Polio survivor Alice Shirreff hasn't let her diagnosis stop her from dancing her way through life.
She was diagnosed in 1949 when she was just four years old and was virtually paralysed. By the time she was 17 she had undergone multiple surgeries and hospital visits, including a triple ankle fuse on both legs.
The result was devastating for the aspiring dancer.
"I remember I cried and cried at the time, I thought, if I can't walk properly how can I dance?" she said.
"Well guess what, people encouraged me and told me I'd find a way. And guess what?
"I've been dancing ever since, 57 years later."
She joined a group of polio survivors in Warrnambool on Thursday to mark Polio Day.
Polio is far from an illness of the past. Between the 1930s and 1960s, around 70,000 Australians contracted polio, many severely paralysed.
While the focus of today is on the eradication of polio, there are many survivors who, now in the late stages of their life, are experiencing the late effect of polio or post-polio syndrome - a set of unexpected new symptoms occurring some 15 to 40 years after the initial infection.
"I joined a polio support group way back in the '90s because I was going downhill physically, and I didn't know what was happening to me," she said.
"It's great to meet other people who have a common bond and know exactly what you're going through, to share stories with people who know what you're dealing with.
"I was very fortunate to be able to leave work 23 years ago and because of that I have been able to look after myself. I count my blessings that I've been able to do that.
"People who have had polio are amazing people, they're very resilient and they keep on keeping on."
Polio Network Victoria chairperson Bev Watson, who is wheelchair-bound as a result of polio said those going through the late effects are forced to continually reassess their abilities, equipment needs and lifestyle.
"Those changes can be quite confronting," she said. "Not only personally but for family, friends and carers."
Former Victorian Premier and Portland MP Denis Napthine was Master of Ceremonies at the Lady Bay event.
Mr Napthine was instrumental in getting Polio Services Victoria established when he was Minister for Community Services.
"We know that over 400,000 people from across Australia were affected by polio, but what we hadn't realised was people who 20 to 30 years later were getting post-polio syndrome with a whole range of symptoms like muscle weakness and difficulty swallowing, symptoms that people associated with just getting older but was actually specific to their previous polio infection," he said.
"It's absolutely vital that people who have experienced polio to send that message to future generations of the importance of vaccinations.
"Polio hasn't gone away, it's still a significant disease in other countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. Vaccinations eliminate diseases and reduce the impact of diseases, we've got to stand up and speak out against anti-vaccination sentiment.
"People who have lived through this have a duty to tell their story and say never ever, should children be put at risk by people's lack of understanding for the need for vaccination."
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