Strengthening Disability Advocacy Conference 2016

Strengthening Disability Advocacy Conference

Putting rights centre stage

Friday 2 September @ NAB, The Hall, 700 Bourke Street, Docklands


Session summaries now available

Summaries from the conference sessions are now available on this site through the program page and include all the multi-media presentations and links to resources relating to the panel discussions. Click the relevant session title for full summary.


It’s a wrap

As expected, disability advocates were interested in hearing from a range of perspectives and not backwards in confronting the issues that bring to light the glaring inequality that people with disability face on a daily basis.

The Rights Retrospective set the stage by giving homage to those advocates and campaigns that make governments, employers, educators and service providers realise that people with disability are human beings who have the same rights as everyone else. This theme was further under pinned by many of the esteemed speakers on day 2.  We really did put rights on centre stage!

DARU new video ‘Rights Under The UN Convention’ was launched to great acclaim from conference participants.  It really is beautiful so enjoy….


This video was produced by Sarah Barton’s production company, fertile Films.



Setting the scene

image of conference flyer

Click flyer image to download PDF

It’s a huge year for people with disability coming to terms with the impact of the NDIS roll out across Australia. This conference is uniquely positioned to consider the crucial role of disability advocacy in safeguarding the rights of people with disability through this biggest reform since Medicare.

We’re Putting rights centre stage with sessions on promoting rights into the future, the role of advocacy in safeguarding against abuse and neglect, and applying a human rights-based approach to consumer-directed service delivery. Speakers and panelists will provide a range of perspectives gained from lived experience, evidence based research and applied practice in disability advocacy.

Rights Retrospective is the pre-conference event that celebrates the 30-year anniversary of funded disability advocacy in Australia. This multimedia session will take us through the history of the disability rights movement globally,  and remind us of the local campaigns and personalities that laid the foundation for a future where rights are respected for all.

This conference is for anyone who is interested in strengthening and upholding the rights of people with disability. This includes disability advocates, self advocates, people with disability, legal workers, government and non government officers, community workers and allied health professionals.
collage inside NAB 700

This conference is hosted by Disability Advocacy Resource Unit (DARU) with the support of a conference planning committee:

  • Melissa Coe, DARU
  • Natasha Brake, DARU
  • Melanie Muir, Disability Advocacy Victoria
  • Sue Smith, Self Advocacy Resource Unit (SARU)
  • Mary Sayers, Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS)
  • Nick Lawler, representing the Victorian Regional Advocacy Network (VicRAN)
  • Maureen D’Arcy, representing the Local Government Disability Planners Network
  • Peta Ferguson, Brain Injury Matters (representing the consumer voice)

Keep up to date with all the latest conference news on Twitter:




Latest news

Evaluation and outcomes

Thanks to everyone who completed the evaluation survey.  Your feedback has been compiled into the SDAC Evaluation Report which is available for download from the DARU website.

As is often the case with evaluation forms, your comments were the most informative and  echoed those on the day.  Here’s a range of comments collected during the conference that are reflective of the overall sentiments you expressed:

  • Sometimes we forget that we enjoy rights and services because of advocates who challenged the world before.
  • The advantage of direct action is that it unsettle the general public and confronts the passive, grateful image they have come to expect from people with disability.
  • With so many issues requiring attention there is limited opportunity to come together and focus on one issue, We need a strong movement working together.
  • Self-determination is a right at an individual level but also a collectivist framework for action.
  • Systemic issues or barriers don’t go away just because the NDIS funds a person’s plan.
  • If by virtue of human rights everyone is equal why do people with a disability need to hope for the best, be passive and wait for recognition? Put disability on all agendas with a stronger rights focus.


The panel discussions ranged across systemic issues and identified potential ‘calls for action’ including:

  • A call for a Royal Commission into violence against people with disabilities in institutions and disability services.
  • A call to ensure that people with disability are included and accounted for in the new family violence laws and processes. We can no longer accept that if violence happens to people with disabilities then the disability sector needs to deal with it; violence is violence.
  • A call to advocacy organisations to pick up the bigger issues and campaign loudly for them- particularly in relation to the provision of services promised under the NDIS.
  • Presenting personal stories is a powerful way to bring issues of concern to the mainstream who are largely ignorant of the realities of living with disability. Using mainstream media, videos and imagery to get cut through and change assumptions.
  • Human Rights are human rights- and this includes people with disability. The rights of people to equality and self-determination means to have people with disability involved in all levels of services provided to them- as board members, staff and members. “the sector that supports us, should also be by and for us”
  • Take up opportunities to have your say in the development of policy through research, interviews or questionnaires. Make sure that decisions are reflective of what is happening on the ground.
  • We need to advocate for inclusion into mainstream services, and move away from disability services and have a presence in the mainstream.

