Champions of change

Graham Clements
People with a disability need to have a say. We need to be heard about the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We need to be heard about changes to the Disability Support Pension. One way to be heard is by the use of advocates. But their advocacy needs to be effective. To ensure it is effective, advocates and people with disabilities should meet and exchange ideas. Such a meeting is happening in Melbourne on 4 August. The meeting is called the Strengthening Disability Advocacy Conference, Champions of Change.
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Graham Clements on 15/07/2014
A man with a beard who is wearing a suit jacket is speaking into a microphone.

We need effective advocates.

Disability advocacy has become a big issue over the past few months. The federal government has scrapped the Disability Commissioner position and funding for the disability website RampUp. The loss of these voices comes at a time when many changes are occurring to disability services. One huge change is the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The government is also proposing changes to the eligibility for the Disability Support Pension (DSP). At the same time, some in the media suggest many who receive the DSP are bludgers.

People with disabilities need to have a say in the implementation of the NDIS. They need help dealing with disability service providers. And they need organisations to champion those struggling to survive on the DSP. To do this, people with disabilities need effective advocates.

What is an advocate?

Disability advocates come in many forms. They can be an individual who uses their experience from working in the disability field to help people with disabilities. They can be organisations that fight for the rights of people with disabilities. Or people with disabilities can become their own self-advocates.

Strengthening Disability Advocacy Conference

To ensure their advocacy is effective, advocates often need to get together and exchange ideas. Such a chance to meet is this year's Strengthening Disability Advocacy Conference: Champions of Change.

Champions at this year's conference include ex-Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes. Conference organiser Robyn Gaile is particularly looking forward to his keynote address. She says he will be unleased from his former position so it will be really interesting to hear what he has to say.

Conference sessions

The Captains of Change session will be a must-see. This session will be chaired by Graeme Innes and features Victoria's Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce. Panellists also include the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kate Jenkins and Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People Bernie Geary. The panellists will discuss how they advocate for change and safeguard the rights of people with disabilities.

Robyn Gaile is looking forward to a session called Not Another Brick in the Wall. She says it is about inclusion, or lack thereof, in education. The diverse panel for the session includes education bureaucrats, researchers and advocates, one of whom is a student. Gaile also thinks the Let's Talk About Sex session will be a highlight of the conference. Divine's own Thomas Banks will make an appearance in a session on the NDIS trial in Barwon.

Who should attend?

The conference is run by the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit (DARU). Robyn Gaile, says the conference's main target is people who work as disability advocates. She says that people with disabilities and self-advocates will get a lot of current information about advocacy from the conference. As will people who work with disabilities in the government and community sectors.

The McClure Report

Robin feels the conference has garnered more importance due to the McClure report on welfare reforms. Many of the reforms suggested in that report will affect people with disabilities. The conference falls within the period for public submissions before the report is finalised.

Where and when?

The conference is at the Melbourne and Olympic Park Convention Centre on August 4 and 5. The convention centre is accessible for people with disabilities. Live captioning of sessions will occur and sessions will have platform and relay interpreters.

Anyone wanting to attend the conference needs to buy a membership. Further details of the conference are available on the DARU website.

Conference information

Thomas Banks and the NDIS

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