities]. They wanted Jeff to help get it off the ground.” “He thought it would just be a couple of issues! … Close to the beginning, the paper was then taken on by the Adelaide branch of Disabled Peoples’ International.” When the local DPI office shut, Heath and Baillie decided to run the magazine themselves, producing it from their own home. They owned and operated it until Heath died a decade later, aged 49, following another battle with cancer.

Baillie recalls: “At the time, we didn’t want Link to end and I didn’t think I could keep it going myself because Jeff was the star of it. I didn’t see how I could cope. So, we got in touch with SA Group Enterprises and it was Lee-anne Sparkes who was the one who made me feel okay to hand it over.” On its 40th milestone, Baillie said: “Jeff would be very proud of the fact that it’s kept going. Nowhere else in the world has a cross-disability magazine gone that long … I suppose, in a way, it’s his legacy, although Link wasn’t his idea in the first place – he kept it going and gave it direction. Without Jeff, it would have sunk long ago, because no one had the passion for it or the vision of what it could be.” Link has always covered a diverse range of topics including news, issues, art, sport, medical breakthroughs, travel, health, advocacy, products, and people in the disability sector. We thought we’d look back at a few key areas over its past four decades.

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