Planning for Strengthening Disability Advocacy Conference 2017 has begun with the new planning committee meeting in early December.  It’s safe to suggest that the NDIS will have a major theme.

We look forward to welcoming you again and supporting this very important conference.

Melissa Coe
DARU Coordinator

On behalf of the SDAC16 Planning Committee

Last chance to register for Strengthening Disability Advocacy Conference 2016!

The stage is set and ticket sales have been extended because we really don’t want you to miss out.  You  now have until Friday 26 August to register.

Outside of NAB from spencer street entrance

There are so many wonderful speakers coming to the main day, Friday 2 September, where we will be Putting rights centre stage and we can’t wait for you to meet them all and hear a wide range of perspectives on topics that are close to the hearts of many advocates. It’s a beautiful space and a day out from the usual grind to network and get some fresh ideas might be just the ticket you need!

Rights Tough standing in a grungy alley way. Pictured left to right: Brett Dellavedova, Jason Stacy, Nick Hagiliassis, Mark Di Marco and Merry Prain.

If a whole day of speakers seems overwhelming then join us for the Rights Retrospective, a rare opportunity for advocates to celebrate. It’s a very special pre-conference afternoon on Thursday 1 September with covers performed by The Rights Tough, our in-house live band. You’ll come away with a  new found respect for those advocates and activists who have been trail blazing for decades and make you feel proud of the work that you are doing to take the fight for equality into the future. It’s FREE! and includes afternoon tea.

Of course, we’d love to welcome you on both days.  For full details of tickets and inclusions, visit the conference website’s ticket page.

Looking for assistance at the conference?


FullSizeRenderIf you need assistance to get into the building, or information on where to go, keep your eyes out for our amazing team of volunteers wearing these red vests. They will assist you on the day getting from your taxi or the entrance of the NAB building to the conference rooms and registration desk.

Advocacy beyond 2016

Find out what the future of disability advocacy promotion might llook like in the future at the Strengthening Disability Advocacy Conference on 2 September.

How do advocates bring issues to the notice of the general public and decision makers now that the punk and union movements are less likely  to get behind causes and organising mass rallies? Are the social media platforms and online petitions effective enough to drive the change we need?

Dr George Taleporos will explore these questions and lead a panel discussion with guests:

  • Mary Mallett, CEO of *Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA)
  • Jax (Jacki) Brown, Disability Activist and Performer
  • Susan Arthur, Self Advocate and President of Reinforce
  • Isabelle Oderberg, Social Media Strategist at Australia Red Cross.

Register Now and get your free ticket to the Rights Retrospective while you’re there.

Enter Stage Rights – panellists confirmed

This session at the Strengthening Disability Advocacy Conference will look at applying human rights in person centered service delivery- What role can or should disability advocacy play in the future landscape of consumer directed service delivery? How do we make sure  that mainstream services are made accessible to  people with disability and what does best practice look like?

We are honored to have Robyn Gaile, the previous DARU Coordinator, and current National Manager of Innovative Service Delivery at AFDO facilitating a panel conversation with:

  • Louise Glanville, Deputy CEO, Stakeholder Relations, NDIA
  • Daniel Leighton, CEO of Inclusion Melbourne
  • Christina Ryan, CEO of Advocacy For Inclusion
  • Leonie Dillon, Community Development Project Officer, Barwon Disability Resource Council.

It’s a topic well worth discussing and with this great line-up you’re guaranteed a broad perspective of views and ideas.

Register now

Speakers announced for Strengthening Disability Advocacy Conference 2016

We will certainly be “Putting Rights Centre Stage” at this year’s Strengthening Disability Advocacy conference with a heap of speakers who know a thing or two about rights!

The conference planning committee is very pleased to confirm the following speakers with more to come:

  • Minister Martin Foley MP
  • Mary Mallett, Disability Advocacy Network Australia
  • Jax (Jacki) Brown, Advocate and Performer
  • Daniel Leighton, Inclusion Melbourne
  • Robyn Gaile, Australian Federation of Disability organisations
  • Deborah Glass, Victorian Ombudsman
  • Lauren Henly, Advocate
  • Dr Patsie Frawley, Senior Research Fellow at Monash University
  • Trevor Carroll, Disability Justice Advocacy

We’re also thrilled to announce The Rights Tough, our own in-house band, who will be performing live at the Rights Retrospective. Further details for this pre-conference event coming soon.

More information and to register

More conference news >